After a decade long tenure helping to build The Syndicate into one of the premier music marketing and promotion companies in the business, Dave “The Rev” Ciancio broke off in 2008 to form a new management company. Along with fellow manager and Canadian, Adam Mott, the two formed Yeah! Management with their sights set on taking their roster of hard rock and metal artists to a new level. We recently sat down with the pair to discuss the new company and to figure out what the Rev’s fascination with burgers is…
RM 64: Let’s start with your backgrounds and how you got into the business of rock.
REV: I grew up in Detroit and like all parents, mine hated music and my friends, so I naturally gravitated towards hip-hop and metal because that’s what they hated the most. The day of my high school graduation, my best friend came over and handed me an envelope and said ‘here’s your graduation present. You gotta open it right now.’ I’m wearing a suit…my family had flown in and I’m like, ‘dude I’m not opening this… My mom wants us to have a thing where we open presents, take pictures and say thank you’s.’ He’s like no, you have to open it right now.’ I tear it open and it was 3 tickets to see Clash of The Titans tour with Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and Alice in Chains…ALL my favorite bands. I was like YEAH!!! But then looked and realized, like in an 80’s movie moment with the close up of the ticket and the eyes pop out of the head, that the show started in an hour. Anthrax was on first and they were my favorite band and if we didn’t leave right then we were going to miss the opening of “Persistence of Time.”
But I knew my mom would freak out. Again, it was just like a movie. I was like, ‘ok, pull the car around the house.’ I run to my bedroom, put on my Anthrax “Not Man” t-shirt, my ripped up jean shorts, my unlaced high tops and I go running out of my back porch. I say, ‘thanks everyone for coming to see the graduation…I’m going to go see Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, bye.’ I’m running across the backyard I jump over the fence, Duke Boy dive into the car and head to the concert. We get there, we pull up, running down to our seats right dead center, row 23, Anthrax comes on…the “Persistence of Time” and I’m like YEAH!!!
As I’m sitting there head banging and I see these people walking around the stage with laminates on that are handling guitars, checking guest-list or bringing bottles of water, doing things like that, and I said ‘that’s what I fuckin’ want to do with my life.’ I want to be the guy who helps Anthrax rock out at the Pine Knob music theatre in Detroit. A whole bunch of shit happened after that and now I’m sitting in your living room but that was the moment.
AM: I don’t know how I can top that one. I played in a band and did that route… I’m from Toronto, Canada and I started playing guitar at 13, 14 and the next thing you know I went to school one day and I was like, ‘I’m gonna be a rock star.’ When I was I 18 went to another school called Fanshawe College, which was known for producers. Our teacher was Jack Richardson, who worked with the Guess Who, Alice Cooper and on many other records. After that my band got signed to EMI and I continued playing in bands until I was 29 years old.
The Rev (L) & partner in crime Adam Mott (R)
RM 64: What was the name of the band?
AM: Supergarage. We were big in Canada and we did okay in the UK, but we couldn’t get arrested in the states.
RM 64: What were your first industry gigs?
AM: Well I played in that band for a while and the next thing you know some guy calls and ask if I want to be a manager. I was like, ‘are you kidding me? Alright.’ So I did. I started being a manager, started a record company and then met this guy. Where did we meet?
REV: Of all the great places in America, Warped Tour in Camden, New Jersey.
AM: A friend introduced us, and the next thing you know, we start talking and he was like, ‘do you want to move to the states?’ I said yes! So I packed my bags and sold my company and moved to the states and it’s been all downhill since then (laughs).
