The Country Music Industry is often portrayed with fame, fortune, red carpets, bedazzled cowboy boots, and millions of loyal fans. Bill Snickers, former record label Promotions Director, has a different picture to paint.
In the latest edition of the Behind the Scenes series, the Country Clones go one on one with Bill Snickers as he candidly shares his personal highs and dark lows during the first chapter of his Country Music career. You’ll find out how Snickers overcame addiction to form his brand new country music venture, Entertain! Management.
Nashville | Life in Music City
Prior to moving to Nashville, Snickers lived outside of Seattle, where he worked with a major cell phone provider and a local country band. In addition to being the band’s booking agent, Snickers also operated the sound board and helped with merchandise development and sales at concerts. After several years growing the band’s following in the Pacific Northwest, Snickers moved to Nashville.
Having experienced a taste of musical success in his hometown, he expected that momentum to the move with him to Nashville. But this wasn’t the case. Moving to Nashville meant he had to start his career over. Luckily, he was able to transfer his corporate job to Music City. When Snickers arrived in Nashville, he used his charismatic and charming personality to work his way up the corporate sales ladder. He started as a Sales Rep, then became a Store Manager, which lead to Corporate Sales Trainer.
In a city where bartenders and servers can probably out-sing most anyone, he quickly realized he needed to build a network in order to have any chance at success in country music. He leveraged his outgoing nature and charm to his advantage. “Being successful in Nashville is based upon appearances and whom you’re friends with in the music industry.” So, he attended every show, every songwriters round, and finagled his way into any industry party he could. [All the while, Snickers still had a full time job.] He adopted the infamous mantra, “Fake it till you make it” and his mission to befriend music industry A-listers was starting to work.
Through Snickers’ extensive networking, he started to get to know key players in the music business. One of those happened to be one of the most influential and respected men in the music business, the Executive Vice President of Broken Bow Music Group (BBR) which consists of Broken Bow Records, Stoney Creek Records, and Wheelhouse Records. Over the course of six months, he and Snickers became great friends. Snickers often shared his sales triumphs with the EVP, and convinced him that he could sell almost anything. Building relationships and earning trust with potential customers are the keys to a successful salesperson, and Snickers could do both.
The EVP finally asked Snickers if he had ever considered working in the music industry and told him that he could interview for the next job available at the label. Finally, someone was promoted, and Snickers interviewed for Promotion Coordinator at Red Bow Records. He had no radio experience, no label experience, and had to work his way up from the bottom. “I honestly wasn’t nearly qualified enough for the job. Most coordinators are fresh out of college, packed full of computer skills. I hadn’t looked at an Excel sheet in eight years. So, it was a struggle to keep up, track sales, and charts.” Despite being unsure if he was qualified for the job, Snickers immediately jumped on this opportunity, and left his six-figure sales job for an entry-level position in the music industry.
Despite being on the verge of termination in his first month, Snickers worked his tail off as Promotion Coordinator for his artists Joe Nichols, Chase Bryant, Craig Campbell, and David Fanning. Thankfully, his street smarts and charming personality made up for his lack of experience and computer skills. His job as Promotion Coordinator came with a lot of responsibility, but less than desirable pay.
After about six months at Broken Bow Records, the label opened a fourth imprint called, Wheelhouse Records. This new label meant four new Promotion Director positions would become available. Snickers’ sales talent and relationship skills allowed him to take the next step in his career and earned him a promotion to Director of West Coast Promotions for Wheelhouse Records. Promoting someone with very little radio experience was a huge risk for Wheelhouse. This new position came with a heap of new responsibilities and demanding hours. His main priority was to develop creative ways to build relationships with radio stations in hopes of selling music by getting their artists’ songs on the radio. The ultimate goal for every country artist is to receive a number one song, a gold record, and sold out shows. Easy right? Wrong. The competition is stiff. Most of Snickers’ time was spent tracking sales and analyzing trends to determine which markets needed his country artists.Over the course of a year and a half, it wasn’t unusual for Snickers to catch a morning flight to Las Vegas for breakfast, have lunch in Salt Lake City, then attend a show in Boise, ID that night – all in 24 hours time.
