Scooter Braun – Artist Manager for the Next Generation

Ariana_Grande_&_Scooter_BraunHow do I explain Scooter (Scott) Braun in four words? He is the man! He is thirty-three years old, he was named one of TIME Magazine’s 2013 “100 Most Influential People in the World” as well as been on Billboard’s 2013 “40 Under 40” list. He is not only an artist manager, but a friend, confidant, and father figure to his developing young artists. In an interview with The Complex he says, “My job is not to be the all-star quarterback, but to be the coach.” In the music business, at least of past artists I have read about like The Runaways, the Backstreet Boys, and N’SYNC, many managers take advantage of their artists. From taking large management fee cuts (Lou Pearlman) to exposing young artists to situations like drugs and alcohol (Kim Fowley) instead protecting them and being more of an authoritative or parent figure. Scooter Braun seems to be the complete opposite – someone to look up to, to respect, and will put you in your place if you are doing something stupid.

He has high standards for himself, his employees at SB Projects, and for his artists. He invests time, money, and energy in people. Braun has broken more new music acts than any other music executive in the last decade including, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, PSY, Carly Rae Jepsen, and most recently, Tori Kelly. Braun started as a party promoter at nineteen where artists such as Brittany Spears and Ludicrious attended. At twenty, he became VP of marketing at So So Def Records while a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta. He ultimately dropped out of college while at So So Def and was fired from the company due to a dispute over the direction of the label.

At twenty-four, he started SB Projects. His Company philosophy is that everyone is family. His artists share the same family values and everyone has to get along. He understands that in this business and when managing young people they are going to make mistakes, and since they are growing up in the public eye, those mistakes are more difficult to deal with because everyone has an opinion about it. In The Complex Interview he said, “I’m not interested in the mistakes that people make. I’m interested in how they react to them.” Everyone makes mistakes whether they are kids or adults, but without them we can’t learn and grow.

I think one of the great things about Braun is that he doesn’t put limits on his capabilities. When people tell him that something is impossible he pushes even harder to prove the nay sayers wrong. When he discovered Bieber nobody thought it was going to work because he didn’t have a Disney or Nickelodeon kid’s show backing him. Now, the reach of Bieber’s social networks like Facebook and Twitter can speak to millions of people. According to an article in The New Yorker, in marketing terms, his reach would cost ten million dollars to replicate through conventional advertising methods. Since Bieber’s reach is so high Braun has him communicate and support other artists through his networks. This helps with cross promotion of artists and allows Bieber to have another stream of revenue.

Braun believes in the power of numbers, and the more support, the more potential artists have to be successful. In Forbes Magazine, Braun states, “as a music industry if we remain in competition we die.”  That line is kind of perfect because society is constantly in competition from job hunting to being in line for Christmas to get the hot new toy.  Instead Braun’s approach is support, believing in people, and giving back to others less fortunate through charity with every project and artist he handles.   This business is about getting an artist to say yes, respecting the consumer, making a viable product, getting people to see it, and telling a story that connects with society.  If you have that, success will follow.

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Music Peer Pressure

As a teenager we all felt the peer pressure of our friends and society about the kind of music we should like, or what is considered ‘good’ music.  As an adult, we read reviews, follow trends, and still allow society to dictate what we buy and listen to throughout our lives.  So what is it about society and the need to follow the crowd?  Recently, I have been reading a book entitled Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment by Anita Elberse, who talks about how people want to follow winners, whether it is the head of a record label pushing an artist to superstar status, to targeting a group of people to grow the popularity of said artist.  The goal and need of the label is to make this artist a winner and to gain followers and momentum within their career, because if they don’t, the artist is dropped and everyone fails, including the artist, the label, and the fans.

A big controversy when I was a teenagers in the late 90s to the early 00s was the battle of the two biggest boy bands in the world – N’SYNC and the Backstreet Boys.  You couldn’t like both.  Nope, you only had the option of liking one or other.  As a teenager I had a secret, which was the fact that I had albums of both bands, and yes I broke the rules.  Do you think I would have ever told my friends?  No way.  As I got older, and got more into the liner notes of the albums I bought, I realized that the  music was written by the same person!  So why couldn’t I like both bands when the music was not only written by the same person, but the same manager developed both groups too?  Another hater group when I was growing up was the group of kids into hip-hop.  The years of the popularity of the Wu-Tang Clan, the Beastie Boys, Diddy, the Fugees, and the starting of Eminem.  Basically, anyone who liked pop music was not in any kind of agreement on what constituted as good music.  Again, I had albums of both the Wu-Tang Clan and Beastie Boys and I can still recite every lyric to ‘Intergalactic.’  Finally, you have the group that is into alternative music, like Jimmy Eat World, Less Then Jake, Goldfinger, Radiohead, Oasis, and Fall Out Boy.  I’m sure you have started to see my pattern here, but this group was more opinionated then anyone.  If this group of teens found out you listened to pop music then they had more then a few words to make you feel degraded and question your own taste.

Like everyone, I had a big fear of what my friends thought of my choices from music to fashion, but why does it matter if the music you listen to is considered winners?  Can’t individuals like music because they like the song?  The voice of the artist?  The technique and the sound of the band?  Back in 2010, when I first heard of Ariana Grande, she was a reoccurring character on a show called Victorious, and everyone of my adult friends made fun of me for watching it since it was a kid’s show.  Now, the majority of them listen to her since she is a superstar.  Leading the trend is always better then following it.  So, sing those songs that get you dancing in the car, or better yet grab that hair bush as you are getting ready for work and become that pop star singing your favorite jam, because guilty pleasures never go out of style.

