BACKGROUND: After graduating from Syracuse university, Peter Schwartz’s love of music led him to a job working for a video production company. On the advice of his friend’s father, a concert promoter, he interned at the William Morris Agency then later served under Cara Lewis. The Agency Group employed him two years later. There, he’s helped raise the profiles of some of rap’s biggest stars.
I’ve worked in a variety of genres over the years, urban music being my main focus. At one point, I had a lot of reggae clients when the genre was seeing its bigger days. I’ve always been involved in hip-hop. Lately, my roster’s been mainly urban and that’s the genre that’s flourished most for me. It’s also always been my staple genre. There aren’t that many people booking urban music, so it’s definitely a specialized area I’ve made my own.
Trends change, popular genres change. Things come and go. I represented probably 15 of the biggest acts out of Jamaica, but I reduced my roster of those clients as things happened like visa problems, the genre deteriorating, seeing a reduced amount of ticket sales and other indicators. I had to scale down how much time I spent on that genre.
I really enjoy what I do, and having success at it makes it even more enjoyable. I’ve been doing hip-hop for a long time. In my earlier days, I was excited to be working with Arrested Development and Naughty By Nature and all these great acts that were taking off. At one point, I was booking kids’ groups. I had kids and saw it was an open area I could get into. Sometimes, you’ve got to be a bit of a chameleon and move into different things that work for you.
Before the Internet, if you weren’t on the radio you were kind of underground. I made a career of it, booking artists like Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Mix Master Mike or Ghostface Killa. There were a lot of these guys who had buzz and fans but weren’t big, mainstream names. Since the Internet took off, the underground kind of vanished, because now some rapper can put a song on the web and have distribution to the whole world that just wasn’t available before.
Looking at what’s popular is a great indicator of what’s happening. I signed an artist named Watsky. He had this video where he’s rapping super fast and it had over 20 million views. That is as good as hearing you’ve gotten spins on a radio station. In fact, it’s probably an even stronger indicator.
I’m pitched groups all day, so it’s tough to decide what is going to go farther instead of just being another artist. That’s a challenge, something I feel I’ve been successful at. I look for artists with different ingredients and the more of them you have the better the potential.
Of course, I’m looking for artists with great material and that’s the first thing. I look for artists who have a team of some kind. I look for artists who have press and buzz. I look for a following. Nowadays, social media is so important. Is the artist on Twitter, are they on Facebook, do they have followers? Have they created any kind of buzz in their own region?
An example is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. They come out of Seattle, not the first place I’m looking for rappers typically, but when you find out that they’re blowing out two- and three-thousand capacity venues and no one outside of the Northwest knows about them, that’s another indicator there’s something good happening.