Ivy Leaf - Fall 2013

Music Men

By Susan Field '06

It began with a mutual love of music. As high school students, Brandon Linton and Mark Loucks traveled all over to see their favorite bands perform. Linton, of Altoona, and Loucks, of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, began running into each other at the same shows and became friends. Coincidentally, they both ended up attending Penn State Altoona at the same time in the early 2000s, and then roomed together at University Park, graduating with Journalism degrees in 2006. But it is no coincidence that today both Linton and Loucks have exciting jobs in the music industry. The friends did not land their jobs by chance, but rather as a result of hard work, tenacity, and, quite simply, a love of music.

Loucks, 29, is a segment producer at Fuse, a music television network based in New York City. Fuse features music videos, countdown shows, behind-the-scenes concert coverage, and artist profiles.

“The coolest thing about my job, and maybe the most draining, is that I’m never in the office. If I’m in the office for two weeks straight, then something’s wrong,” says Loucks, who attended Penn State Altoona from 2002-2004. “I’m out in the field a lot shooting and producing. I do a lot of artist-follow-around, to see what their day-to-day is like. If I’m traveling for a music festival, I might be in L.A., Atlanta, upstate New York, or New Jersey. I just got back from Bonnaroo (a four-day music and arts festival in Manchester, Tennessee). For any music festival, we do big blow-out coverage and a ton of artist interviews.”

Loucks, who resides in Brooklyn with his new wife Marisa, a digital content producer at the Oxygen Network, has done some on-air appearances for Fuse, but mostly works behind the scenes. His job revolves around working with Fuse’s YouTube channel and website, fuse.tv. “I’m mainly responsible for creating and producing artist interviews. I have a series called The Mixdown, a bi-weekly YouTube series where we bring in artists that have a mixed tape or an album out. We go through the tracks and talk about the music,” Loucks says. “I also work on a series called Crate Diggers. For that show, we talk to DJs and producers and go through their vinyl collections. That series has done well for us online. That’s probably my favorite project.”

A memorable experience for Loucks is the day he spent with the artist Macklemore during the filming of the “Can’t Hold Us” video in February. The single reached No.1 on the Hot 100 Chart. “I filmed behind-the-scenes as Macklemore filmed his final scene on top of the space needle in Seattle. I also spent some time with him at his home. We turned the coverage into a half-hour TV special that I produced,” Loucks says.

Loucks also went on Rihanna’s famous 7-7-7 World Tour in November 2012. The acclaimed musician invited media and fan contest winners on her “seven concerts in seven countries in seven days” tour to promote her seventh album, “Unapolagetic.” The tour traveled from the U.S. to Mexico, Canada, Sweden, France, Germany, and the U.K.

“I would film in each city, edit on the plane, and upload it as soon as we landed and got internet access,” Loucks says. “There wasn’t much sleep and I was living on a plane for seven days. It was draining and crazy in the moment, but looking back, it is amazing to say that I did that.”

Loucks is quick to credit his journalism education at Penn State with helping him get where he is today. “Learning how to edit [film] at Penn State immediately put me ahead of the rest. That helped me get hired at VH1 (where he worked from 2007-2011) and move up the ranks a lot quicker,” Loucks says.

As for professional goals, Loucks plans to keep his love of music at the center.

Linton has a similar philosophy of focusing on what he enjoys and seeing where it takes him. The 31-year-old, who attended Penn State Altoona from 2001-2004, is the marketing director for the Baltimore concert venues Rams Head Live! and Pier Six Pavilion. Rams Head Live! is an indoor venue in the Power Plant Live! section of downtown while Pier Six Pavilion is an outdoor venue located in the Inner Harbor. Some of the venues’ performers have been Third Eye Blind, 3 Doors Down, Limp Bizkit, The Lumineers, Florida Georgia Line, The Go-Gos, Daughtry, and Darius Rucker.

“I don’t have any traditional training in marketing, but my personal interest in the music industry combined with my journalism skills makes up for it,” says Linton, who resides in Annapolis with his girlfriend, Tracie Walters (Penn State Altoona ’01-03). “A lot of people are limited by viewing their degree as the only qualification for what kind of position they can get. You have to think outside the box and use what you do best, combined with what you’re interested in. Life isn’t linear.”

Linton’s path to Rams Head Live! has been anything but linear. After graduation, he worked as a copy editor at the Altoona Mirror and as a copy editor and page designer at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. He then held a marketing and public relations position at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“Working at DNR was never a job that I planned on doing, but I could see it as a stepping stone in my career,” Linton says. “You can’t plan out your life; you make the best of your current situation, find the value in it, and use that value to move forward.”

In hindsight, Linton can see how each professional experience has helped to make him successful at his job today. “We’re a small company, so an advantage is that we can get our hands dirty in the process of making concerts happen. I’m in charge of all radio promotions—working with the local radio stations to set up giveaways and promotions to spread the word about the bands we have coming. I work with the artists to make sure their show is selling tickets, run social media sites, and work with graphic designers to make sure the posters and the ads look right,” Linton says.

A perfect example of having a hand in everything: in June he drove “Weird Al” Yankovic to his radio interview to promote his appearance at the venue.

In promoting concerts, Linton occasionally works with Robin Akinwale, northeast regional online editor at Radio One in Baltimore. Akinwale, a 2004 Penn State Altoona graduate, was on the staff of the college’s student newspaper, the Altoona Collegiate Review, with Linton.

The challenge of Linton’s job is being able to sell tickets for a boy band, just as well as for a metal band, a rapper, or a gospel singer. “Each show is its own world and you have to learn about the people who follow that musician, and figure out how to connect with them and get them to buy tickets,” Linton says.

A difficulty of marketing, in general, is figuring out how to compete with other things in the world on which people spend money. “When football season is going on, you have to compete with that. No matter how good you think a band is, sometimes you just don’t sell tickets, and it depends on what’s going on in the town, what’s going on with the weather, and everything else that gets in the way of people getting your message,” Linton says. “Advertising is expensive. The challenge is learning how to put your limited amount of eggs in the right baskets, knowing your market, and being able to use that knowledge effectively.”

For Loucks and Linton—and Linton’s older brother Cory, a 2006 Penn State Altoona graduate who works at Country Music Television—they reap the daily benefits of following their passions. “My job is such a mix of business and pleasure,” Linton says. “I come to work and I’m researching bands, and that’s what I’d be doing anyway if I wasn’t at work. It’s bizarre that this is my job and I’m getting paid to do it.”