Interview With Todd Frocellina
Insights on Managing a Rock Band
I’ve always been as interested in music as I am in writing; and in the summer of 2012 I thought I would do my best to combine my two interests. At the time, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Polk county based band, Chasing Thrill, and I knew I wanted to write about them. Through a friend of a friend, I was able to meet the guys in the band and we hit it off pretty quickly. I knew that I wanted to write a piece on the band but hadn’t decided what exactly it was that I wanted to write until I learned that the band was about to make a road trip to New York City to stay with their manager and play a show at the legendary Gramercy Theatre.
During the trip, I met Todd Forcellina, Chasing Thrill’s band manager and was instantly fascinated with the way in which he managed the band. Todd was precise and calculated in everything he did, but he never forgot to have fun. I think I was most surprised to see how much work goes into making a band successful. It was when I met Todd that I learned that making good music is only half the battle to becoming a successful band.
It only seems natural that when I sat down to compose an interview for RARASFARM, Todd would be the first person I would turn to with questions about the rock industry.
(Q) What first got you into managing bands?
(A) I have been on the performance side of the business since I was 16. But I have always had an interest in the industry itself. One of my best friends who had been working for a major label asked if I would be interested in starting a management company with him to see if we could help bands along this very difficult business to navigate; something we never had when we were trying to land a deal.
(Q) What are some of your responsibilities as a band manager?
(A) When a band doesn’t have the luxury of multiple departments at a label taking care of everything, my job basically includes doing EVERYTHING except performing! It includes booking shows and trying to gather interest in the band from venues to booking agents who can help spread the fan base. It includes working on merchandise, promotion, and just being a general cheerleader to make sure they are doing everything they need to do on their end like, practicing, writing , promoting, performing or even getting enough rest.
(Q 1) Can you list some of the bands you have managed?
(A) Sure, International recording artist PJ Pacifico who I also drum for, Chasing Thrill a band out of Orlando, The Third Rail, a cover band and a new band called The Broadcast Hearts out of Connecticut, who we are looking at possibly taking on. They produced a very unique video that has gotten some great response.
(Q) How would you describe your personal relationship with the bands you manage?
(A) They are like my family. The bands that I have played in personally are still to this day my best friends. The bands that I manage become like my own kids. I have had multiple bands stay at my home for weeks at a time while they are out on tour in the East Coast area. I am honest to a fault with them always telling them exactly how I feel. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. I guess it is no different than having real kids.
(Q) What advice would you give to someone looking to start managing a band?
(A) It is a lot of work! If the band is looking to get farther than just playing the local scene, it should be someone other than the friend who can’t play an instrument, so he or she decides to be the manager. It is a rewarding job but you better be able to multi-task and be able to deal with different personalities. Also, be able to deal with record industry types who are generally looking to try and take advantage of hungry young kids. I would say a must read for anyone looking to get into this part of the industry is “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by Donald Passman. It was given to me to read before I started out and it is invaluable.
(Q) A lot of band members look up to legendary performers. Are there any legendary band managers that you looked up to?
(A) Sure first one I can think of is Brian Epstein who managed the Beatles one of my favorite bands of all time. Also I would say Bill Aucoin who managed KISS for many many years. Today there is Doc McGhee who has managed everyone from Bon Jovi to Motley Crue to KISS. They are very successful at what they do or did and are just in the spotlight enough, but not so much to take away from the artist they represent.
(Q) I know you’ve worked closely with the central Florida based band Chasing Thrill. How did you first discover that band?
(A) My partner in Blitz Management has a relative from their hometown. She had told us that there was this popular local band and wanted to know if we would be interested. She then sent us the CD and press kit and we kind of took over from there.
(Q) Once you discovered Chasing Thrill, what attracted you to them?
