The Who isn't the only band that's grabbing for all the gusto it can get. Lots of groups are reaping the benefits of brewery sponsorships.
John Kurzweg and the Night and Pat McCurdy and the Men About Town have gotten publicity in print and on radio from a major brewery. So have the Stompers, Zebra, Lee Malone, Sound Barrier and local favorites, the Richmond-based Skip Castro Band. These up-and-coming bands, along with the Producers, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Josie Cotton, are all part of the Miller High Life Rock Network, a 2-year-old experiment supported by the Milwaukee-based brewery.
"I developed the idea in late 1981," says Gary Reynolds, whose entertainment marketing firm coordinates the program. "I approached Miller at the beginning of 1982 with a plan for sponsoring a network of regional groups that are on the rise. It took some doing at first to get them used to the idea that there was something to sponsor after the superstars." Reynolds and Miller tested the program for six months before expanding the 1983 program to 10 bands (three of the five test bands were retained). Next year Miller hopes to sponsor 20 bands.
Reynolds researched each market by calling club owners, radio people and music writers.
Locally, the Bayou and the Wax Museum both recommended the Skip Castro Band, which has been packing them in at Washington clubs for seven years and has a strong following up into New Jersey and Pennsylvania and down through the Carolinas.
"We sent Reynolds a tape, a promotional package and a video that the band had done for Cox Cable down in the Tidewater area," says the group's manager, Tom Lewis. "They evaluated all that and selected us as one of the 10 bands for 1983."
Reynolds admits to "looking for groups that have established themselves somewhat but can use the extra push at this point in their careers. We can't really use a basement band: it wouldn't do the band any good and it certainly wouldn't do Miller any good. And we turn some bands down if their popularity is not in a large enough geographical area, or if they've already peaked and their welcome in the market is pretty well played out. But those bands that have been out there pounding away at their career for a while . . . we hope they'll contact us."
Miller liked the concept, says Reynolds, partly because "their distributors in market after market across the country are always looking for some unique way to reach their local, young adult rock audience. Here was a great vehicle. These bands play anywhere from 175 to 250 dates a year, sometimes more, and it's a great, inexpensive way to tie in" to that market.
Zebra and the Producers will soon be cutting a national radio commercial for Miller and, says Reynolds, "as groups become increasingly popular, Miller can supply greater support." The brewery also has another campaign coordinating more than 300 campus concerts a year, using Network bands as often as possible, but using many other groups as well. Some of those bands may eventually end up in the Rock Network.
Reynolds says he accepts tapes and promotional material at Gary Reynolds and Associates, 9415 W. Forest Homes Ave., Hales Corners, Wis. 53130.
It beats hanging out in Schwab's.