After his own successful singing and songwriting career, credited with national airplay and concert appearances, David Kunert founded FUTURE GROOVE PROMOTION an influential force in the world of smooth jazz. They’ve worked with numerous major and independent labels including Blue Note Records, Jive/Sony, Motown, MCA, Verve and more. Their roster of artists include Grammy Award winners and nominees; Norah Jones, Charlie Wilson, Chicago, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, and a virtual who’s who of instrumental artists from the contemporary jazz world.
- Tell our readers a little bit about your background (David as a singer songwriter too ;)) and how you came to do what you do now?
First of all, Anissa I would like to thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for your Pump It Up magazine. I am grateful for your kindness. As for my background, my career has taken me on many different roads. Over the years I have done everything from selling pianos and organs, to managing record stores, and even singing for a living. I have performed in many states in the U.S., as well as several foreign countries. For a number of years I was also heavily into the L.A. songwriting scene, and was blessed to have a few songs I co-wrote covered by major and independent label artists here and in Europe. I also had some songs I sang on played on radio stations across the U.S. At any rate, just before I got into my current field of radio promotion, I worked several years for national independent music distributors, selling albums, cassettes (yes, that was awhile ago,) and CD’s. In 1994 I was hired for my first job in radio promotion as Director of National Radio Promotion for the seminal jazz label, CTI Records. After that I worked for a few other independent and major distributed labels, and also started my own independent promotion company (Future Groove Promotion,) in the mid 1990’s.
- Do you have any success stories?
On the creative front, having songs recorded and released by other artists were humble successes, and having a few songs I sang on played on Smooth Jazz and a few Urban AC stations were also career highlights. I wrote some songs with some very accomplished writers and artists over the years, including two with a long time member of the Grammy Award winning group The Doobie Brothers. As a radio promoter, I was also a finalist for National Smooth Jazz Promotion Person of the year several times.
- I hear that you are very selective, what determines your choice of artist to work with?
I am fortunate to have a great many artists and labels desirous of securing my services for radio promotion in the contemporary (smooth) jazz radio format. The criteria I use to determine whom I am able to work with typically boils down to how competitive the song would be when compared to the other world class music being released in the format, the song’s arrangements and production qualities, and finally the level of ability of the artist on their instrument, or their vocal skills.
- What’s the most challenging scenario you’ve faced as a radio promoter?
In a general sense that would be having to sustain high quality results for my clients over a long period of time. In the current radio environment it is a constant challenge to meet client’s expectations. Of course, there are always going to be a myriad of other challenges in this line of work, both in dealing with artists, labels and programmers, but that comes with the territory, as they say.
- Talk about some of your dream clients. Who would you like to work for and why?
What a great question. I have already been tremendously lucky to work with many artists whom I greatly respect and admire. I could not begin to name all of the instrumentalists on that list, but some of the singers/musicians I’ve had the good fortune to work with would be the group Chicago, Hall & Oates, Norah Jones, Michael McDonald, and many others. As for dream clients I would love to work with, but haven’t (as of yet,) the list would start with Stevie Wonder. Stevie is one of the most gifted singers and songwriters of the last 50+ years. I love his melodies and his voice. In his heyday he set the standard by which all other singers and songwriters are measured by. I would also loved to have worked with Donny Hathaway (one of the greatest voices of our time.) Others I greatly admire and would be honored to work with would be Quincy Jones, Kenny Loggins, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Steely Dan, and many others. More current artists (both instrumentalists and vocalists) would include Brian Culbertson, Raheem DeVaughn, Robert Glasper, Lady Antebellum, Lalah Hathaway, Heather Headley, Jennifer Hudson, and Lizz Wright (an incredible singer/songwriter,) to name just a few.
- Describe one of your professional successes. What worked well? Who did you partner with? How do you measure success?
Probably one of the most gratifying professional successes I’ve enjoyed over the years, which would rank high on the list would be when I first promoted a young sax player named Vandell Andrew in 2014, who was born and raised in New Orleans. His family home was ruined during Hurricane Katrina. He and his Mother and siblings had to move to Texas to live with relatives without much more than some clothes and a few personal effects in their possession, very soon after the hurricane hit, when much of the the city was several feet under water. Vandell hired me to work his first song ever released to smooth jazz radio in 2014, and it soared to #1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart, and was one of the biggest songs of the year. It also earned him a Soul Train Award nomination that same year for Best Jazz Artist. It is very rare for an artist’s first song ever worked to radio to go #1 on a Billboard chart in any radio format, so that was a great success for him. All the songs I have worked that have gone to #1 have been a true blessing, but especially for those artists whom had never reached that pinnacle of chart success previously. Ultimately, success in my line of work is developing songs to their fullest airplay potential, and assisting new and developing artists as well as veteran artists to navigate the radio and industry landscape as successfully as possible to ensure the greatest degree of longevity they can have in their careers as recording artists.
- How have new communication channels, such as social media, changed the way you work?
The Internet, along will social media have opened up new ways for me to assist artists in gaining greater awareness of their music. I utilize my company website, as well as my Facebook business page to provide added-value to my label and artist clients, by allowing them to reach a wider audience via those platforms. I have found that all of my clients find such additional exposure very important, and if they contact a company who does not have a contemporary website, or a social media presence in my line of work, they would not even consider hiring them.
- What is your top tip for an artist?
My best advice for artists is to constantly work at becoming better at what they do best, and to become students of the genre they create music in. Artists should always work hard to maximize their craft, and to look at other artists they admire to learn what makes them successful. There are very few so-called “overnight success” stories in this business. Networking is important too. People sharing common goals and aspirations are competitors at times, but they also have the ability to be support systems for each other as well. Success is always a by-product of hard work and perseverance. I encourage artists to hang in there and stay focused on chasing their dreams. If someone is born to sing, or to play an instrument, and they desire commercial success, it takes a lot of work. Navigating the complex web of those like me who help people reach some of their goals is part of the process. One last thing, I strongly urge creative people to be honest with themselves on what they do best. If you are an average singer, but write great songs, then go after becoming the best songwriter you can be. If you play your instrument at a high level, but composing isn’t your strong suit then collaborate with writers who can put your talents in the best light. If you cannot produce high level tracks, then hire a producer who can.
- How can our readers get in touch with you? What’s the next step for them to get started with you?
The best bet is for them to contact me via the contact form on my website (www.futuregroovepromotion.com). I respond to everyone who contacts me, so that’s the starting point.