Century Media just recently celebrated its ten year anniversary.
Started in 1991, the label has become a major player in the metal
community with a back catalog that includes Nevermore, Mayhem and
Skinlab to new releases by Scar Culture and Haste. The label recently
took over the day-to-day events of Nuclear Blast, marketing and
promoting their releases, adding to their already formidable roster of
metal artists. I had the opportunity to speak with Marco who filled me
in on what the label has been up to. You can check out their website at www.centurymedia.com
to get more information.
How did you get started in the music business?
I’ve had a great love for music for as long as I can remember. I
grew up in a household where music was always playing in the background
and was an embellishment to life. My first experience to metal, and as a
fan of a band, was when I was introduced to KISS in 1977. I became a
devout follower of the band which led to my interest in other groups
like Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Rush, etc. As for the
business, in high school I recognized that I needed to begin tailoring
my life for the future and get a jump on what I wanted to do
professionally. And while I was a big fan I never wanted to be a
performer so I decided to help those fortunate enough with talent and so
decided to get into the business side of it. I went to college
(University of the Pacific) and majored in the field and began a
fanzine, starting managing a couple area bands and booking/promoting
shows. These combined experiences, along with my education, led to a job
doing publicity at Metal Blade Records in 1991.
How did you end up at Century Media?
After being at Metal Blade for five years I felt it was time for a
change. I had gone as far as I could within the company and desired new
challenges and a new environment. When the opportunity at Century Media
opened I took it, although many advised against it because at the time
CM was a smaller label and wasn’t doing so well, but I felt the
company had great potential and I wanted to contribute to optimizing its
impact on the scene. I’ve been there six years now and every year has
been better and more successful and I love it.
How did the merger between CM and NBA come about? How has it
A few years back we began assisting other labels with marketing and
distribution due to our strength and experience in the field. Nuclear
Blast has always been a great label, but we recognized it could be
better for them in the states so rather than directly competing with
them we offered to help them but taking care of their day to day
business affairs here, cutting their costs and overseeing their
promotion and sales. It took some time to convince them but ultimately
they decided to give it a shot and it has been a very fruitful
relationship so far for both labels.
How important is a back catalog to a label? How extensive is CM's?
Back catalog is very important. Not only is it what a label is
recognized for – the number of classic bands and records they’ve
released – but also the continual sales of back catalog can be very
important in financing and promoting new bands and releases. I think
CM’s back catalog is very good; there are some great and consistent
sellers, such as Iced Earth, Stuck Mojo, Skinlab, Nevermore, Emperor,
Mayhem, Satyricon, Samael, Unleashed, The Gathering, Moonspell, Tiamat,
How do you find new artists? How has the Internet helped?
We encourage bands to send in their demos and we will listen to them,
but mainly we discover new bands from a buzz generated either regionally
or in the underground. We like to work with bands that have drive and
are willing to hustle to promote themselves, who have a good business
sense and a solid line-up. The Internet has definitely helped bands, the
fans and labels, as it’s an immediate resource that all can tap into
and the information exchange is immediate. We also like checking out
band sites so when we hear something good we can go their site and find
out more about them and listen to some of the mp3s.
Does CM sign only heavy metal artists or others as well?
We are a heavy metal label first and foremost but I feel our tastes
run the gambit of styles within the scene and we like to support all the
sub-genres, such as traditional, progressive, death, black, gothic,
hardcore, metalcore, power, thrash and everything in between. I would
prefer to always work with bands with an edge as that are what we are
all fans of and the territory we know best.
How hard is it to promote each artist on the label?
It can be difficult because there are so few resources open to us and
it can be very demanding and time-consuming. We also release quite a few
records each month, plus we also handle or oversee the production,
accounting, distribution and promotion on some of the distributed
labels. We definitely need to prioritize and have short and long-term
game plans set for each release, and we work months in advance of a
record’s street date to do much of this.
How important is touring? How expensive has it become?
Touring is essential for our artists and for the promotion of their
albums. With the lack of mainstream exposure for underground metal it is
difficult to spread the word about new bands and new releases and
touring has become one of the best means of promotion. Also, heavy metal
is a genre that is often times most appreciated in a live setting and
the bands want to tour, see the world and meet their fans, and the kids
just want to be entertained and experience a great night out. While
touring is essential, it is very expensive and most bands and labels
take a loss on the touring side of things, unless the band is more
established and can command greater guarantees nightly to cover their on
the road and start-up costs. Touring is especially expensive for
overseas artists because on top of the flights there are also
immigration work visas which must be obtained, equipment rental,
transportation and crew costs on top of the usual day to day expenses.
How has the merger helped CM's standing in the metal community?
I believe the working relationships that we’ve built with labels
like Nuclear Blast, Noise, InsideOut, Olympic, War Music, Black Sun,
Regain, Mayhem, as well as the numerous labels we deal with on an only
mail-order and direct sales basis has made Century Media a very
well-known and respected label in the hard rock/heavy metal genre. We
have proven that we are honest and up-front and are diehard fans of the
genre and are willing to go to great lengths to develop the scene, these
bands and to help make metal more readily available to the fans.
Any new signings that you'd like to plug or expect to make a big
The last signing from the US office was Scar Culture from New York
whose debut album, Inscribe, was released a few months ago. We believe
in this young band and are encouraged by the finished album, which was
shopped to us by Billy Milano (SOD), who produced it. The guys are down
to earth and willing to work and have a good sense of professionalism
about them and through continual touring and word of mouth we believe we
will establish a nice foundation for the group to expand upon with their
sophomore album. There are some other groups we are in serious
discussions with, but nothing is finalized yet, as well as groups that
we are watching based upon area buzzes, early demos or underground
interest, yet we don’t feel the time is just right to pick them up.
Is getting a record deal just the beginning for a band or the
Honestly getting a record deal is only the beginning. Everything that
comes before is just practice for what potentially lies ahead in the
What advice do you have for an unsigned artist?
Knowing the music business is important for bands so they have a good
grasp and understanding about how agreements, recording, touring,
publishing, marketing, accounting, etc works as it will only make it so
much easier on the band and the label in the long run. So many bands do
not understand how the business works and it is often times these
misunderstandings, which lead to, wasted time and future frustrations
down the road. It is also important for young bands to get as much live
and promotional experience as possible early on as these are the same
rudiments for the future and can and will only make you stronger and
more prepared for what lies ahead.
What's the future for CM?
I would like to see us continue to develop talented artists and to
expose them to a larger fan base and get bands to always sell more than
what they are currently selling. To establish better relationships
outside the metal genre so we can promote our artists not only via
traditional mediums but also cross promote them via alternate avenues.
We will never forsake the roots of our genre but we need to take care of
all of the metal outlets as well as others to inform more people about
these exciting and deserving bands and to the rich wealth of the
underground so that it can be appreciated and recognized by more people
and so that it will always continue to live. We would like to see some
of our bands go on to major labels so they can have more financial
backing and a greater possibility to realize their dreams as we
recognize our limitations; plus I always thought it was cool growing up
to see bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth move on to a larger label
– to me that is a key part of artist development. We want to continue
to find new and exciting artists and to keep the hard rock, heavy metal
and hardcore scenes alive with great music, and to continue to
streamline our operations and make our company more efficient and even
more effective. I would also like to continue seeing CM’s mail-order
and direct sales divisions continue to grow and flourish with more
titles available, faster turnaround time and an even larger customer