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Label News (more headlines) 08-09-2001

Reverb Rocks Again

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You've got a band called Coldplay at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Remy Zero at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood and Creeper Lagoon from the Trocadero in Philly. And if you couldn't be there then, you can now.

On Reverb.

Television's highest rated music-performance show is back for its fourth season of weekly episodes, and it's ready for prime time. The hour-long show debuts Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. (EST) and continues for 15 subsequent Wednesdays, all of it on HBO. And this year, with the additional clout of AOL Music behind it—check out Keyword: Reverb—the Warner Music Group-produced show is starting to look like a textbook case of intra-company cooperation.

Opening night features the above acts in high-energy, un-air conditioned glory, turning in sweaty, straight-ahead rock & roll performances with no stagey tricks and no commercial intrusions. The only people you hear from are the musicians and their fans.

A Brilliant Showcase of Underground Favorites That's the premise behind Reverb, WMG's winning collaboration with Home Box Office (HBO), which, for the last three years, has produced strong ratings and rave reviews from critics and musicians alike. Vanity Fair last year called Reverb a "brilliant showcase of underground favorites" with performances "stunning-and completely free of pyrotechnics, exposed abs and headset microphones."

And with AOL Music on-board and a new WMG-developed Web site (www.Reverbnet.com) complementing AOL's promotions, the show promises to make more noise than ever. ICQ, Winamp.com, spinner.com and other AOL Music properties will be linking to Reverbnet.com, which will showcase each new program, archive material from the entire season and offer additional photos, interview and videos from the show. Says Nancy Geller, HBO's senior vp of original programming, of AOL's key contribution: "They're very sharp in music and have a way of reaching an audience I can't. I can give them exclusive stuff and we can promote the Warner Music and [AOL] Web sites. It's a beautiful mix." "The concept behind Reverb," says its executive producer and WMG corporate communications vp Will Tanous, who previously served as Reverb's producer, "was to create a show that captured artists in front of their paying audiences in a raw documentary style.."

Big Name Marquee Artists The show's creators realized that today's highly formatted radio and music television outlets presented few avenues for exposing the multitude of talented alternative acts. "There seemed to be a large number of music consumers underserved by what was out there," says Tanous. "So many bands that were hot at that time built huge followings based on their live performances. Other than going to the clubs, there was little opportunity for people outside of their core fan base to be exposed to these bands in an authentic live performance setting."

But Reverb isn't just about developing acts. While that was the original notion, the show has evolved and, as of last season, began featuring big name marquee artists from all labels, major and independent. Hole, Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine, Beastie Boys, Beck, Cheap Trick, Moby and Alanis Morissette each took their star turn on Reverb. This season, such name bands as Disturbed, Green Day, the Black Crowes, OutKast, Linkin Park and Staind will be paired with developing artists like Bouncing Souls, Creeper Lagoon, Grandaddy, Lina, Living End, Nelly Furtado and Old 97s. 5

At a recent shoot at New York's venerable rock venue Irving Plaza, two Atlantic Records acts-rap -rock outfit Little T & One Track Mike and R&B newcomer Sunshine Anderson-performed before an enthusiastic audience. The selection of an R&B artist like Sunshine Anderson represents "the biggest change" this year for Reverb, says Tanous. "We want the show to be an accurate reflection of what's happing in alternative music, which has grown to include much more than indie rock." Hip-hop and metal also get their due.

The Industry's Hippest Venues Reverb producers identify the acts they want to showcase, find out when they are touring and then shoot them in front of their fans at some of the industry's hippest venues. There are no overdubs or second chances. What you saw and heard if you were at the show is what you see and hear on HBO. And if viewers aren't familiar yet with acts like Little T and Sunshine Anderson, so much the better.

"We tell Reverb viewers, 'Bands you don't know now may be huge a year from now,' " says Tanous. "Last season we caught Staind as the opening act for Kid Rock at the State Theatre in Detroit. We shot Disturbed at CBGB's before their album was finished. Now they're both multiplatinum acts."

Reverb is shot on a "bare bones budget," says Tanous, whose team includes supervising producer Liz Stanton and associate producer Jennifer Sochko, among others. Overseeing for HBO is original programming manager Aaron Spina, vp John Fisher and original programming senior vp Geller, who says, "I always wanted to put on a music series that was true to the clubs and true to the kinds of groups my friends' kids want to listen to. And HBO is a great way to reach audiences."

A First Step Towards Convergence By giving exclusive content to America Online's 30 million subscribers, the audience reach is even broader. The AOL site will feature a full-length video of at least one song that doesn't appear on the program. There'll also be a downloadable studio track from at least one act in every show, and, after each program, an artist will sit for an online chat (Remy Zero fields questions after the debut Aug. 8 show, at 9 p.m.). And in classic AOL interactive style, a message board will allow members to suggest bands they'd choose if booking the show.

"It's a first step toward convergence, bringing the online and offline audiences together," says Bill Wilson vp of marketing and label relations for AOL Music.

Says WMG svp Michael Nash who oversees Reverb's Internet strategy with vp Donna Cohen: "To have three different divisions working with such fluidity on a critically successful HBO show that highlights some of WMG's most exciting new artists and offers exclusive premium content for AOL subscribers-with all three aspects mutually reinforcing one another-truly makes this a paradigm for what AOL Time Warner synergy is all about."

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