Lou Niles on tour with Inch in 1994 (left), and with Steve Poltz and Gregory Page (right).
The current co-hosts of Loudspeaker, 91X’s Sunday night local music show, have different ways of celebrating their longtime ties to the local music scene.
Andrew Rowley launched his own production company that creates music videos for artists he’s met over the years. Tim Pyles, who sometimes calls himself “The Mayor of local music,” promotes his own lineup of local band showcases. He’s been known to show off his back tattoo of himself on stage.
The more understated Lou Niles was Loudspeaker’s co-host when Loudspeaker launched 30 years ago. He oversaw the release of two Loudspeaker local artist compilation albums. Niles has just announced he’s starting his own label.
“I could never just sit there and just do a radio show,” says the Oceanside-based music biz veteran. “I couldn’t then and I couldn’t now.”
He says In Your Neighborhood Music will be both a diskery and a management agency.
Niles re-enters both roles after having worked in both artist management and at a record label. His first signing is North County-based Trouble in the Wind.
He was a co-host of Loudspeaker with founder Marco Collins. “I took over from Marco in ’90 or ’91 when he got fired for playing a song by the Geto Boys… It had bad words and was rude to women.”
Niles oversaw Loudspeaker during a fertile time for local artists. He was the first person to give radio airplay to locals Jewel, blink-182, Inch, Three Mile Pilot, and Rust, all who went on to secure major label deals. Niles left Loudspeaker in 1996 to work at Ultimatum Records and to pursue band management (Rochelle, Rochelle).
In the mid-90s, when Billboard magazine wrote a story that suggested San Diego was the next Seattle, Niles’ Loudspeaker playlists were anticipated by talent agents and record company execs.
“I used to spend my weekends typing up playlists and cutting and pasting them to like old flyers. Then I would fax them one at a time on Sunday night.” Niles says Geffen Records was hipped to local punk band Three Mile Pilot, signing the group after first hearing about them on Loudspeaker.
But that Geffen/Three Mile Pilot connection, he says, provided a vital music industry lesson to him.
“Relationships can go bad for a variety of reasons,” says Niles. “Geffen had no business signing Three Mile Pilot. They wanted the band to make radio hits when all they wanted to do was play punk music. They should have been signed to smaller labels like Matador or Mammoth.”
Niles also served as a tour manager. “Bill Silva [a former San Diego concert promoter] financed a few Loudspeaker tours. I took Steve Poltz on his first tour. We also did a national tour with Rust, Honeyglaze, Uncle Joe’s Big Ol Driver and Lucy’s Fur Coat. We had four vans for that tour. It was amazing.”
While at L.A.-based Ultimatum Records [owned by the William Morris talent agency] Niles says he tried in vain to sign P.O.D. and Convoy (“We couldn’t compete against the larger labels”) but did sign San Diego’s Incredible Moses Leroy (aka Ron Fountenberry).
Niles says years of experience helps him see the big picture. “Artists can be at the mercy of so many things. I know of plenty of bands who should have been big but who weren’t, for no other reason than the manager or the guy at the record label was a jerk who burned bridges. Or the person who signed you left to go work somewhere else. Or it can be about other things, like girlfriends or drugs.”
Without getting specific, Niles says his new deal with Trouble in the Wind is not a “bro deal.”
“I believe paperwork is critical for clearly communicating what is needed by both parties in the relationship,” says Niles who says for the time being, In Your Neighborhood Music will not have a physical office. “It will be my car and my home office.”