Music Connection's Favorite Signings of 2015

What makes a great Music Connection Signing Story? Well, for this article it’s not about each artist’s post-signing success but the insights and inspiration that come to light from the act’s struggle to beat the odds.

Label: School Boy Records/Republic
Band Members: George Sheppard, lead vocals, keyboard; Amy Sheppard, vocals, keys, harmonica; Emma Sheppard, backing vocals, bass; Jay Bovino, rhythm guitar, backing vocals; Michael Butler, lead guitar; Dean Gordon, drums.
Management: Michael Chugg - Chugg Entertainment, [email protected] (Australia); Nano Tissera - SB Projects, [email protected] (U.S.)
Publicity: [email protected]
Web: wearesheppard.com
A&R: Brett Alperowitz

Nothing has more impact on a band’s signing prospects than a drop-dead great single, and Australian band Sheppard had just that with “Geronimo.” (To date, the song has more than 45 million listens on Spotify and nearly seven million combined views on YouTube.) Prior to “Geronimo,” Sheppard had some success with its single “Let Me Down Easy,” spun heavily by Portland, OR radio station KNRK. “It went to number one on KNRK and we got to come over to the U.S. and do a show,” George Sheppard recalls. “Then Australia started to take notice and we broke through on commercial radio there.”

But it was “Geronimo” that propelled the band to the major leagues. George Sheppard asserts, “Somebody in the States sent our [‘Geronimo’] video clip to Nano [Tissera], who works with Scooter Braun at School Boy Records (Justin Bieber). Scooter went for it; he thought it was a great song. Before we knew it, he had a deal locked down with Republic and the rest of the world fell into place pretty quickly.

“In this day and age, it’s so easy to get heard,” Sheppard concludes. “So that’s not the issue. It’s learning how to write a song.”

Label: Atlantic Records
Management: Patrick “Pee Wee” Bonsu, [email protected]; Pierre Bost, [email protected]
Booking: Patrick “Pee Wee” Bonsu
Publicity: [email protected]
Web: officialkranium.com
A&R: Success (Yaasiel Davis)

When you look at the career path of the Jamaica via NY artist known as Kranium, the message is loud and clear as to how he landed his major label deal: he and his managers first created some noise on their own and the labels came calling. In the summer of 2013 he independently scored the breakout hit, “Nobody Has To Know,” originally on Frequent Flyer Records––a label established by Kranium and his managers––which has since earned more than nine million YouTube views. This captured the interest of Atlantic Records and a rep reached out to him via Twitter. But he wasn’t entirely swayed by the cyber contact. It wasn’t until he met someone face-to-face that things started to move forward. The sing-jay was suspicious at first contact. “I wasn’t completely confident about it. … It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Atlantic was legit––I was kind of shocked when they messaged me––but meeting [someone from the label] made me feel more confident [in the label’s interest].” Several months later, a deal was signed.

Ivy LevanIvy Levan
Label: Cherrytree/Interscope Records
Management: Bruce Eskowitz and Sarah Diebel Red Light Management
Booking: Marty Diamond - Paradigm, 212-897-6400
Publicity: Lisa DiAngelo at Interscope Geffen A&M
Web: ivylevan.com
A&R: Martin Kierszenbaum

Are you even ready to be signed? Do you know who you are as an artist? The label that’s courting you––do they really get you?

Los Angeles-based singer and Arkansas native Ivy Levan started in the business when she was 18––old enough to sign a contract but perhaps not old enough to fully embrace the intricacies. She landed a deal with Virgin Records initially, but it was an ill-fated relationship and Levan left the label. “I didn’t know who I was when I started,” the artist explains. “I wanted to be a rock singer, but other people told me I should be like Celine Dion. But I didn’t want to do that. I had a lot of angst and a lot to say. … So I took a few years off to be a kid; to go through what a normal person would in their college years: party, meet people, have fun.”

Eventually she heard from producer Lucas Banker. The singer recalls, “He’d heard about me from a guy at Sony. He tried to chase me down, but I was terrified of people in the industry. I didn’t want to do music anymore. But he coaxed me into it and we started writing together. It was magic; instant chemistry. We shopped my stuff around and the reaction was amazing."

Liam Lis for SS - credit = Harrison BryceLiam Lis
Label: Lava Records
Management: Amy Thompson - ATM Artists, [email protected]
Booking: Brian Manning - CAA, 424-288-2000
Publicity: Crowd Surf, [email protected]
Web: liamlis.com
A&R: Jason Flom, Natalia Romiszewski, Ryan Silva

Having a good YouTube channel is something that is propelling numerous artists these days. Thirteen-year-old singer/songwriter Liam Lis landed a deal with Lava Records when Nigel Talley, a friend at Atlantic Records, mentioned him to Jason Flom, founder and head of Lava, who had numerous discoveries to his credit, including Kid Rock, Lorde, Black Veil Brides and Katy Perry. Once they saw footage from the young artist’s popular channel that featured covers and originals, they invited him in to do a pair of showcases.

“When Liam showcased at our office I knew immediately that we had to sign him,” Flom says. “His singing, dancing, musicianship, songwriting, style and swagger were so strong, especially for someone so young. It was clear that he was—and is—destined to be a star!”

Jordan Davis Promo 1 (FC) - Photo Credit- Julie MoeJordan Davis
Label: ole Publishing
Management: N/A
Booking: William Morris Entertainment - Nashville
Publicity: Laurie Jakobsen, [email protected]
Web: jordandavisofficial.com
A&R: John Ozier, GM Creative - ole music publishing

“Make the most of your opportunities. They don’t come too often.” Well, sometimes, if you happen to make a mess of your opportunity, there’s still some wiggle room. That’s the lesson we learned from our Signing Story on Jordan Davis. Without a label, the country singer/songwriter was angling for a publishing deal when he found himself in the presence of a group of industry execs. “I was playing guitar around a campfire where I knew they [ole Creative Executives and other members of the industry] were there. I was, let’s say, ‘over-served,’ and when I played, I screwed up my songs. I blew it! But later when I got back to town, I had an email from ole’s Ben Strain saying, ‘Oh, we were all kinda drunk!’ And he invited me into his office to play some songs.” The deal quickly followed.

The way the deal is structured, Davis is still being shopped to labels. “What’s so cool about ole is that they have the ability to get me a record deal, get me on the road and allow my music to develop. We have been in talks with producers for recording an EP. They pay for this upfront, and a label can then buy the masters from ole. My publisher is my manager/publisher/stylist.”

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