“I grew up in Montville, NJ… and just loved music! I loved DJing because it was a chance to turn people on to new music, and I loved to talk about music, and I realized that a big part of promotion was exactly that.” – Dave Lombardi
By Beatrix Danko
Dave started DJing at dorm and frat parties while at Rutgers, and eventually moved to the school pub and then to a couple local clubs. He also joined Garden State Record Pool and quickly became the point person for Alternative and Rock music, writing for the pool newsletter and helping the pool director track down the right records for members.
After graduating, his first job was as Head DJ for the 94th Bomb Group in Fairfield, NJ, and a couple of months later, as a way to build positive industry contacts, started his own record pool. He DJed at the China Club in NYC and at the Loop Lounge in Passaic Park, NJ.
Dave’s first label job was Club Promotion Manager for Island/4th & B’Way; he left there to start up an Alternative Radio Promotion division for Pellegrino Promotions; followed by almost 13 years at Warner Bros. in Burbank, starting as the Alt Radio Promotion Manager and eventually becoming National Director Promotion, Rock Radio. After WB, spent a few years at Arista as Senior Director of Rock and Alternative Promotion, and then moved to the Capitol Music Group and Astralwerks as Head of Promotion. Dave spent over 11 years there, becoming Head Of Promotion for Caroline, then a part of the Special Ops promo team, and finally VP of Promotion, for Caroline once again.
In June, Lombardi has joined the NEW YORK team at In2une Music as SVP Promotion of Rock Formats.
What makes your current company unique/different?
There are a lot of good people in this business working hard and trying to do the right thing. I’m new here but my feeling is they’re doing it a little bit better. And I’m excited to help us grow as a services company that can provide a much fuller solution for independent artists and labels.
How would you describe your work philosophy?
Honesty and integrity have a place in promotion. Be accountable. Be as quick to accept responsibility as I am to accept praise. Understand that what my pals at radio are trying to do isn’t exactly what I’m trying to do, and my job is to make the case so that our interests dovetail as often as possible. And passion: passion is a part of everything I do, and it drives me everyday. People who work with me get my experience, my relationships, etc. but they also get my passion. I also try to always move the ball forward, so that whatever the result is at the end of a particular campaign, we are further down the field than when we started, and the opportunity is there to start at that point with the next effort. I embrace change, and love finding ways to make it work for my artists and partners. And I don’t take hardly anything personally, and I don’t make it personal. Except with Lenny Diana.
What is a day in the life like for you?
I get up between 5 and 5:30, check airplay and emails, have a coffee yogurt and my greens mix in some apple juice and water, say hello to my dog, cat, wife and son, based on who’s up and when. I watch some news and also read online news while getting ready, which includes some very strategic personal hygiene (my commute should be about 1:30-1:45 but is occasionally twice that.)
Things really get cooking when I get on the bus. My informal commuting blog has quite the following, and there’s almost always someone on the bus who just doesn’t understand that they are living in a society of other people. The bus company itself is a regular aggravating figure in my life. While on the bus, I catch up on emails, troll friends and family with pithy comments on social media, and read. I then spend 10-15 minutes dodging/cursing people (under my breath) in the Port Authority and heading down to the subway and getting to the office. I mean, really, escalators are stairs that are already doing most of the work for you; if you can’t be bothered to chip in some effort and walk up or down them, at least stand to the right. And, my god, stop watching TV shows and/or movies and playing the latest ‘Saga’ BS game on your phone while you are walking in crowded commuter venues, like a bus terminal or heading to the subway.
Once in the office, every day is a combination of calls, emails, research, meetings, conversations with programmers, clients (artists/managers/labels), team members, indies, etc. I usually have Mediabase Realtime and Sirius XM running on my CPU all day long as well.
Then it’s time for another trip home via mass transit. I may nap for a bit; the rest of the time is email and reading of some sort. And I always have my iPod going in shuffle while on the bus.
Depending on when I get home, I’ll eat with my wife and son (usually if it’s before 8); otherwise, I’ll eat by myself and then spend time with them before my wife goes to bed and my son goes back into his world of video games and piano-playing. I’ll then spend time in then home office, working on my music library or some other nonsense. Along the way I’ll also get some quality time with our dog Lucy and cat Floyd. In bed by 12-12:30.
Weekends involve home projects and lots of outdoor time, including mountain biking, which I try to do at least once a week. I have a pretty good single track park about a mile and a half ride from my house.
What could the rock industry do to improve that it’s not doing? How about any given rock station?