Love this song, Elizabeth Gillies, and Ariana Grande – circa 2010

My Top 28 Songs of 2014

It is that time of year where everyone looks back on the past year’s successes, failures, and decisions that we were too scared to take.  This past year has been pretty incredible.  I completed my first year in a management position at one of the world class museums in the world, connected again with my Aunt and Uncle and met their daughter that I haven’t seen since she was a baby, flew a plane, learned how to jet ski, watched two of my best friends get married, had another friend bring their son into this world, saw new choreography, and discovered new music to share.

Everyone does top 10, top 20, top 100 when doing lists, but I am a middle child and I do things differently because I like to throw everyone off their game and maybe be a pain in the ass.  So, I am going to give you my top 28 songs of 2014 since this past year is my 28th year of life on this earth bugging my brothers and gracing my parents with the unlimited chatter about nothing.  I am obsessed with pop and alternative genres, but in my mind music has no boundaries and crossover is in every genre.  These lyrics have made me cry, brought me back to old memories, and have brought me hope for the future in my life.  It also doesn’t hurt that most of these songs have a melody that I constantly hummed when I discovered them this past year, and pretty much annoyed my roommate to the point that she had to go find out what the song was that I was singing around the apartment for weeks on end.  So here goes:

28.  Love in the 21st Century – Neon Trees

27.  Smile – R5

26.  If I’m Lucky – State Champs

25.  Accidental Billionaire – The Summer Set

24.  Somebody to You – The Vamps

23.  Another You (Another Way) – Against the Current

22.  16 Years – The Griswolds

21.  Facedown – The 1975

20.  Carousel – Kate Voegele

19.  That’s What Up – Lennon & Maisy

18.  Don’t Count Me Out – The Downtown Fiction

17.  Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj

16.  London Queen – Charli XCX

15.  Moments – Tove Lo

14.  Back to the Shack – Weezer

13.  Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon

12.  Feel Right – Mark Ronson & Mystikal

11.  FUNKNROLL – Prince

10.  Geronimo – Sheppard

9.  End Up Here – 5 Seconds of Summer

8.  Hey Kid – Bad Seed Rising

7.  St. Patrick – PVRIS

6.  Photograph – Ed Sheeran

5.  Here’s To The Zeros – Marianas Trench

4.  Ammonia and Bleach – Emily’s Army (aka Swimmers)

3.  Lost Stars – Kiera Knightly (Begin Again)

2.  Style – Taylor Swift (1989)

1.  Rollercoaster – Bleachers

All artists (except for Taylor Swift) can be found on a playlist here.  I included one video because I think this song represents how we should all be in the coming year.  Don’t be afraid to say Geronimo.  So, here’s to the coming year.  Taking leaps to new adventures, defying fear, leaving the familiar, and hoping that you land on your feet instead of your head.  And if you land on your head, you always have the music to soften the blow.  As Walt Disney said, “Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.”

What Makes A Hit Song?

MixBoard

What makes a hit song?  For the past four days I have been listening to the hottest hits from the 80s, 90s, 00s, and today to try and see if any pattern emerged, but each decade had it’s own focus of popularity from 80s hair bands to 90s grunge, garage bands and boys bands to 00s pop/ punk artists.  What I discovered is that many producers and writers from past decades are still writing and producing hits for today’s artists and a lot of them have work with one another in some capacity; either producing on the same album or even on the same hit song.

First, you have Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.  He worked on Brandy and Monica’s ‘Boy is Mine’ in 1998, Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ in 1999 as well as with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Janet and Michael Jackson, and most recently on Ariana Grande’s new album My Everything.  Another well-known producer and writer is Max Martin.  Think of the most popular pop songs from the 90s through today, Max Martin probably was involved as either a writer, producer, or both.  He worked on Ace of Base’s ‘I Saw the Sign,’ Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time‘ to today’s artists such as Maroon 5’s ‘One More Night‘ to Taylor Swift’s current hit ‘Blank Space.’  I have mostly touched on pop and R&B producers but what about rock?  Well, for Rock it seems that Desmond Child is your man.  He has worked with artist such as Aerosmith, Jon Bon Jovi, Chicago, Joan Jett, and KISS, but he also has crossed over into the pop genre with artists such as Katy Perry, Jesse McCarthy, and Ricky Martin (Click here for hit producer playlist).

I could continue to give you a list of other reputable producers that have helped created some of the most recognized music  of yesterday and today, but let’s switch back to my original question and that is “What Makes A Hit Song?”  What I have discovered is it is an artist’s team (artistic and business), how the mass public relates, and what is currently the popular genre in today’s youth.  The teenage years are when you start to find yourself, discover who you are as a person, extremely emotional, as well as being more open-minded to music.  The fans and the branding are what guides the success of the next superstar.

So, what about the artists that have an amazing sound, but don’t have a Billboard hit?  In the music industry, if you have become popular in America you have “made it” in the industry, but what about those bands that have an amazing sound and their lyrics are like poetry?  Mariana’s Trench is one of those bands.  They were signed to Cherrytree Records (associated with Interscope Records) in 2013.  Mariana’s Trench has a huge following in their home country (Canada) selling out arena tours, as well as become a multi-platnium and award winning artist, but in the United States they haven’t even touched the Billboard Charts as a band.  It should just be all about the music.  If you have great music then it should be recognized on all levels, in every country, but unfortunately that is not how business works.  It seems to come back to branding and building an image as well as how that image is perceived by the fans.  Continue to discover new music.  Check out other artists that your friends are listening to, and become a promotional fan for a new artist that you have created a passion for in music.

Check a Marianas Trench Playlist here, as well as other music lead singer and guitarist Josh Ramsey has done collaboratively written and produced with other artists.