Music magazine Hit Parader, published from 1942 to 2008, has been reimagined as a branded production studio for TV, film, live events and more, under the auspices of music biz and media veterans Ash Avildsen (pictured at left), Josh Bernstein (right) and Matt Pinfield (center). The first offerings under the Hit Parader moniker are slated to air — Covid-19 permitting — by the end of 2020, and include the original scripted series “Paradise City” and music competition TV shows “No Cover” and “Roadie Rage.” Platforms for the three programs will be announced shortly. A biopic of influential A&R exec Tom Zutaut, who was portrayed by SNL’s Pete Davidson in Motley Crue’s 2019 Netfilx film “The Dirt,” is also in the works.
Other high-profile endeavors include the return of live events — among them: the Golden Gods, Mayhem Festival and The Rock N’ Roll Roast, says company president Bernstein, who “instantly bonded” with now-partner Avildsen about a dozen years ago “over our shared love of rock and roll music and pro-wrestling. With Hit Parader, we saw a way to finally form the ultimate tag-team and marry our shared vision creating a rock ‘n’ roll studio focused on original content and immersive experiences.”
Company CEO Avildsen, who is also founder/CEO of independent metal and rock record label Sumerian, has start-up funding in place for Hit Parader, which will operate under a label-inspired business plan. “We will create, produce and/or acquire original IP. We will then do our best to get that content out to the masses and monetize it every way we can.” Hit Parader has offices in the Panasonic building in Universal City just outside of Hollywood.
“Paradise City,” which Avildsen describes as “A mix of the young angst of ‘Euphoria,’ the entertainment biz authenticity of ‘Entourage’ and the supernatural fun of ‘Sabrina,’” stars Drea de Matteo, the late Cameron Boyce and Bella Thorne. The first season of eight 40-minute episodes is complete, with a goal of five seasons in total.
While the music-based TV series’ including “Vinyl” and “Roadies” incited excitement, then disappointment from many viewers, Avildsen says, “I don’t think ‘Vinyl’ and ‘Roadies’ faltered for any lack of interest. There is a massive, worldwide audience hungry for a scripted series in rock & roll which is evident by our first ‘Paradise City’ teaser breaking 14 million views on YouTube alone. We’re also leaning a lot younger with our casting and subject matter than those shows.” Avildsen is the writer/director of Miramax indie film “American Satan,” currently on Showtime, as well as “Paradise City,” which is a spinoff of American Satan.
Pinfield, Hit Parader’s VP of Artist Relations, appears as himself in “Paradise City” and is one of the hosts of “No Cover. “The thing I love about [‘No Cover’] is its platform and springboard for new and young original talent performing their own material [the show will feature only original music, hence the show’s title]. We want to help those young artists get a leg up in this industry.” Following the “American Idol” model, winners will score management and record deals. Four of the five judges for “No Cover” are confirmed; judge casting for “Roadie Rage,” which will be “part true story-telling via animation and part obstacle madness,” begins this week.
Although the Hit Parader principals have strong bonafides in rock and metal, “all genres and styles are welcome and will be given platforms,” Avildsen says. “While there can be certain musical elements synonymous with ‘rock & roll,’ I am still a firm believer that above all, it’s an attitude, not a sound. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has done a great job of reflecting this, hence The Band and Tupac are both in there. Bob Dylan and N.W.A., Marvin Gaye and The Beastie Boys, David Bowie and Public Enemy. I love it.”
Despite the storied Hit Parader publishing history, there are minimal plans for any type of magazine component. “I think the legacy and history of Hit Parader brings a modern-day value that would take many years to recreate,” Avildsen says.
Launching Hit Parader content during the pandemic has been challenging, but, notes Avildsen, it’s also “highlighted the undeniable need for our music scene to diversify beyond the traditional models of entertainment, i.e., touring and albums.”
Pinfield likens the venture to one of his earlier career successes. “I haven’t been this excited about being on the ground floor of something as special as Hit Parader …[it] reminds me of my earliest days at MTV,” he says. Pinfield’s goal in his new role is “to make Hit Parader the destination for all things rock and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Rock music still has the most loyal audiences in the world and they have been greatly underserved.”
Bernstein, whose credits include Golden Gods Awards, AP Music Awards, and XXL Freshmen, is excited to bring the Golden Gods, which last took place in 2014, and the Rock N’ Roll Roast back. The Golden Gods show plans to return in 2021 — contingent upon on evolving live-venue social distancing rules. The awards will offer transparency in the nomination and voting processes, with votes publicly released the day after the show. In 2009, the 1st annual Golden Gods Awards were held at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia, and ’09 and subsequent years featured the crème de la crème of rock and metal artists, including performances by Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Guns N’ Roses, and Korn. With Golden Gods and other fan-focused endeavors, Bernstein hopes that “these TV shows, film projects, concerts and award shows can be a bright, shining light at the end of the tunnel for rock fans during what are currently such dark times.”