As far as Rock radio goes, it’s already happening: Look under the hood! Ask for the story surrounding a particular project. Yes, there will always be songs that just sound like they need to be on the radio NOW, and will react in a vacuum, but there are few of those in general and even fewer on the Rock side these days. You can like songs and still ask, “Why should I play this?” Alternative Radio has been doing it for years. If a song’s success is dependent solely on Rock radio airplay, that’s rarely going to be enough, and it puts too much of the burden squarely on the backs of the format. A service or impact date is NOT a marketing plan. And these days, with the major labels mostly eschewing Rock bands, a lot of these projects have little support outside of the radio budget. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Oh, and let’s drop “Active” once and for all. Not ONE station calls itself Active on-air, in its imaging or online. Just drop it and take advantage of the HUGE canopy the word Rock carries. Somehow, the unevolved rock fans of the 70s and 80s managed to handle Rock radio that played everything from Jazz (Traffic) to Blues (Led Zep) to MOR (Steely Dan) to Metal (Sabbath) to Southern Rock (Allman Bros.) to Punk (the Clash) and New Wave (Talking Heads). They could embrace the Stones and Foghat AND the Cars and the Pretenders. Rock radio used to be the Daddy format, with Alternative and Triple A being offshoots. For too long it’s just been music that Alt and Triple A wouldn’t touch. It’s finally changing (Disturbed went from Rock straight to Top 40 and HAC, and the Chili Peps are Top 5 at both Rock and Triple A.) We need to get all the way back to that.
What are your three most Rock & Roll moments?
A few great memories include my time working with the Jesus and Mary Chain. These guys were cyphers that once played an NYC show with their backs to the audience, and I found myself working with them starting with the Automatic album. They were touring (with NIN as support), and I covered a bunch of dates and actually got to know Jim and Bill well. We had gotten to the end of that tour, with dates in Norfolk and DC, with one to follow (can’t remember where), and I was talking to their tour manager outside their bus. When he found out the DC show was the last I was covering, he shouted into the bus and both Jim and Bill came out and gave me big goodbye hugs. The next year I actually got them to show up at the Loop Lounge, my old club in NJ, after they opened for Depeche Mode at the Meadowlands. That was surreal.
While at Warner Bros. I had a great relationship with Ministry and Al Jourgensen, Paul Barker and Billy Rieflin. One time, Paul Vitagliano and I took the whole band out to lunch, and we all walked from Warner Bros. Records across Burbank to an El Torito. I have a lot of Ministry stories (I was on their tour bus right before it was raided in Salt Lake City one night), but my favorite came towards the end of their time at WB. They had just played a sold-out show at the Palladium in L.A., and instead of going backstage, the tour manager said Al was going to come out to see people. We waited with a throng of fans and label peeps, and here comes Al, seemingly larger than life and walking right through everybody. Jeff Gold, who was the current WB president (we had a lot of ’em in those days), stuck out his hand and introduced himself, saying “I’m the president of your record company!” Al didn’t even break stride, walking right past as he growled, “EX-record company!” And then he saw me, hanging back, and made a beeline right for me and gave me a huge bear hug. That was pretty cool.
And I have a bunch of great memories from Jane’s Addiction, the Ramones, the Goo Goo Dolls, Primal Scream, Joan Jett, the Chili Peppers, Candlebox… but right before we launched Van Halen 3, with Gary Cherone taking Sammy Hagar’s place, the band was rehearsing for their tour in a studio in North Hollywood. I won’t get into the merits of that album, but Gary did what Sammy never would: he opened up the Van Halen songbook, and added a ton of DLR material to the set list (Sammy would do “Jump” and a few others.) I saw VH at least 20 times with Sammy, but never with Dave, and personally, I really loved the Dave records. So Gary joining the band was a bonus to me. And then they invited me and Mike Rittberg to come to one of the tour rehearsals. It was the two of us, sitting on a couch less than 15 feet from the stage, with a few crew members and management, and the band tore through their set, playing stuff I never thought I’d hear, Like “Romeo Delight.” Gary Cherone was a sweetheart and a great singer, but first and foremost, he was responsible for giving me the VH concert I really wanted to see. I did see them years later with DLR, but by then Michael was gone (and so was Dave’s voice), so I’m, glad I was there to see a bunch of those shows with Gary.
You’ve worked with some great bands. Who have been some of the funnest artists/bands you’ve worked with over the years?
I’ve had great experiences working with Van Halen, Ministry, the Chili Peppers, the Goo Goo Dolls, Candlebox, the Kooks, Morning Parade, Slash, Alter Bridge… I’ve been lucky as I’ve had by FAR more good experiences than bad.
What are you currently up to?
We’re getting ready to launch the new Naked and Famous with Kobalt, we are setting up the new Brand New, we’re going to be working with Votiv and their artist Kaye (the lead singer from San Fermin), I’m still involved with the Sick Puppies, and I think we’re gonna be involved with Dinosaur Pileup, which I’m really excited about. And there’s a bunch of other stuff in the works at in2une Music.