Gary James' Interview With
the Owner Of Sky Rocket Entertainment
Q - I interviewed one of your clients, The Babys. They have an agent, a manager, a record company, a publicist and you. I'm not exactly sure what SkyRocket Entertainment is all about. Since they have all those people in their employ, what can you do for an artist like The Babys that all of these other people, cannot do?
A - Well, I'll tell you, I started the company ten years ago and for about fifteen years I'd been at the Universal Music Group and worked at several different marketing positions at the label of Universal Music. When I left Universal it was at a time in late 2004 where the major labels were shedding a lot of talent, a lot of what they call Heritage type talent or artists that had long and successful careers or had plateaued their sales at maybe 200,000 units and just couldn't get above and beyond that. So, I was sort of downsized from my management role at the same time there was a strategy at the majors to let go of a lot of talent and more narrowly define their rosters. So, when I started the company it was specifically targeted at these types of artists that were leaving major labels that still toured, that still worked, that still released music and no longer had a label but needed infrastructure to help them accomplish these things. So, that's what we've done for the last ten years is provide an infrastructure based in marketing, sales and technology to help artists that have an established profile, to help them continue to earn and make a living in the music business. That often means releasing a record or something digitally or maybe it's growing their Facebook profile or establishing a website. All of these marketing slanted tools is sort of what we provided the company.
Q - You're primarily engaged in Social Media then?
A - We do a lot of Social Media. We own a record company as well. Often times an artist will come to us with an existing record deal in place and we will be the marketing machine that surrounds that, that works with that label, to write a plan, to quarterback a release, to spend money appropriately on the areas needed and if an artist does not have a record company in place, we can become that record company and offer distribution through our distribution deal and still provide these tools that are needed for an artist to release something into the marketplace.
Q - Are you involved in merchandising?
A - We are involved in merchandising. I think most of what we do is write marketing plans, work with the vendors that we hire or the artist hires, whether it's a publicist or it's a radio team, and pull all these parts together into one cohesive team to execute a release.
Q - Besides The Babys, are you able to name any other clients?
A - We're working right now with a member of the band Metallica, the bass player Robert Trujillo. He has produced a documentary about an artist, a musician he admires a great deal. So, we are helping him release this and we are providing the services, the marketing services needed to take this release into the marketplace at the top of 2015. That's a project we're very excited about right now. We primarily work with artists that are established or that have existing careers in place. But then there are also smaller, independent labels that need to outsource their staff needs. For example, a label called Cavigold out of Seattle owns a studio. They've just started releasing Rock records and they don't really have a staff. So, we are their defacto staff. Our five or six people will handle the production, the marketing, the publishing and Social Media for this company at least initially until they feel comfortable investing in that infrastructure.
Q - Could you be doing what you're doing if you were based in any other city but Los Angeles?
A - I don't think so. Most of the client base and much of the business we secure is through relationships we have within Los Angeles in the entertainment community and it's hard to maintain or grow those relationships when you're not in a hub like New York, Nashville, Los Angeles.
Q - Have you ever been part of a band at any time in your life?
A - Well, in my late teens, early twenties, yeah. I was a fledgling artist. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a Rock star is what I wanted to be and I found my way into the music business side of the business exactly in that way.
Q - With a decline of record companies, your service is going to become more valuable in the future, isn't it?
A - It's exactly what I'm gambling on, yes. Major labels cannot invest in the manpower, the overhead and the minutia to develop and build talent generally speaking. Of course there are exceptions to that, but generally speaking that's where services like ours come in handy and are useful because we are a moveable team that you can turn off and turn on as needed. We're scalable and flexible and we help bring focus to a project. That hopefully takes an artist to the next level or catches the eye of a major company or at the very least keeps their businesses alive and generating income for them.
Q - Will you take someone on who's just starting off in the business?
A - Well, I would say if there's absolutely nothing going on, probably not. Usually you want to see, and perhaps this is my point of view, you want to see some sweat equity from an artist's side, that they have built something. By building something these days could be as simple as a significant Facebook profile. It could be a series of YouTube videos that generated enough interest that there's some traction. It could be a digital release that they've done on their own that Sound Scans a thousand or two thousand units. There has to be something, some gas in that tank that has taken this artist from the bedroom to where they are when you meet them. Without that, without the artist focus and without their sweat equity and without their having gotten to a point where, "I don't know what to do anymore. I need help," it's hard to really do that, to have that passion and fire for an artist if they don't have the ability to get it up and running initially I think. I mean that in a polite way, but I think you know what I mean.
Q - So, the idea of a kid walking down the street and somebody approaching him or her and saying, "Do you want to be a star?" are pretty much a thing of the past?
A - I would say that would be the same chances of a shark attack and lightning strike, yes. (laughs) It might, but it's infinitesimal. We're working with a young Rock-a-billy band that have never really had a release out, although they have a 'name' in that scene, the Swing scene and the Dance scene. So, often times what we will do is take the momentum that they have garnered to date and we will add some gasoline to that. Often times we do that through what's become really useful for us, the fan funded campaigns. By that I mean the Kickstarters and the Pledge, those kind of tools where you can work with a band, come up with a unique campaign that can be launched through Social Media for very little money and you can go to the fans to pre-buy or support these releases and raise the marketing funds that way that allows a band to take the next step from a marketing point of view. What you're really doing is selling to the base that they have grown so far, whether it's five hundred people or two thousand people. You can go out there and raise a little money and ask for some unique support from them.
Q - And in return, the fans get what?
A - It depends on the campaign you put together. It could be a series of house concerts. They get a 'live' performance and a barbeque and a recording of the evening for X amount of dollars or they're the first ones to get a CD when it's released a month before the stores, or it could be a private cocktail reception. It could be VIP seating at a show. There's a million creative ideas to come up with. It's the thought that you can go to this base that's been built, raise a little bit of money, get a little bit of traction under you and then you have a bank to use to market the next release a little bit further; take it a little further down the road then you have already.
Q - It almost seems like it's not enough to pick up a guitar these days. You have to know about the Kevin Days of the world. That's hard.
A - You're absolutely right. It's not enough to be an artist any more. You need to be a business person as well. That's always a challenge.