MarK Curdo WCYY Radio Disc Jockey

MaineList Article: Mark with a K - DJ for WCYY in Portland

Mark With A KPortland has been Maine’s hub for the music entertainment industry in Northern New England for the past few decades. Bands from all over Maine, New Hampshire, and even as far south as New York are known to travel into Portland to book shows that often leave band members with a lasting impression of our artsy city.

Over the years, the responsibility of helping Maine’s music scene evolve has fallen into the hands of various local radio DJs. This role was last passed on to “Mark Curdo” by “Shawn Jeffrey” who most remember as “The Facemelter” through the radio show we all know as “Spinout” on “WCYY” radio in Portland.

Mark was working on his “Beautiful Locals” compilation CD, when Shawn said; “You gotta take over Spinout!” At the time, Shawn was planning on moving to Alaska and the station needed someone to take over “Spinout” or suffer the consequences of losing local music’s connection to radio. Jeffrey announced that Spinout would be left in good hands with Mark Curdo. Curdo has taken this role wholeheartedly and has already done some pretty amazing things to help put Maine on the map for a reputation of supporting local music.

His radio name; “Mark with a K” was originally inflicted upon him by The Facemelter, who had repeatedly misspelled Mark’s name. Through continued corrections, a new radio name was born. “I’ve always been a fan of old radio personalities with names like “Murray the K” for example.” Explained Curdo, who comfortably took to the nickname.

“One radio personality that really appealed to me early on was “Allen Freed” out of Cleveland, who really helped introduce new music and went on tour kicking down doors for modern radio.” Curdo’s passion for music goes far beyond just the bands, which became evident as he continued to educate me.

“Free helped to bring the youth together through the music he coined as "rock n' roll". He made a major historical breakthrough bringing together people regardless of their race or background. He was a real pioneer in music. But probably most known for being one of the first to get caught for “Payola”, which is too bad, because he really did do a lot to help out.”

Curdo HistoryCurdo’s involvement in the local music scene stretches out much further than his position with WCYY radio. From 1997 to 2002, Curdo was heavily involved with an independent company in New Jersey called “SAR Entertainment” which housed two record labels and an artist management division. He actually helped the company get started, working along with about a half dozen other employees. “I did everything you can do with a label, covering just about every responsibility that the company had to offer.”

In 2002, he started a year and a half journey hosting a music video show in Boston called “Bad Taste”, which originally started in Portland with “The Facemelter”.

For those who remember, Mark also took an interest in Portland’s “Rotors To Rust” where he helped manage the band. Members “Ed Gaines” (vocals/guitar), “Doug Wood” (drums), and “Jason Grosso” (bass) were given the opportunity to play venues outside of Portland, including a few shows at the legendary “CBGB’s” in New York City.

Although his humble nature would omit his own musical background, Mark was an artist himself, involved in music in the late 80's with a short stint as front-man for an alternative rap project. His interest in music goes far beyond the WCYY format where he enjoys a wide range of musical styles. “Anything but country! Primarily Rock. Van Halen was my band while growing up. I also liked “Faith No More” and “The Beatles” and still do!” Curdo outlined, although the list would be too long to imagine.

Being around music this much might desensitize a radio DJ, with numerous opportunities to meet celebrities around the globe. I asked Mark who he was most excited to meet. He couldn’t break it down into just one person. “Because I was a fan of “Faith No More” I really liked meeting “Mike Patton”. But “DMC” (from “RUN DMC”) was exciting too. I also enjoyed meeting “Dio”, and although a lot of people might not remember him, meeting “Steve Cropper” from “The Blues Brothers” as well as “Booker T & The MGs” and “Otis Redding's band” was a good experience as well.”

Portland Music Foundation

Mark is a part of the organization known as The “Portland Music Foundation” which is designed to help musicians throughout Maine learn more about the music scene, despite it’s Portland title. PMF offers a series of lectures covering subjects like; “Touring”, “Booking”, “How To Get Gigs”, “Modern Press Kits”, “How To Get Print Reviews & Support”, tutorials on “Recording” and “Engineering”, and more.

“The Portland Music Foundation is open to all ages. It’s for people who are interested in learning the ropes, or need that extra push with their own music careers.” Curdo emphasized. Expert musicians can benefit from this organization as well, since even highly experienced musicians can find themselves in a rut from time to time. Here is one way to help break a person free from bad habits, or help them figure out modern methods that they may have overlooked. “PMF also offers discounts for things like radio and newspaper ads, music stores, printing, and so on.”

Labor Day Records“Labor Day Records” is Mark’s own record label, which allows him to help bands create and promote their material through a professionally recorded album. Some may remember “The Beautiful Locals” CD, which was put into circulation a couple of years ago. That was Mark’s first release under Labor Day Records, alongside “Jim Begley”, who produced the record. The album was a compilation of local bands, but more interesting than that, each band covered material written by other Maine artists.

With innovative ideas, and the power to deliver, Curdo could be one of Maine’s most influential people in the Maine Music Scene today!

“I love to hear original bands doing cover material. I believe it helps listeners understand a band’s own abilities or style too. This might give them something to use to rate the band as well.” Curdo stated, to convey the difference between making your own songs versus having the ability to perform someone else’s music.

