DJ goes from playing to promoting

Friday, October 5, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 40
By Brad Schmitt

Scotty O’Brien

It’s rare for major label recording artists to switch over and start working for the record labels. That’s what Republic Nashville chief Jimmy Harnen did some 15 years after having a top-five pop hit with Where Are You Now.

The more common switch is radio personalities working for record labels later in their careers.

Such is the case for Scotty O’Brien, 38, a longtime morning personality at then-pop station 102.5 The Party in Nashville.

“It was an exciting time in morning radio in Nashville; the competition was very heated,” says O’Brien, whose heyday was in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. “But we were playing Britney Spears and ‘N Sync and it was fun. We had a good time.”

Listeners were treated to real-life stories from Scotty and his sidekicks – and fans often became part of the hijinx. Sometimes, Scotty would call then-morning radio king Gerry House live on WSIX to see if House would come over to the Party to improve the station’s ratings. (Gerry, on the air, politely declined.)

Eventually, tension between O’Brien and station managers led to a parting of the ways. And that led O’Brien to several on-air shifts in Atlanta, including country station Kicks 101.5.

That’s where he met Jon Loba, chief of Broken Bow Records, who brought then-new artist Jason Aldean to Atlanta for a show.

Loba made an impression on O’Brien.

“Most people in a high position in a record label, most of them are raging lunatics,” he says, bluntly. “He wasn’t your typical record label big shot. He was a regular guy, very nice, very considerate of people in the radio business.”

Then, Loba started asking O’Brien if he would consider switching sides, going to work for the record label pushing songs to radio stations for airplay.

“I said no because I thought it was a silly job,” O’Brien says.

“The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of record labels asking radio to play songs they know are not good. And I don’t like the idea of being one of those guys going around to radio stations asking those guys to play music that isn’t good.”

But Loba persisted in recruiting O’Brien, who ended up unhappy and disillusioned with the radio career that eventually brought him back to Nashville’s 102.5 The Party.

And one day, over volcano beef burritos, Loba played O’Brien some songs from a new artist named Dustin Lynch. O’Brien liked those songs and liked the artist’s story even more. Lynch wanted to be a country star in high school, and he made a deal with his parents and grandparents: If he graduated college, they would support his country star dreams.

O’Brien is now the Southeast regional promotions manager for Broken Bow Records, pushing songs by Lynch (Cowboys and Angels), Jason Aldean and others.

“It’s very fulfilling to know you’ve made a difference, and right now, Jason Aldean is No. 1 and Dustin Lynch is No. 2,” he says. “That’s a huge deal.”