REV: Mine is a really long story so I’m going to skip most of it… But basically I was in college and couldn’t go home for the summer so I had to stay at school and needed a summer gig. I was moving furniture and one of the guys that moved furniture worked at the college radio station and one day the program director asked if my friend would cover for the heavy metal host who couldn’t be there. My friend didn’t like heavy metal so he came in and asked me, ‘do you want to host the heavy metal show?’ So I went in one day and he was pulling records and asked, ‘You wanna pick some songs?’ I said, ‘yeah I want to pick some songs.’ Hey says ‘do you want to go on air? Yeah, I want to go on air!’ So I did the break and the emergency phone rang in the back and a voice asks ‘who is this?’ ‘My name is Dave’ I say. He asks if I liked metal, and I said, ‘I fuckin’ love metal.’ Then he asked if I wanted to be on the radio, and they end up hiring me to host the metal show the next week. I become the program director of the radio station, start talking to all the promo reps at all the promo companies and record labels and then I graduated college and got a phone call (phone rings in office) and there it is (laughter). I got the phone call, ‘hey do you want to move to New York and be in the music business?’
I was at WDBM, 89 FM at Michigan State University for a year and half. From there I moved to NJ where I worked in radio promotions with Anya Feldman
RM 64: Moving on to the beginning of The Syndicate; was it a slow steady build or did something spark and set things off quickly?
REV: It was definitely a spark. It was 1997 and I was doing college radio promo and some retail promo for AIM Strategies. Paul Yeskel, who owned the company, had started out doing promo but because his business got so big, he had to run the company and not do promo anymore. Eventually he walked in one day and said ‘I love you guys I love this company, but I miss doing promo. I don’t like running a company.’ It was October 17th and he told us December 17th was going to be the last day the place was going to exist. The five of us who were doing 80-85% of the business looked at each other and said, ‘we can do this, we just need to figure out the administration stuff’. And literally December 17th 1997 was the last day at AIM and on January 5th in 1998 we opened The Syndicate, it was almost overnight.
We got a real small personal loan from some family members, and then we were sitting in a warehouse space in Wehawken, NJ with no heat and no lights in the first week of January. All we had was little terminal stations and a phone. I remember sitting there in a wooly cap and gloves calling stations thinking ‘I can’t feel my hands.’ The Syndicate started out of the necessity of finding a job and it was one of those things where we saw a hole in the income stream and we just took it. We went 6 months and not one of us took a paycheck. I was DJ’ing at a nightclub until 2AM and pocketing the cash, but I would go back to work in the morning always excited about doing metal radio promotion.
RM 64: Who were the five original principles?
REV: Tracey Zucatti, Marc Meltzer, Bernie Mueller, Jon Landman and myself. A couple years later we expanded with The Street Syndicate and Chris Elles came to join us from CMJ.
RM 64: After the first 6 months, where did things go from there?
REV: Things were going really well. In a job like that you aren’t creating a product, but providing a service, so since the service was good people kept hiring us. But after about a year and a half of calling radio, I was bored. You’re in charge of a project for 6-8 weeks, and then Iron Maiden doesn’t care about you anymore, but I still cared about Iron Maiden. So I wanted to get into management. At the time I was trying to help a band called Shadows Fall get a deal because they were friends of mine. And when they got a record deal I was just kind of helping or consulting I guess.
It was April 1st 2000, I remember the date exactly, and I’m at a really horrible bar in Queens with the band. They were playing this awful little club on their first national album tour ever, and they look at me and ask ‘we hear you’re thinking about getting into management’ and I said ‘yep, just waiting to find the right band’ and they said ‘so what are you waiting for?’ ‘You trust me to manage your career?’ I asked. They said ‘we don’t trust anybody but we know where you live so give it a shot!’ And so I started managing Shadows Fall and that sort of took off and from there we picked up Thursday, God Forbid and literally within a year I was doing management full time. Within two years there was a three person staff doing management. And it just really became something.
RM 64: What brought about the formation of Yeah! Management?
REV: Ten years after forming The Syndicate, the management division and the marketing division were going in two different directions. I walked into my partners one day and said ‘I love you guys, this place is amazing, but I need to take this show on the road, because my goals are not matching yours and vice versa.’ Two weeks later I called Adam (Mott) on a Sunday night and asked him what he was doing. He said ‘I’m watching football in my pajamas.’ I asked him to come meet me at a bar in midtown. I told him the deal that night and that I wanted him to come with me. The next morning we told Jackie and that afternoon I told my partners. Two weeks later we were gone.