Thriving Indie-Label Reps: What They're Signing Now

THIRTY TIGERS

David Macias • President

Thirty Tigers was co-founded in 2002 by David Macias and Deb Markland who shared the belief that major-label consolidation, combined with advancing technology, would result in many viable artists joining the ranks of the independent world. Inspired by that thought, they formed a company that would service the indie market. In 2004, the company launched its own label imprint, and two years later added a management arm. The Nashville company has helped foster success for a number of artists, including Elizabeth Cook, Jason Isbell (Drive-By Truckers), Flogging Molly, Amy LaVere, the Avett Brothers, James McMurtry, Chris Knight, the Eli Young Band and many more.

WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY’S VISION
We are a full-service company. And although we perform label functions and have independent distribution, I don’t really think of us as a label. We’re more of a facilitator, I’d say. We help independent artists, labels and companies to reach consumers by offering them a variety of services. With that focus being our prime objective, we’ve grown organically. In fact, over the last 12 months we’ve seen our income and our clients’ income increase significantly. It’s been a great year.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE
The marketplace is shrinking and fragmenting at the same time. Due to that reality, artists and labels have to look for as many different streams of income as they can, or they won’t survive. However, sometimes it’s incredibly difficult, not to mention time consuming, to find the right balance and path to success.
Today, you have to use everything at your disposal—including your imagination and creativity. But, you also have to be realistic and know your limits. Occasionally, we’ve even turned down projects because they weren’t right for us and we didn’t know what to do with them.

HOW DO YOU STRUCTURE YOUR DEALS
Our deals are simple. We take 10 percent of the wholesale price and nothing from the band or artist’s touring or licensing. Artists even maintain ownership of their recordings. Why do we structure our deals like that? Well, I follow (Walmart founder) Sam Walton’s philosophy. He said he’d rather make 10 cents on 10 sales than one dollar on one sale. I like that thinking, so that’s how we decided to do business.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ARTIST’S TEAM
The artist’s team (manager, agent, attorney, etc.) is crucial for success. Today, acts need strong management and a clear plan. You don’t make money by only focusing on the creative aspects.
Someone needs to take care of business too, and determine if certain risks are worth taking. In fact, if we think an artist’s team is weak, we’ll pass on them.

HOW DO YOU MINIMIZE RISKS
When you’re working on small margins, like we do in the music industry, you have to be very cautious when it comes to taking risks. Artists need to be vigilant themselves, so it helps if they know something about the business and choose their team members carefully. Today, artists can achieve success on their own, but they have to be smart about it.

WHAT IS THE KEY TO INDIE SUCCESS
It takes teamwork to be a successful indie artist. Additionally, you have to be willing to work really hard and have a savvy marketing plan that’s based on a realistic financial model. If you don’t have those things set up, you’re going to be disappointed with the results.
It may be a shock for some artists to learn this, but the fact is today they need to be as active in business as they are in their music. They can’t just focus on the creative part of their careers and live in a creative bubble.
Artists need to have a serious intent to succeed,  or they won’t make it. And the only way to do that is for them to be involved in all aspects of their careers and become strong team players.

thirtytigers.com

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