How Russ Merck Got His Foot In The Music Industry Door

Russ Merck is a successful engineer, speaker, and, most recently, music promoter. The soothing sound of classic country music lured him into the music industry when he was fifty-seven. An Oscar-worthy cinematic chain of events led Russ from his humble beginnings as a design engineer to his bright future as the volunteer promotions manager for country artist Neil Dover.

Here’s how Russ Merck got his foot in the music industry door.

1. Russ’s love of travel put him in the right place at the right time.

Russ and his wife Denise have two homes, escaping from the cold Connecticut snow to the southern warmth of Texas every winter. Both of the Mercks are country music fans, and it was because of the lyrics in one of her favorite songs that Denise decided they would stop at the famous Flora-Bama bar.

They hit the Florida-Alabama border and rolled into Flora-Bama around four in the afternoon on a Wednesday.

2. A chance meeting opened up the doors of opportunity.

With three cats and a dog waiting in the car, Russ and Denise walked inside the iconic bar. They instantly realized that the Flora-Bama is more than just a bar; it’s a Florida-Alabama institution. Its three floors house six bars and four performance venues. However, it was relatively quiet that day.

Russ and Denise caught a performance from Neil Dover, one of Flora-Bama’s mainstays. Neil is a country artist who rocks the Flora-Bama stage every Wednesday afternoon. Like every member of Neil’s audience that day, the Mercks were quite impressed with his vocal power and soothing tone. They thanked him, bought several CDs, and resumed their drive to Houston. They listened to Neil’s albums for the rest of their ten-hour drive.

3. Russ and Neil reconnected through a serendipitous phone call.

A few days after arriving in Houston, Russ sent Neil a Facebook message to thank him. Somehow, however, the message got lost in cyberspace, and Neil replied a year later. Embarrassed by the long delay, Neil decided to include his phone number in the belated reply.

Rather than responding to Neil’s message, Russ got out his phone and called. That call was the beginning of a long and winding road.

4. The journey began.

The relationship started with several failed attempts to book Neil at a couple of famous bars in Houston. After a few more minor setbacks along the Gulf Coast, the pair decided to push harder rather than giving up. With tenacity and fortitude, they achieved an entire year’s worth of major accomplishments. Together, they wrote two pieces of software to manage prospects and Neil’s email database, completed several tours across the Midwest, reformed the Neil Dover Band, met with agents and producers from California to Nashville, created a world-class electronic press kit, created a Monday night internet TV show, planned a Kickstarter campaign to fund Neil’s fourth album, and developed a strong YouTube video promotion plan.

Russ credits the huge success of his YouTube video promotion to Promolta. He and Neil have primarily used Promolta to boost Neil’s hit music video “Flora-Bama Time.” The music video has since caught the attention of a Nashville-based video promoter, who plans to push “Flora-Bama Time” into major outlets like CMT, Great American Country, and Heartland.

Overall, this has been a whirlwind year for both Russ and Neil, punctuated by both failure and success. However, no one could have guessed that their chance meeting would turn into a nearly full-time job creating a star. Russ and Neil continue to work together, always getting one step closer to becoming a part of country music history.

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Kristen Harris enjoys listening to a wide range of music, from Taylor Swift to, on occasion, Celtic instrumental. She also spends her time writing, reading, and baking.

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