Exec Profile: Chris Nardone of Venture Music

Chris Nardone


Venture Music

Years with Company: Since 2012

Address: 1604 8th S., 2nd Floor, Nashville, TN 37203

Phone: 615-866-3945

Web: venturemusic.com

E-mail: [email protected]

Clients: Universal Music Group, BMG, Red Light Management, Quartz Hill Records, Flobots


Venture Music began as a management company. Over time, it morphed into a marketing agency for musicians. The company specializes in innovative online strategies for our shifting industry, and their clientele includes scores of indie artists, with a handful of marquee names thrown in for good measure. 

Experience Beats Academics

I have a doctorate in artist management, but boots-on-the-ground, real-world experience is my foundation. I studied finance and went to business school because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I knew learning about money and how to run a business would be tough in the real world, but the rest I had to get on my path to figuring things out. 

I kind of have a vendetta against music business schools. I have a certificate in music business, but I hate the idea of getting a degree in music business. We have hired people that have music business degrees, and I like the way it creates a well-rounded, music business-focused individual. But the music business has to be learned through hands-on experience. It can’t be learned in a classroom. Also, when you study music business, it tends to give this sense of entitlement that you deserve to be at a point above other people. And that’s not the truth at all. 

The TikTok Revolution

You can spend thousands of dollars on an ad campaign and gain 10,000 followers. You can also make one TikTok post, organically reach hundreds of thousands of people, and hit the same marker with zero dollars spent. The dominance of TikTok has completely changed our business. It’s been another disruption point for the industry that’s given us more opportunity. 

What Venture Costs

We have a straightforward plan structure, but there’s a lot of flexibility. Our entry-level indie plan is a $1,500 a month retainer. With that, we cover all digital advertising needs, but we also bring two hours a month of social media planning and four hours a month of creative design work. We scale up from there, adding in social media management services. 

Word of Mouth

More often than not, somebody recommends us or hears about a campaign we worked on. We often work with new clients that submit on our site. The music industry tends to be a pretty small community, and word spreads as to who’s doing what. 

Selecting Clients, Globally

We curate our client base. We don’t say yes to everything, because that doesn’t maintain our ability to do good work. But we’re open to any conversation. We work with artists all over. We have clients in Canada, Sweden, the U.K. We’ve got experience working on campaigns around the world.

The Artist’s Role

A deal breaker is when an artist is not willing to participate in content creation or get outside their comfort zone and do something that gives us a creative jumping-off point. More often than not, super simple, organic posts are the best-performing advertising creative. If an artist is expecting us to create everything and then create a meaningful connection with people, it doesn’t work. People see through the bullshit; they see through your marketing plan. So, the goal is to get to know the artist, get them comfortable, see what makes them tick, and then start experimenting with how we can get that 10 or 15 seconds worth of greatness. 

Why Playlisting Sucks

We really don’t like playlisting services. The algorithm does a really good job of recognizing what’s reacting, so the playlisting ecosystem seems like a shortcut to get there faster. But 100% of the time, we see this huge spike and a fall off in terms of listener count. Then you have a much bigger hill to climb because there’s a mess of data that the algorithm is trying to make sense of. 

Getting Over Social Media Psychological Hurdles

The job of artists is to look inside themselves and be the best creators they can be. A lot of times, social media seems like the polar opposite of that. And it is, in a lot of ways. But I try to help artists think of social media as the same experience of setting up for a show and shaking hands with new people. It’s the same outcome—a connection with a fan that will continue to support you. 

The Authenticity Factor

TikTok was very disruptive in that, up until recently, we could create a well-polished, nice-looking ad creative and expect that to do well. TikTok made people realize they’re being marketed to and that they lost the excitement and connection they got from social media because of that. On TikTok, they are so resistant to being marketed to that, if you create something like we used to a year or two ago, people will comment on it and make you look like a hack. They will laugh you off the platform. You really have to get down to what makes your client unique and better. More often than not, that means putting an iPhone in front of the client and stripping everything else away. 

Pressure Makes Diamonds

When you’re trying to scale a company and don’t have the ability to pay people what they’re worth or hire the best talent, it’s tough. You have to keep your head down and disconnect from things you can’t control. But we have an unbelievable team. 

The pandemic adding some extra flavor to that challenge has been important for us, forcing us into remote work and putting people to the test. We’re a creative company, so we’re expected to not be process-driven and do the same thing every day. That’s tough to do when you’re not interacting in an office space. But that strengthened the core team even more and forced us into figuring shit out. 

Marketing Is Fundamental

[Marketing] can’t be an afterthought. I see that in my conversations more and more. It’s not like, “Hey, we had a record come out last Friday. We need an extra boost. Can you guys help us?” It’s, “Hey, we’ve got a record coming out in August. We want to talk through the video concept. We want to talk through the rollout of all these pieces of content.” It’s thinking of us as part of the team. 

Paring Down

We had a successful year in 2020, because the music industry was limited in terms of options. Our mistake was forgetting that we are a music company. We’re tastemakers and curators of our own. We can’t get too formulaic in the work we do. We have to invest in the project alongside everybody else. We grew too fast and too quickly that year. We backtracked in a lot of ways. We started working 40% less in terms of active projects and really pushed to be a [better] marketing team versus being a digital advertiser or social media manager. Our goal is to do great work for people we care about, not focus on growth. 


Being grateful for what you’re doing is key. In the music industry, it’s even more important, because if somebody creates a piece of content where they’re trying to get people excited and they’re not genuinely grateful to be doing that, people know. We’re all able to recognize that. People that are successful, 100% of the time they’re dramatically happy to be there. Even if they’re not making money and struggling. It’s what they want to do, and they know that. You’re never going to make it if you’re not genuinely grateful to be making music and seeing people enjoy it.