Compiled by MC Senior Editor Mark Nardone
Featured in every issue of Music Connection, our popular Signing Stories give unique insights into how an artist or band came to sign a contract with a particular label, publisher or management company. These articles can help you in your own endeavors to gain a contract in today’s ever-shifting music industry. Here we spotlight a select few signings from 2012 that, regardless of the artists’ subsequent success, offered the best career advice.
Thinking of moving to hipster havens like Williamsburg or Silver Lake? Well, think again. After New Jerseyans Wesley Shultz and Jeremiah Fraites decided New York City was too expensive to live as musicians, and too competitive to be creative with their music, they moved to Denver, CO, where they found a much more comfortable environment and also recruited cellist Neyla Pekarek. Generating a local buzz, the Lumineers self-booked an extensive US tour in 2011 and self-released an EP. In due time, they aligned with managers Onto Entertainment and were soon signed to Dualtone Records. Singer-guitarist Schultz has this to say of the band’s breakthrough success: “Where we are now is attributable to our attorney, Richard Grable, who has worked with Sonic Youth and Interpol. It is essential to have an attorney who understands independent music the way he does.” Schultz also acknowledges the booking agent. “A booking agency really spreads the word. It is so valuable. So many artists think they can do that on their own, but they don’t know how to be wary of certain contracts, certain clauses.”
When fellow Harlem denizen, RCA honcho Bryan Leach, approached Internet star A$AP Rocky, the artist let it be known he wouldn’t settle for anything less than $1.5 million. Amazingly enough, RCA blessed him with a whopping reported mil advance. Similarly, he got full creative control, isn’t bound by a 360 deal and has his own label, A$AP Worldwide, under the Sony umbrella, because he wouldn’t compromise. “My advances go towards production and the company,” avows the newly minted hustler. “I’m not frivolous. I don’t spend money on shit, acting like I’m balling. I’m not a baller yet.” Leach made certain never to pressure the rapper. Instead, he even facilitated rides between meetings at competing labels like Atlantic, Universal and Def Jam. “He wanted me to make it,” explains the charismatic emcee, “regardless of who I went with.”
Midnight Conspiracy’s signing story has two parallel story lines: As the three-man DJ collective expanded in Chicago via [indie-electro] basement parties, Ultra Records owner Patrick Moxey, a former Chicagoan, heard about them while in Amsterdam looking for new talent. “Patrick came to our studio and hung out with us all day,” recalls Louis Kha, one-third of the act. “It was like he wanted to help blow us up because of his Chicago pride.” On stage, the “band” is Mikul Wing, who’s is in charge of visual, with Kha as the music maestro; third member engineer Graham Geren does not perform but is considered a full-fledged member. Midnight Conspiracy have put tons of hours into developing their image and stage show, inspired by Pink Floyd and Ghostland Observatory. “We want to make sure we’re never manufactured,” explains Kha. “I don’t know if the whole DIY approach gives you legitimacy, but at least you can take pride in saying you’ve done everything.”
This country artist is an MC favorite not just because of the huge success of his debut album (No. 1 iTunes Country; Top 5 in all genres); but we’re really taken with how Lynch was able to develop a crucial career bond with a sympathetic manager. When the wannabe performer moved to Nashville, into a place behind the legendary Bluebird Café, his open-mic nights impressed the crew so much they tipped off artist manager Pete Hartung, who after watching a video offered the young artist a management deal––on a handshake. Recalls Lynch, “He believed in me. A lot of guys develop artists and set up showcases. Pete already had a relationship with Broken Bow,” which has provided Lynch with a multi-album deal, tour support and publicity. Lynch’s advice to other artists: “Don’t ever give a dime to a manager or anyone else trying to represent you. If they aren’t willing to invest in your career, you don’t want to be involved with them.”