Photo Credit: Jamel Mosely
Creative Under 40 Story by David King and Katie Cusack
Guthrie Bell Production marketing/promoting assistant Kim Neaton has been frequenting shows in the Albany area and beyond—from beloved local haunts like Valentines to Saratoga Winners—since she was 15 years old. From a young age, she aimed for a job that revolved around going to concerts.
After graduating college, Neaton worked summer music festivals here and there, including Hunter’s Mountain Jam and Ghent’s The Big Up (where in 2011 she met Guthrie Bell head Greg Bell.) In 2013 she landed a DJ job at the Vermont-based alternative radio station WEQX, where she became a local celebrity for running the music show “EQX-posure” for five years.
“Being a big fan of music has helped me get to where I am. Just caring,” she says. “Being someone that was friends with bands, who was going to shows a few times a week, bands saw me as someone that was a friend and a fan, but then, someone that could help them, too.”
Neaton says her time at WEQX was an unexpected career opportunity, but one that paid off in terms of connecting her to a wealth of music industry and band connections. “I was terrified of the radio,” she says. “I always liked live music better.”
Her role promoting local up-and-coming bands on the air—as well as the radio-sponsored shows around the area—helped solidify Neaton as a reliable source for the Capital Region music scene. She became a beacon for people seeking music industry advice and, generally, just good taste.
“For every show they [WEQX] were like, ‘Who’s the local band that should open it?’ And I got to have so many good bands play in front of people on stages like The Hollow. As someone that cared about it, I just thought, ‘What do I want to share with everybody? I think they’ll appreciate what’s actually good.’”
Neaton shares one story about 2014’s Albany street festival Pearlpalooza featuring Tennessee- based band Royal Bangs (“Which had one of my favorite albums of 2013,” she says.) “They were like, ‘Why are we going to play this festival? We’ve never been there.’ But they drove all the way up just to play in the rain and everyone knew, like all the words to at least two or three of their songs. They were just like, ‘What is this?’ They weren’t a major label band or anything, but that’s just the power of finding good stuff and sharing it with people, getting it to the right ears.”
That’s something Neaton wants to see happen more: putting emerging bands—and those who have flown under the radar for too long—in front of large audiences. And she is always looking.
“I go to so many different things. When I go to a show I have a blast, but I analyze everything. Who’s there? Why are they there? How are they interacting with the crowd? I’m really thoughtful about that.” After leaving the radio station in 2017, Neaton began working for Guthrie Bell Productions, the Capital Region booking and promotion organization that has been booking indie, alternative and jam acts for 27 years. After a short stint as marketing manager at Vermont’s Higher Ground Music in 2018, Neaton returned to Guthrie Bell in late 2019.
Neaton would like to focus on elevating local talent on more mainstream shows, a long-standing goal of Guthrie Bell, as well as blending more genres, finding new spaces for performances and creating a community focus around performances. She hopes to continue growing the reliable, strong music community Bell has built.
“It’s important to find new bands all the time. We’ll book a band at The Hollow for the first time, well knowing that only 50 people are going to go and he’s gonna lose a few hundred bucks,” she says. “But that’s what you have to do to keep the community and build it up. It’s just staying true to stuff that you love and being real about it. It’s important that when a band comes to Albany they know it’s me and Greg, and they feel like they have a relationship with us.”
Eastbound Jesus drummer/vocalist Carl Anderson is a fan. “I’ve always thought Kim stood out as a supporter of the local music in our area,” he says. Neaton is also a publicist for the Greenwich-based folk rock band and helps organize their annual September music festival, Eastbound Throwdown in Salem.
Anderson says Neason’s drive and passion for the acts and venues of the local music scene is exactly what they need to help the community thrive. “She’s young and creative and will be around for many years helping to get bands on stage and crowds in front of them,” he says. “Kim has definitely helped the Throwdown grow. She is the one constantly in contact with fans and attendees through the various social media outlets everyone uses…She is always a level head and one of our core planners and coordinators for the festival.”
Between the established following Guthrie Bell Productions has built for the past few decades and the sharp and searching ears the promotion organization has gained with Neaton, she hopes to use the knowledge from her experience in Burlington and in the radio world to set a standard for high-quality music and to put Albany on the map.
“I think that’s my number one thing I want to try to do here—there’s such a gap. I’ll go to the city, Boston or Burlington to see shows, but we’re right in the middle. I want to make bands not pop over us all the time.”