SXSW Profile: Jessica Weber (FE Presents: Industry Survival Skills Panelist)

March 14, 2011 6 min read

If you are going to SXSW, RSVP To the "INDUSTRY SURVIVAL SKILLS 2001 PANEL" NOW!

Although, the industry has changed much and now people are likely to discover new music via video links and social media, radio is still a primary means of listening to and discovering new music. As an emerging artist it can be challenging to figure out how to get your music in the hands of the right radio stations. Plus, even if you get it in their hands, what will make your music a priority listen amiss the hundreds of releases they get submitted per week??

One great way is having it delivered from a person who they know and trust...your friendly neighborhood radio promoter. When it comes to that, Jessica Weber of Co-Sign is one of the best! She's a true fan of the music and passionate about her projects.

On our panel, Jessica will provide insight on the best options for artists in regards to radio; college, community, internet, commercial, etc...

Till then, this Q&A session will help you get to know her a lil better...

FE: What is your earliest Hip Hop Memory?
Jessica: My earliest hiphop memory is watching Yo! MTV Raps as a kid. I had to sneak it because I had just convinced my parents to get cable, and they did so with my promise I would NEVER watch MTV. For some reason they hated that channel and thought it was going to destroy me. Little did they know! Of course eventually they came around and it didn't matter, but in those early days I just remember being like WTF? At that point in my life musically I was moving from teenie bopper pop to rock n roll and motown (or whatever my dad had in his record collection at the time), so rap music was like WOW. That show along with Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' were really what opened my eyes to Hip Hop music at the time. Unfortunately, it didn't stick. I just couldn't wrap my head around it back then. I liked A Tribe Called Quest, Common, and Digable Planets and all those folks, but I ended up getting way sucked into grunge, and then into the Chicago punk rock and ska scene. I actually didn't come back to hiphop again until I was college.

FE: When & was the defining moment that made you want be involved in the radio bizness?
Jessica: I had a radio show in high school on sunday nights on WLTL. I LOVED doing that show. At the time i was obsessed with Chuck Wren (another great DJ in the chicago area at the time), and wanted to be him. He owned a really kick ass record label called Jump Up! Records, and did a radio show called 'Everything Off Beat'...I think it was on WNUR, and then WBCR? He was playing all this old jamacian ska, and all the new ska bands that I had been going to see in the city that were just starting to bubble up around that time. I met him, and he kinda took me under his wing (or in my eyes he did anyway), and I thought 'I can do that!' He encouraged to do whatever I could to get my own show crackin, and I started reaching out to labels for promos. I remember getting my first promo package in the mail from Moon Ska and thinking - YES! I made it. Haha. I did a specialty show on the radio in high school that was all ska and punk music, and then in college they asked me to be the music director of the University station. Everything about radio felt comfortable, and it all kind spiraled out from there.

FE: What are some the key projects you've
Jessica: This is a hard one...there are SO many incredible projects and artists out there that I've worked on in my career that it would be impossible to name them all. That said, the first few labels I brought on as my own clients will always be special to me. I have loved working every project I've ever done with Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Quannum Projects and Decon. I say this because I not only love that they each have had such a specific vision artistically, but because in most of these cases I got to be there from start and build with them from the ground up. It's been amazing to actually get to have a small hand in helping these labels grow into brands, and contribute in my own small way to their artists become incredibly influential names in independent music.

FE: Current Key Projects you are working?
-Saigon "The Greatest Story Never Told: This is THE independent hiphop record you need to have in your library right now.

-Zion I & The Grouch"Heroes...": I LOVE this album, but i love the community outreach they're doing around their tour for the record as well (more info here).

-The Electric "Life Is Moving": An incredible new band started by DJ Vadim that encompasses everything funky fresh about him Pugz Atomz, Sabira Jade, and Yarah Bravo.

-Sims"Bad Time Zoo": incredible solo record from Doomtree affiliate Sims, produced entirely by Lazerbeak.

-Donwill "Love Junkie" EP: I love when dope emcees make a transition into the dance world, and do it WELL.

AND if anyone is interested in the stuff that's NOT Hip Hop that we're currently working on I would highly recommend checking out the new Los Chicharrons album on Tummy Touch, the new Tremor album on ZZK, the dark and cinematic new album from Themes (a kick ass band from Minneapolis), and The Glass (or anything off Plant Music). We actually work a LOT of dance music and a LOT of rock and world music over here to. It's not just all Hip Hop over here. :)

FE: What's the biggest challenge in the radio industry in todays market?
Jessica: Honestly, it's being HEARD. I do believe that radio is still incredibly important and essential to breaking records and artists nationally, but like everything else, it's been seriously affected by the internet. Mostly due to the fact that with music being so freely available on the web these days, it's no longer the main medium people use to discover new music.

Now more than ever commercial radio DJs have their hands tied as far as programming...and it's not their faults! A lot of the commercial radio mixshow dudes out there in the world are the biggest music heads I know, but with major corporations taking over local stations and homogenizing programming. There's just not room in the playlists like there was before to be adventurous and work indie records into the mix anymore.

Even with Satelite radio, playlists are starting to creep in. Then you have the college and non-commercial and community radio stations which are amazing and freeform, but aside from coming up with creative programming every day it's a fight for them to be supported by their communities, and to stay visible and viable in their markets.

This is why it is ESSENTIAL for radio to maintain it's personal identity. A station must be locally relevant and tied into it's market place for it to be a success. This isn't rocket science I know, but I can't stress enough the importance of radio building with local venues, retail outlets, artists, and most importantly their audience to make things really pop. That connection between radio and it's local community is what will continue to make radio viable, and essential to people's everyday life.



Fifth Element has assembled a panel of key artists and professionals in the business to discuss the best ways artists can be self-sufficient and successful in this changing industry!!

We will discuss everything from Social Media, Touring/Booking, Radio, Management, State Of Record Labels, Best Ways To Invest Money, and more!!

MODERATOR: Kevin Beacham

Shad (Decon)
Blueprint (Rhymesayers)
Sage Francis (Strange Famous)
Zach Quillen (The Agency Group)
Jessica Weber (Co-Sign)
John Shaw (Select O Hits)
Cool Nutz (Executive Branch Management)

Stay tuned over the next two weeks for more information on our panelists!!

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