(A) I will never forget, we listened to their debut EP “Promises” in my partner’s office. It wasn’t like the music was so ground breaking or different that we thought this band was a no-brainer, but we could not get over how well the songs were produced with having no backing from a label, plus the vocals were so strong, the melodies and hooks were unbelievable, the guitar playing and drumming was so solid, plus they had “the look”, the look of a band ready for the road. My partner went to go see them when they were in the Connecticut area. He told me that Josh (the lead singer) was sick and that the sound system in the club was awful and that they didn’t sound that great that night. But he did speak to the entire band after they were done and he felt they all had the right attitude and there was something there we could work with. When they got back to Florida at a venue they played all the time, we flew down to see them. The place was packed, the kids knew the words to every song, the band was super tight and sounded incredible and the energy in the room was undeniable. We knew we wanted to sign them and within a month we did. The problem with Chasing Thrill was that I think they thought because one of their managers was a big deal at a major label it was going to be a walk in the park signing a label deal. That is not the case. It still takes hard work, building a fan base and constantly writing new material until something sticks. At some point in time it became apparent that we wanted it more than the band did, and when that happens you can forget it. They are still to this day some of the most talented kids I know and the songs are still what I listen to on a regular basis. I just wish they could all take their heads out of their you know what and realize that they had something very special.
(Q) What role does social media play in band promotion?
(A) Social media is HUGE. I will be the first to admit I don’t know all the ins and outs of the latest things that media has to offer. Once again when a band gets on a label so much of that is taken care of for them. Hell, back in the day when I was playing 3 or 4 shows a week there was no Myspace, Facebook, Twitter. No Pandora, iTunes, Youtube….NOTHING. We would sit around a coffee table in our band house printing out flyers and spent days driving around town hanging them up everywhere to promote our gigs. We would print up hundreds of postcards that had our gig schedule on them and stamp them ourselves spending all our money on hundreds of stamps to send out to our mailing list! To get a label to listen to you, you had to actually send you material to the label in hopes that someone would listen to it and not just throw it in the trash or a pile with hundreds of other cassette tapes. It has changed so so much. It is so much easier now to build a fan base, but that is still the most important thing for a band, maybe even more than the quality of their songs, is building that fan base so a label can’t ignore you.
(Q) Fill in the blanks with words that you believe describe your overall experience working with rock bands.
(A) Satisfying, tiring, fun, enlightening, and rock n’ roll.
(Q) I think there’s a general belief that front men are prima donnas. Any truth behind that?
(A) I guess. I can only say that with Josh (Chasing Thrill) he needed the most attention. He is a strange guy for sure, but a real sweet guy. I still believe he could be one of the best front men in rock if he would just go for it.
(Q) Would you rather have managed Guns n’ Roses or KISS? Why?
(A) KISS. I could not deal with all the drugs that came with Guns. KISS had in the past a couple members who had issues with drugs and alcohol but for the most part Gene and Paul just always had a vision and never lost focus on what they wanted and how they were going to get there. Don’t get me wrong, GNR was a great band and I am sure would have been fun to manage as well, but KISS are more than a band, they are a business, a franchise and have taken what started as four guys from NYC starving to make it to becoming basically a part of the American fabric. Think about it. There is nowhere you can go in the world and if you show the KISS logo or the makeup that someone doesn’t know who it is.
(Q) I know that you recently had your first kid. Has that affected your band managing at all?
(A) Having my son Jett has made my life complete. He is already a little rock and roller. The only thing that it has affected with anything I do in my life, not just band managing is that HE comes first along with my wife, everything else comes 2nd. End of story.
(Q) Do you have any exciting things in the works for the rest of 2014?
(A) Musically I am just playing my drums and happy to be able to do it with my busy schedule. Spend as much time with my wife Emilie and my son Jett, do some traveling, etc. I will also say again I have my eye on this band The Broadcast Hearts from Trumbull, CT. they are making some noise up around this area. They got their video on VH1 And MTV with no help from anyone including me. They are young, determined and focused and that is exactly what I look for in a band that I might want to get involved with.