Snickers’ role as the Director of West Coast Promotions:
• Averaged 150 flights per year
• Oversaw 43 radio stations
• Represented Granger Smith, Trace Adkins, Runaway June, and Kristian Bush
• Helped drive “Backroad Song” by Granger Smith to #1 (received a gold record plaque)
• Lived the “rockstar” travel lifestyle
Snickers turned to taking Adderall (a prescription drug used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD) to help him stay awake, focus on his sales goals, and keep up with his demanding lifestyle. The Adderall was working and Snickers’ career was thriving. Eventually, it finally caught up to him and something he used to help his work performance was starting to take a toll on him. His friends and coworkers began to notice his unhealthy appearance. Snickers had lost 20 pounds, rarely slept, and his optimistic demeanor was diminishing. He was addicted to Adderall.
2016 | Rehab and The Fall of Bill Snickers
In April 2016, the day before he was supposed to travel to California for Stagecoach Music Festival, Snickers was called into a closed door meeting with his boss. The label decided it was time to address his problem and staged a full-fledged intervention. Snickers was given 24 hours to check into rehab. Completely caught off guard, Snickers was shocked and very angry that this was happening amidst his career that he worked so hard for. This intervention couldn’t have come at a worse time for Snickers. Granger Smith’s second single was climbing the charts, Trace Adkins had just released a brand new single to country radio, and he was about to go on a radio tour with Runaway June.
During rehab, he was still employed by BBR. As part of the agreement with BBR, Snickers’ job would still be available to him given that he completed the 30 day program.
Snickers complied and checked into rehab, but it wasn’t an easy road to recovery. “During the first few days, I judged everyone. At first, I was very angry at my loved ones for the false accusations of which drug I was addicted to. I didn’t feel that I needed to go to rehab. I was only taking Adderall, not doing illegal drugs.” Finally, Snickers realized he was an addict, and ‘only taking Adderall’ could destroy his life. He changed his attitude and embraced his time in rehab.
Nights in rehab meant Snickers could stay up late, developing a plan to keep his career moving forward. He used his journal to keep ideas for increasing airtime for Granger Smith, Trade Adkins, and Runaway June since he didn’t have computer or internet access. “There must have been close to, if not, over 100 pages of plans and ideas. I even hand drew line and bar graphs and different charts. During one of my scheduled visits I had a friend sneak in the current Mediabase and Billboard country charts so that I could keep tracking the status of my songs.” He was determined to get back to where he left off at work.
After 21 days in rehab, Snickers felt he was ‘healed’ of his addiction and stopped attending mandatory classes and counseling sessions. He was ready to get back to work. After three days of being absent, on day 24, Snickers’ rehab director approached him and told him he was getting kicked out of the program. “Initially, I was happy about leaving rehab early. I expected to leave and immediately go back to my label and resume work where I left off. Oh, was I wrong.”
Snickers learned he was fired from Wheelhouse Records for not completing the program as soon as he received his cell phone and was picked up from rehab.
Having only his backpack and clothes from rehab, Snickers went straight to the Nashville airport and boarded the first flight back home to Seattle, where he spent a few weeks trying to figure out what to do next. He interviewed for a different label, but didn’t get the job because they decided to “go in a different direction.” Snickers’ passion for music couldn’t keep him away from Music City for long.
Back to Nashville | The Car Accident that Changed Everything
After rehab, Bill Snickers’ life was in shambles. He parted ways with Wheelhouse Records and felt lost. “It was no one’s fault, but my own. This made it extremely tough because I had no one to blame. To have everything you’ve worked for your whole life ripped out from underneath you,is tough to swallow.”
Snickers spent the next six months living in Seattle, Nashville, and Knoxville, trying to get back on his feet. He got a job again in Knoxville with the major cell phone provider that he had been working with prior to the music industry, but couldn’t get the music industry off his mind. “Once you’ve been bit by music, it’s an infection that never goes away. I missed being on the road, my old friends, and selling something that I was so insanely passionate about.”
After six months in Knoxville, Snickers decided to give music one last attempt, and moved back to Nashville.
Then, the unexpected happened — a car accident that nearly cost him his life. His severe injuries put him in the hospital for a total of two months.
Bill Snickers had finally reached rock bottom.
