Slay Spotlight: Lou Plaia - Slay Sonics

Slay Spotlight: Lou Plaia

We are very excited to feature Lou Plaia, ReverbNation’s Founder/EVP Industry & Artist Relations (North America) as the latest #SlaySpotlight. Plaia co-founded ReverbNation in 2006, since then its become a global leader in empowering independent Artists to advance their careers. Since its inception, ReverbNation has remained committed to giving more than 5 million artists exposure to the music industry, connection to a worldwide audience, and access to powerful promotional tools. Plaia dedicates most of his time brokering valuable opportunities for the 5 million Artists on ReverbNation by connecting them to record labels, talent buyers, managers, music supervisors, publications, radio stations, brands, recording studios, and other music industry professionals. Plaia recently created alliances with more than two dozen record labels whereby ReverbNation has become an A&R source for the labels. Plaia also created partnerships in the live music space with Summerfest, Warped Tour, The Sturgis Buffalo Chip Festival, Rocklahoma, Launch Music Conference, and many other high profile events.

Plaia is an adjunct Professor at Five Towns Music College where he teaches classes on Artist Management and Concert Production & Promotion. Plaia also launched Hot Rats Entertainment, a management/consultant firm, in January 2016.

Prior to ReverbNation, Plaia worked 2 years at Polygram Records and then 12 years at Atlantic Records where he was VP of Strategic Marketing. Plaia then worked 4 years at Atlantic imprint, Lava Records, where he was the Head of Marketing and Artist Development.

We got a chance to sit down with Plaia to chat about his career, and tips for up and comers!

You started at Atlantic Records and then went on to co-found ReverbNation in 2006, a company that has literally helped millions of emerging artists build their careers.

How did you find yourself at Atlantic and what was that experience like? I actually started at PolyGram Records which is now Universal in the late 80’s.  I started in the Finance department there. When my boss left to go to Atlantic Records, he took me with him. So I was actually a Finance person for a few years at Atlantic dealing mostly with the Marketing and A&R budgets. Then I moved out of the finance department and into the Marketing & Artists Development department for about 5 years. And when Jason Flom re-launched Atlantic imprint, Lava Records, in 2000, he hired me as the Head of Marketing & Artist Development.

How did ReverbNaton come about? How did you all get it to be such a massive platform so early on?

When they shut down Lava Records in 2005, I decided to pursue an idea I had back in 1999 which was to help emerging artists by offering them basic online marketing tools and some artist development. I was not a tech guy but I knew the music business inside out and had some really good relationships. So I met with some brilliant tech and business guys from North Carolina and we partnered up to create ReverbNation. Nobody was really doing what we were doing so it was pretty much word of mouth that made it grow so big. We really didn’t and still don’t do much marketing or PR. We grew by offering innovative products at a time when the labels were still trying to figure out how to keep selling CDs.

How do you feel about the current state of music?

I think it’s having another boom. When cassettes were introduced to the public, it gave another reason for music fans to buy music and the business skyrocketed. When CD’s were introduced, it gave fans another reason to buy music and the business skyrocketed again. The amount of money being made was insane. Then illegal free downloading really hurt the business. Paid download helped it but not enough and companies went out of business and people lost their jobs.  It was a decade of hell. Now another format, streaming, pops up the past few years and here we are again with another booming market! So the music business is very healthy.

How do you stay focused and productive?

I love music and the business of music. Doing what you love everyday doesn’t suck so I guess that’s how I stay focused and productive.

Where do you get inspiration? 

My Dad. He was very entrepreneurial.  He was a NYC firefighter and every few years he would start a new business on the side. He started a driving school and we had a bunch of cars parked out in the front of my house for years, he had an import export business, and he became a stockbroker and then started his own brokerage house.  All while being n NYC firefighter.  And he is always nice to people and always trying to help someone.  Everyone respects him and my Mom so I try to be as nice as I can to people and to help anyone who wants help.

What’s a defining moment in your career thus far?

I would say moving from the Finance department to working directly for the President of a major label was a big step for me because I finally got to do what I wanted to do.

What are you listening to right now?

Listening to Captain Beefheart

Do you have any tips for upcoming producers and song-writers?

I never really dealt with producers all of the songwriters I deal with are also the artist so I would say to them to please be unique. Too many recordings are made with the same Producer and even though the artists may be different, they sound the same.  And on the songwriting side, make music that will last forever. Too many artists try to rewrite the same song over and over just like to many Producers make the same song over and over just with different word s and few different beats.

What’s a crazy experience you’ve had in the industry? 

I worked at the most successful record labels in the world in the late 80’s and 90’s so I need to take the 5th on that haha. You can write that too.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working in the music biz?

Poker at least once a month with my friends from high school days and every so often at the casino.  And I love the Summers for eating and drinking and catching some music outdoors

Is there any artist you want to work with that you haven’t had an opportunity to yet? 

I wish I got to hang with my idol Frank Zappa.