music morsels fiorenza September 2006 

INDUSTRY PROFILE -   Music Connection Senior Editor Mark Nardone

by Mark E. Waterbury

Mark Nardone

Holidays were always a musically intensive time during Mark Nardone’s upbringing. Born in New Jersey of Italian and Irish descent, the Irish side of Mark’s family always seemed to be singing, dancing and playing music. Around the same time, the Beatles started to make their impact on people worldwide, including an impressionable Mark. “My first love was music,” he recalls. “I was a drummer for local bands and really wanted to be a rock star. I was the prime age for when the Beatles struck America, so that launched my friends and I wanting to be the next Beatles.” Perhaps reality was a main factor for Mark when he reached high school age as he realized that becoming a rock star was perhaps not the proper path for him. He began to take a much more keen interest in film, so when he trekked cross country to attend the University of Southern California, he pursued a major in cinema production. While in college, he also had an opportunity to dabble in journalism. Being a huge fan of cartoons, Mark interviewed one of the original directors of the Warner Brothers/Bugs Bunny cartoons that was published in USC’s student paper. “That was really the first time I ever interviewed anyone, but, at the time, that was my only brush with journalism. I wasn’t really interested in pursuing that at the time and put it behind me to pursue a career in film.”

After graduation, Mark took several jobs in the various production aspects of film. He worked on the 1979 20th Century Fox movie “Times Square,” which he followed with a stint on the low budget action flick “The Exterminator.” He then spent several years working with television magazine shows such as “That’s Incredible.” Around that time, he delved a bit further into writing as he began creating screenplay spec. As the years progressed, he began writing for various magazines, at first reviewing web sites for marketing magazines and interviewing the people who created them. Although his career stayed away from the business side of music, Mark’s love for music never left him. He actually played drums in several bands a few years after college, which provided him with a good taste of the scenes in New York and L.A.. ”I do look back at that time I was playing in bands, and see now that probably helped me do what I do now; help advise bands and musicians to achieve a higher level.”

Mark finally found some involvement in the music business when he had an opportunity to write bios and press releases freelance for Rick Rubin at American Recordings. He interviewed people like Brian Wilson, Perry Ferrel and several other noted musical celebrities. This initiated a shifting of gears in Mark’s career path. “I thought, what a novel idea, getting paid to write! I had been writing spec screenplays for several years making a little money here and there, but not really making a living at it. So actually turning in a piece of work and getting a check for it was really cool.” In the late 90’s, Mark answered a blind ad in the  L.A. Times that was looking for a music editor for a magazine called Music Connection. Mark did not have any expectations of getting the job because he had no editorial experience. “Usually most people want to hire someone who has already done that sort of job rather than people who might be able to do it. They don’t want to take a chance on someone. The publishers of the magazine saw beyond that and gave me a shot at it, and I was grateful for the opportunity.”

Mark became editor for Music Connection in late 1998. Having never been an editor before, Mark realized he would have to learn the process very quickly. “The learning curve was horrendous. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. The people management aspect is very hard to do, especially when you are the new guy who is trying to manage quite a few people who have been there for a long time and know more about the magazine than you do.” Citing his wife, an editor for an electronic retail magazine as one of his chief mentors, Mark began learning the ropes. After about a year at Music Connection, he felt he had met every adversity that the magazine could throw at him and began to settle more comfortably into his position. He could concentrate even more on the magazine's mission. Music Connection was founded in 1977 by Michael Dolan and Eric Bettelli, who like Mark, had also worked in the film industry. The main premise behind Music Connection was to fill a gap that had practically no magazines covering or catering to the indie musician. Starting as more of a news oriented tabloid, the magazine grew to a full color magazine that featured many insightful articles for musicians as well as databases for them to reach the people who needed to further their music career. “The whole idea is about connecting musicians. The magazine has become an institution for musicians to get loads of information they can’t find in most places. We give them exclusive, hard to find information about the art and commerce of making music. This is very important, especially now since this business is at a major turning point it its history.”

In the eight years since he started at Music Connection, Mark has risen to the position of Senior Editor. He feels that the magazine has helped him grow personally, as he helms the magazine through the various quirks and eccentricities of the music world. “You deal with many people when you work a job like this, and you learn from them because most of them have been in the business longer than you. You are faced with things you never had to face before and you either do it right the first time, or make your mistake and do it right the second time and then keep doing it right. Music Connection has also evolved, because this could be the most tumultuous and volatile time in the music industry. This evolution is what has managed to keep us afloat while other magazines have sunk.” Mark has not played in bands for several years now and he does occasionally miss doing that. Although some of the former editors at the magazine have gone on to become A&R executives and music professors, or on to larger magazines, Mark is very happy steering Music Connection in the proper direction, as he knows that the magazine's primary focus is making sure bands and musicians are also heading the right way. “When you work with a magazine that comes out regularly, there is something very cool about producing this object that you can hold in your hand that you have worked on very hard. It is great to get this result of your work that they hand to you on release day, that you can kick back and look through it, and think, yeah, this came out really nice. To see that physically and knowing this will go out to thousands of people we are trying to help is very satisfying to me. Being an observer and recorder of the business in such a tumultuous time is kind of scary, but it is also very exciting to be here, now.”


Mark Nardone’s advice for musicians: “Basically, indie bands trying to get coverage in a publication have to see that the cliche of ‘the music speaks for itself’ could not be more wrong. You can’t expect to blindly send your music out to the world and get coverage on it. Any editor is going to get hundreds of recordings people want them to review. You have to look at your own work with a very dispassionate eye as if you are a marketing person. You have to try to find an angle or a way to try to get someone to listen to your CD and consider it over the other ten he just listened to. There has to be a creative way to be the squeaky wheel or be more enticing to get them to listen to it, and to make it stand out from the others. If you can get them to listen to it and it is good, chances are something positive will happen with it.” 

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