“There were so many moments over that year where I believed I had hit my rock bottom, but nothing compared to this.” Instead of dwelling on yet another unfortunate event in his life, Snickers saw the silver lining. This near-death car accident was exactly what he needed to kick start a new chapter in his life. As soon as he had recovered from his injuries he began working out again. He would jog through Music Row, passing publishing companies, booking agents, record labels (including BBR). Often times he would stop in front of his old label, and stare up at his old second-story office.
One of Snickers’ jogs through his old stomping grounds sparked the idea to start his own artist management company in Seattle, where his music career began – operating the soundboard for local bands.
Once Snickers had save enough money, he left Nashville and brought his 11 years of experience in the music business with him. He moved back home to Seattle to focus on the fresh start that he so desperately needed. “As soon as I boarded that plane it was like an anvil was just lifted off my chest. Saying goodbye to Nashville was exactly what I need to regain my confidence, optimism, and personality.” Snickers began to develop his business plan during the flight back to the Pacific Northwest. He was formulating strategies to prove that he belonged in the music industry.
2017 | Daring to be Different
His resume and accolades rival those of other managers in country music. “I have a number one single under my belt and a gold record hanging on my wall. I’ve worked with artists who went from playing concerts for only five people to selling out shows in front of 10,000 people. Not to mention, I have worked in every possible position in the business.”
Snickers’ industry experience has also given him a new perspective of how flawed the perceived path to success is – otherwise known as, “The Nashville Way.” These days, singers and songwriters are quick to drop everything and move to Nashville with high hopes of getting discovered, signing a record deal, and becoming the next Miranda Lambert or Luke Bryan. For most, it doesn’t happen like that.
“I don’t believe in the Nashville Way. Artists are not being discovered playing at the Bluebird Café or down in the Honkey Tonks on Broadway. There’s a reason they say Nashville is a ten year town. Aspiring artists, songwriters, and musicians move there thinking they will capture their dreams and 99 percent of them never even get to take a full swing at their dream. They end up moving back home within ten years. Most of the time after one year.”
It wasn’t long after Snickers started sharing on social media that he was back in Seattle, that artists began reaching out to him telling him that they were happy he was back and doing well. He went to shows and word quickly spread that he was working to get back into the music industry again. Snickers reached out to a friend, Brandon, for help getting his website launched. Brandon also happened to own his own music company called, Entertain!. Snickers shared his thoughts and ideas about artist management, the music business, and his feelings about why the Nashville Way wasn’t working for country music artists. After weeks of discussing Snickers’ new website and business names, Brandon suggested that Snickers partner with his company.
Brandon Rolland owner and CEO of Entertain! said, “Partnering with Bill Snickers was a no brainer. I’ve been surrounded by music my whole life and I have yet to come across another person as passionate about music as Snickers. As soon as he started laying out his business plan to me I knew that I had to get on board or I’d be left kicking myself for not jumping on this opportunity.” Snickers couldn’t say yes fast enough. He knew this would allow him to have the Nashville presence and sign artists in the Northwest. After a couple of weeks of partnership negotiations, Brandon and Snickers signed the papers, and Entertain! Management was born.
According to Bill Snickers, “Entertain! Management Company is focused on regional followings and airplay, first and foremost. I will only consider partnering my artist with a major label when an artist has radio traction, some tangible numbers, and sold out shows.”
Snickers is back and ready to grow country music artists’ success using a different approach. “I’m using my experiences from the early years in my career, combined with what I learned while working for a record label and country radio, to build a company that dares to be different. The country music business is so complex, and no one truly understands the steps to success unless they’ve have been bruised and bloodied up by it.”
“These last two years have been the toughest of my life. But, I truly believe my experiences have prepared me for what’s to come. I’ve acknowledged my mistakes, and now I’m ready to move on from those mistakes. They will always be in my rear view mirror, but I am starting to put distance in between them and I can’t wait for what’s at the end of this drive.” His life longs dream of founding an artist management company has finally come to fruition.
After connecting with several artists, Snickers feels he’s found the perfect talent to compliment his business plan. Entertain! Management’s first artist on its roster will be announced next week.
If you or anyone you know if struggling with addiction, there is help available. Like others within the music industry, the Grammys’ MusiCares charity sponsored Snickers’ rehab program. According to their website, “The Recording Academy’s charity MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical, and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.”