WCYY StudioAs our conversation continued to roll we moved into the studio where Curdo began to reconfigure his workstation. “I need to de-Rob the booth.”, he said, amusingly referring to “Rob” who had just finished his own shift at WCYY. Within moments Curdo greeted himself on the air, and readied himself for what he imagined would be a long night of conversations concerning the Super Bowl’s disappointing turnout. “I’m actually a huge “Celtics” fan.” Mark admitted to me after taking a couple of phone calls concerning the game, “I never miss a Celtics game.” He has even met a few former players.

WCYY’s Spinout has certainly helped launch Curdo’s popularity in Southern Maine. But, Spinout is not all that he’s doing to help the radio station. Imaging is an important part for any radio station, and this happens to be one of Curdo’s responsibilities for WCYY. A lot of the little audio clips that you hear between songs, station identifications, sound bits, and so on are the audio productions put together by Mark Curdo.

I’m sure everyone who listens to WCYY knows the voice of “Sheldon”, a digitized character which few probably realize is a voice created by Mark Curdo. One of Curdo’s job responsibilities is to keep Sheldon alive through his methods of audio production and manipulation. It’s just another way Mark helps with the station’s imaging.

WCYYBeyond what he does inside the building, Mark spends some time acting sort of like a scout, often taking the initiative to go out and socialize to find new talents. Although he doesn’t necessarily have any final say over WCYY’s regular programming rotations, he is able to bring new bands to the table for consideration. With Spinout, Mark has the ability to broadcast local bands who haven’t been approved to be mixed in with regular programming. This is what makes his influence on the music scene so powerful.

WCYY is owned by “Citadel” who recently merged with “ABC Radio”. Due to the recent merge, the company was forced to lose a couple of it’s stations in order to comply with FCC regulations. WCLZ 98.9, and WCYI 93.9 (out of Lewiston / Auburn) were the two stations lost during the merge. However, during this transition the station freed up some space at “One City Center”, and is currently in the process of moving WCYY’s studio into the bigger studio where WCLZ once existed. “Drew Scammon”, Citadel’s Engineer, is the technical guru behind the move, which involves the hefty task of rewiring and configuring the move. This is the first time in the past 12 years that WCYY has moved, and everyone seems pretty excited about it, allowing more breathing room for bands who frequently visit the studio.

Currently, WCYY is playing more local music than just about any radio station in America! “Today’s radio doesn’t have the guts or faith to help local music.” Says Curdo, who’s intention might be to put a fire under their asses and hopefully inspire other stations to start having faith in their own music communities. “Too many stations stick to the billboards, believing only in the numbers or statistics!”

Taking Tips from MarkAlthough I have had conversations with Curdo in the past, it was nice to finally catch up with him and learn about the many ways he’s helped local entertainment. He had a lot of interesting tips which might be useful for bands too. Being in a band myself, this perked my own interest, and thought it might be nice to share some of that in this article too. But after talking with him about The Portland Music Foundation, I really think I’m going to become a member and learn how to enhance my own career. Here’s some of the tips that Mark gave…

“It really helps when a band has someone helping to represent themselves. Although, not necessarily a manager.” Mark pointed out, probably meaning someone either in the band, or close with the band who knows enough about what’s going on, who can make decisions for the band and always help keep things moving.

I talked with Twisted Roots last week, and Pete admitted that he’s had difficulties in the past with management who was more interested in making a name for themselves, and actually limited the band from reaching higher levels of success due to the company not wanting to let the band be managed by someone more capable. But either way, a band should have someone taking the wheel, and keeping things moving.

View From The Deck of WCYY

I asked Curdo what advice he could give for bands submitting their CDs to WCYY for evaluation, he said; “Don’t rush sending in your product. This might sound cliché, but you never get a second chance to make a first impression!” If the station decides to play the music, it’ll become a product that listeners will expect from the band. So be sure your product is finished! “Timing is also important too! Just deliver a good product, preferably during a time when the band has good motion happening for themselves.”

Next, I asked Mark to try and give me two scenarios of either a band in the past who submitted an unfinished CD and ended up fairly successful as a result, versus a band who submitted an awesome product but surprisingly failed.

“Ruin hadn’t really recorded a CD for a long time and finally put something together for us on CDR as an unfinished product. The disk was your standard CDR with handwritten text, not visually appealing, but it turned out to be rather successful.” Although this doesn’t happen very often, it goes to show you that packaging isn’t always everything.

“Sometimes, bands give us substantial presentations but don’t survive the game long enough to benefit from the promotion. This actually happened to “Rotors To Rust”, where the band fell apart just after putting something really awesome together.” Curdo’s involvement with Rotors would have had no impact on their success, as the band had internal problems of their own which eventually brought the band down.

Final Message

“To all the bands out there struggling to make a name for themselves; Keep doing what you are doing! You gotta do it cuz you love it. If for no other reason, just document your band on record, even to just have a copy of yourself 10 years down the road.”

Mark’s own involvement with all of the things that he does, isn’t for the financial gain, or the popularity, it’s purely for the love of music. By putting his whole mind, body and spirit into his beliefs, he’s been able to make a lasting impression on all of those who’s he’s affected over the years. It’s because of his love and commitment that he’s been able to get as far as he has. And I’m sure, after all I’ve learned about this aspiring music lover, this is only the beginning for Mark Curdo!


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