Dusty Wells Interview
Director of Artist & Label Relations (A&R)
Career Capsule: Dusty Wells has been in the Christian Music Industry for nearly 40 years. Starting out his career working at Christian retail as a buyer for a small chain of stores in the Pacific Northwest. Sparrow Records founder and President Billy Ray Hearn and his son, Bill Hearn Jr, talked Dusty into becoming one of their first field reps that would call on Christian Bookstores, and thus began Dusty’s rich and rewarding career in Christian music. He worked for numerous years with Gospel music legends, The Rambo’s and Reba Rambo and Dony McGuire, while spending over 20 years as the Sr Director of Sales for Word Records. The last 5 years he has partnered alongside New Day Distribution and Daywind Records leading their sales and marketing team, as well as being promoted to head of A &R the last two years working with such amazing artists as GREATER VISION, JOSEPH HABEDANK, KAREN PECK AND NEW RIVER, TRIBUTE QUARTET, THE SOUND, LEFEVRE QUARTET, BRIAN FREE AND ASSURANCE, THE NELONS, SOUTHBOUND and numerous other artists. His career continues with him working alongside numerous other labels and artists that New Day Distributors work alongside of.
Dusty, Tell us about what’s new with you, your latest adventures, happenings at Daywind Records?
What a crazy last couple of years it has been with all of the Covid stuff going on. I was promoted and took over our A &R at Daywind Records in February 2020, and all of a sudden everything went crazy, touring and events cancelled, retail shutting down and so much more. But we kept on. We made the decision to stand strong, do our best with trusting God, became more creative and did our best to help our artists focus on their presence and activity on social media to help keep their fans, friends and supporters updated and encouraged. And we began to work on new songs, new stories, new projects and here it is April 2022 and we here at Daywind are thrilled with what we have been so blessed and fortunate to have achieved in the last few years of what was such a disheartening time. Our company won four Dove Awards in 2021 which was incredible for our genre of music. We have been working on some amazing new projects that have just released from KAREN PECK & NEW RIVER, JIM & MELISSA BRADY, SOUTHBOUND, NELONS and we are in the midst of new projects coming from TRIBUTE QUARTET, GREATER VISION, JONATHON WILBURN, THE SOUND, LEFEVRE QUARTET, BRIAN FREE AND ASSURANCE and we have just signed a couple of groups that we are so excited to announce soon! So as you can see, it has been crazy-busy good for us. I am so thankful to God and our family of artists and writers that we are able to help touch lives with the powerful gift of music.
Since you have a such a busy schedule, how do you best manage your responsibilities and priorities?
I have the most amazing team of people and leadership around me, and honestly that is what keeps me going and organized. I do love to be busy, and I am very passionate and energetic about what I do, so that does help focus me as well. But the team around me…Kyle Johnson who leads our marketing team, Tiffany Noeker and Greg Goodman who are the best at Radio Promotions, Ed Leonard our President, Dottie Leonard Miller who started the company 41 years ago…and the list goes on and on. We meet quite often and brainstorm and strategize and set up plans together with time lines that we are all responsible for. Of course, one of the main things that I still daily do after 40 years, I make myself a TO DO list at the end of every day, of what needs to be accomplished the next day…and I work hard to make that happen.
Complete this sentence: The best way to get a new artist recognized is to____________?
“The best way to get a new artist recognized is to FIND AMAZING SONGS, SURROUND THEM WITH GREAT PEOPLE, HELP THE ARTIST WITH BRANDING, HELP THEM FIND THEIR STORY, KEEP THEM REAL, WORK SOCIAL MEDIA WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT AND REMIND THEM DAILY OF WHY THEY DO WHAT THEY DO…encourage them to love the people and share their heart and story with the songs.
Generally speaking how do you see the state of Christian radio?
I LOVE LOVE CHRISTIAN RADIO and just like every other part of the music, I see it changing some for the good and some for the bad. I think it is critical that we keep personalities and that personal touch at radio when possible. Morning drive time programs, afternoon programming with a live person…there is just something so special about turning on the radio and recognizing that familiar friend who is daily there with you. In regards to radio programming with songs, I really would love to see us add in some more classic songs at times and not just play the same songs over and over and over. Yes it is important to focus on the new and current, but there can be a better balance. Again, I love radio and I do think we are on the right track, we just need to all keep focused and remember our audience can grow.
Regarding record sales how has it changed ….please explain?
With the ever changing climate of digital music and such, physical sales have dramatically changed, but we still see some growth with physical goods thanks to VINYL, special limited edition CD’s with packaging, concert deals, etc. We have not stopped physical CD, our goal is to try different things that make that project even more special and make it more valuable to have as something they can take home and listen to…alongside of the streaming and digital world that most all of us are a part of.
What promotions with radio have you been involved with personally that are most memorable?
Our heart beat at Daywind is radio. We honor and love what radio does to help get the music out there. It is critical and so we strive to dream big with our radio stations as much as possible. We have worked many promotions with radio, and I think the most successful ones are where there is some kind of interaction with the artist and having something special from the artist…it is all about thinking outside of the normal. Make the promotion special and unique to the market, the artist and the listener.
Do you feel the record/radio relationship is still as important as it has been in the past………..explain how its same/different?
Our relationship as Daywind Records and the radio stations are even more so important today than they used to be. The radio industry helps us develop artists, take songs to the top, keeps the listeners involved and educated…and we as a record company take that very very seriously and want to help even more as we work alongside of one another coming up with new creativity.
Who are your industry heroes, people you admire and look up to?
I have many industry heroes and people I look up to…in the Christian music business side, I look at A & R gurus like the late incredible Norman Holland (what a great one), Phil Johnson, John Mays, Susan Riley, Marvin Norcross and in secular music I have to say Clive Davis…I love how he worked his artists and pushed them daily to do better with their gifts. Other people who I really look up to are Roland Lundy who was the President of Word Records for years, Dottie Leonard Miller who started our company New Day/Daywind…and of course I have learned so much from the likes of Dottie Rambo, Buck Rambo, Reba Rambo, Amy Grant, Gerald Wolfe, Rod Riley, Ed Leonard, Benson Curb and the list goes on and on and on.
I consider myself to be so blessed and fortunate that I am doing what I absolutely love to do and am called to do. Christian music touched my life deeply as a 14 year old abused troubled kid in every way. The people that led me to the Lord, introduced me to Christian music…The Rambos, Lanny Wolfe Trio and The Downings…and today, I have worked alongside of all of them and so many others. True heart music and I am so thankful for what radio continues to do to get the music out there.