Scott McKinley

Exec Profile: Scott McKinley, Founder/Head of A&R at Hi-Tunes Distribution

With a decade of experience working A&R for CaviGold Records under his belt, Scott McKinley knows mixing music with marijuana. Naturally, he dreamed up the idea for Hi-Tunes Distribution––selling artist-themed joints that come paired with QR codes that unlock exclusive song downloads. An instant sensation, the concept has unleashed a whole new business model, namely tying music with virtually any imaginable product.

CaviGold Records
I was hired by and partnered with Caviar Gold, the marijuana brand, to help them advertise through music. As a marijuana brand, you’re limited in the advertising you can do. For the amount of impressions per dollar, using music is the most impressions you can get for advertising, so I started CaviGold Records with the owner of Caviar Gold and started signing artists.

Non-Tangible Business
We have a brand called Causes, where you can give the extra profit from a purchase to an artist or you can donate to a cause. We have Alzheimer’s, autism, LGBT, police, firefighters, a lot of 501(c)3s we’ve signed up with that, when you buy a joint, it gives them money. So you can buy a joint and get music. Buy a joint, help a cause.
And we’re expanding into things like comedians––buy a joint and watch a one-hour stand-up. We’re finding non-tangible gifts to give with marijuana. We can’t say, hey, if you buy this joint I’ll give you a t-shirt, because that’s a tangible gift and illegal. We’ve turned that into an entire business model.

Fan Connectivity
When you download a song, it’s going to unlock that band’s profile and allow that band to have all types of merchandise, like artist-branded hot sauces, salsas, wine, all kinds of stuff that bands usually don’t get to make. We can really use the fan bases who follow artists. They’ll make a post saying, hey, now you can get our hot sauce and when you get that bottle it gives you a unique song you can’t get anywhere else.
We’re figuring out how to offer artists a way to communicate with fans who have bought their merchandise. They can re-engage those fans with show flyers or messages and get 100% connective activity to those artists without having to boost a post or sharing to a timeline.

Transparent Profits
On our agreement, we have a cost of goods that we agree upon. That cost of goods leaves a profit margin and we split that profit margin with the artist. On every product we release, there’s a new cost of goods and profit margin split that’s signed upon. For every piece of merchandise you want to add, we break down the cost of the bottle, the stickers, the sauce, everything so you understand where every penny goes.

An Artist-Controlled Platform
On the same website that goes over the cost of goods is the submission page for your art, your songs, all your links for your social media including iTunes. Hi-Tunes wants to support iTunes, not become it. We’re going to put all your links, your YouTube pages and any kind of message board you want. It’s all on one page.
It’s extremely simple to fill out; it takes fifteen minutes. The only thing I’m licensing from you is artwork. You can choose whether to give a song or just a YouTube video. When a label hears that, they’re not scared. They don’t have to do any licensing, don’t have to track any BMI or ASCAP. It’s simple.

Getting Strange
We’re excited about getting to the next phase of artist-controlled Hi-Tunes. When I can give the power to artists and have them completely control it, that’s when their buy-in is complete. I’ve been courting Strange Music and Tech N9ne for almost ten years. I’ve sent them many contracts and it’s a no-go until they can control everything themselves. They’re the most independent label in the world, so if I give them the ability to control the platform on their end they’re on board.

Best Buds
We are a processor and go through four or five different farms. We hunt down different strains and put everything in the actual cannabis products. Everything is 20% keef and then flower. No stems, no sticks, no seeds. Everything is sorted, cleaned, broken down and then mixed with keef from the same strain to raise the potency above 20%.
We don’t want one full-gram cone mixed with keef because halfway through it’s going to taste like hash. We want that big, bright marijuana taste through the whole thing, so we broke it into two half-gram joints and put them in one tube.
Out of 45 artists, not a single one has asked us to switch to a different kind of weed. Every one of them has tasted the weed and said that’ll do.

We cannot distribute at concerts; everything is through dispensaries. If a band wants to send people to their store to buy their product, they can give out empty tubes that have their stickers on there. We can put a drop of that strain’s terpenes, which is just the flavor and smell, in the empty tube so you can open the tube and smell what that weed smells like.

Pure Imagination
We’re working toward having Hi-Tunes hybrid sativa and indica joints. We’ll also have golden tickets, where you open up your joint and a golden ticket will fall out that invites you to a private smoke out with that artist. We have a 39th-floor office on top of a building in downtown Seattle. We can have the artist there with a DJ and 100 people smoking with them.
We’re also going to have budtender smoking parties every month, inviting budtenders to come meet our artists. It’s an exclusive, private party for budtenders only. And our office is on top of homeland security; it’s a crazy experience to be sitting on top of homeland security taking a dab.

Scavenging for Customers
Slightly Stoopid is coming in June and they always do a scavenger hunt. We’re going to have six different tube colors and if you collect all six you get a meet and greet. The scavenger hunt will be going to different dispensaries to buy that joint to complete the hunt. It’s a really fun way for us to incorporate stores. We can create a lot of door swings for them. And the advertising budget for stores, their ultimate purpose, is to create door swings. We can do that with artists.

Your Personal Mix
I’ve had the privilege of sitting down with people like Paul Hubert, who helped design the code that turned into the MP3. He’s working on 3D sound that you can hear up, down, left, right, like you’re in somebody else’s head. He’s able to have music mixed for each person’s ears in order to create a prescription for that person. He was given the discography for The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin to completely redo in the 3D sound.
I’ve heard this 3D sound in action and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard. I looked around the room when ten people were listening to it and their heads were tilting back and eyes fluttering like they were possessed because it was that magical.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse
We’re trying to get artists paid, not just abuse their exposure. Once the artist understands all I’m licensing is their artwork, giving them ten different merchandising options and building them a fan base, it’s a shoe-in. We’re not asking for anything besides the use of your exposure to bring you profit.

Years with Company: Since September 2017
Address: 19401 63rd Ave. NE, Arlington, WA 98223
Phone: 425-903-0293
Web: hi-tunes.com
Email: [email protected]
Clients: Bobaflex, Hed PE, Lotus Crush, Psykotribe, ZeroPoint, Alpha Cat, Kokane, Mushroomhead, The Chimpz