The music industry can seem like a vast and scary place for those on the outside. Whether you're looking to become a backend creative (PR, management, agent,etc.), or you're an artist looking for a way to get to the next level, the whole thing can seem like an absolute clusterfuck upon first glance. Luckily for you, we've got a few cool friends with a helluva lot of knowledge that are helping us answer some of your questions in our monthly segment Phone A Friend, where we connect some of the most exciting industry up-and-comers with you and we help you answer any questions you for these mysterious music people.
It's been a minute since we've run this segment, but we're back today, and this one is massive. We've teamed up with: Adam Weiss, who's most famously known for co-creating HAMONEVERYTHING, Lindsay Hart Director of Partnerships & Special Projects at Move Forward Music, andXavier Abraham, owner and creative director for Vicious Buzz, to help everyone reading this learn a thing or two about nightlife, and how to rule it.
For those of you in either Los Angeles or New York, chances are you've attended some parties hosted by these three amazing individuals. Weiss' work with HAM ON EVERYTHING basically speaks for itself. Fans of his events, which in the past have hosted Lil B, Wiz Khalifa, and Juicy J, (along with massive underground DJ's like Skrillex, Brodinski, and Salva) have dubbed themselves HAMILY, and look to Weiss and co-creator David Romo for the hottest underground hip hop shows, kawaii raves, and much more (almost) every weekend. You can even catch them playing at Los Angeles' infamous Emo Night, which isn't their party officially, but is heavily associated with the HAM team. It also helps that a lot of times they allow for under 21's to enjoy the party as well.
Weiss attributes his start to a mistake back when he himself was trying to make it as a rapper. His idea was to book small events, and " ...instead of having a DJ spin instrumentals during the open mic portion at the end of the show, he would have an indie hipster Echo Park band play an improvisational instrumental set, in which he'd freestyle over it," and that's how he would craft a name for himself in the hipster rap game. He later tells me his goals of becoming a rapper never came to fruition, but through these events came the foundation for HAM- intimate feel, family closeness, and serious ratchet fun without any pretentious nature attached.
Pigeons and Planes Showcase May 18th
Lindsay Hart similarly 'fell' into the hip hop/events game, while she was in college, interning at Nakturnal. Today, she runs a wide variety of events in New York, including House Party at Webster Hall (she counts bringing Fetty Wap to NYC for House Party as a major highlight of 2015, along with another time she booked DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, and French Montana), and at the time of our discussion, she was working on upcoming events that included the likes of Little Simz, Sevdaliza, 21 Savage, and Amir Obè. It's definitely a wide range of artists, but it's this dedication to having her finger on the pulse that has made Hart and her company a serious force in NY's nightlife scene.
In addition to running House Party, many music fans will know of her work with the Pigeons and Planes: No Ceilings showcases, where underground favorites like Allan Kingdom and Saba have played epic performances with an intimate feel.
Xavier Abraham is a bit of a special case as his daily work doesn't center solely on events. His boutique agency, Vicious Buzz, handles PR, branding, and a whole host of other work that doesn't directly tie in with events, but his passion for crafting events throughout Los Angeles has provided the city with some incredibly memorable days and nights out. He's always been "mesmerized by the nightlife scene... creating an experience and the reward is when "people to feel great after an event or, in some cases, with a slight hangover (which just means you partied the right way)." His dedication to crafting an experience makes his events unique, with the audience and their needs carefully considered through every step of the way.
His most recent event was titled Hot Splash, and coincided with Coachella's first weekend as a daytime party in Palm Springs. KITTEN, Great Dane, King Henry, Cosmos & Creatures, HUMANS, St. Michael, Vulgarity, Angie V, and DJ Lezlee played all under one roof, while guests could lounge next to the pool (basically quintessential for a Coachella day party) or ride a hot air balloon. It's this balance of going above and beyond the status quo (most would be happy day drinking next to water but a hot air balloon? That's next level), that sets Abraham apart from the rest.
Throughout all of his business success and in his talks with us, he took his time to shoutout his mother when we talked to him, and we're big softies so we're leaving his shoutout here-
On a more personal level, in the midst of starting Vicious Buzz, my mom was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). My mom has been my biggest supporter since I left college to pursue this venture, so it gets me down from time to time. There are tons of hospital visits and those scary moments when she’s rushing to the hospital at 2am due to complications with it. She the strongest person I know, always a smile on her face regardless of the condition she’s in. That has to be one of the biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2015: Just smile ‘til the end.
With that in mind, his level-headedness, humility, and dedication to his work makes him an unstoppable force in LA's events scene, and eventual (entertainment) world domination.
Basically 80% of the day...
All three told us a little bit about their day, and while all of them mention emails upon emails upon emails (one of them mentioned that it's about 80% of their work-day, while another mentioned that they send 100+ emails a day), they've all stressed a necessity that doesn't necessarily come out at first glance. Having a great, personable attitude, being ready to network, reaching out to strangers, marketing and branding, and making friends, all fall under an umbrella of interpersonal skills pivotal for their field. Hart further mentions that her day largely involves "chatting with managers and agents to book their artists in NY, meetings, listening to new music, researching, contracting, constructing decks and proposals, social media management for MFM and House Party, updating our website, scouting new brand opportunities, attending shows and industry parties," as elemental in making her company and brand succeed each day. Abraham mentions this also-
My day consists of answering 100+ emails per day, handling phone calls and meetings, and constantly researching new venues, blogs, magazines, and brands. I used to run this company all by myself in my hometown, Montclair, but now I have a staff of two copywriters, a junior publicist & assistant, a project manager, and an event coordinator. Even with the help, it’s all about hard work and little sleep, taking risks and at times not quite knowing what you’re doing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Generally picking artists that they have a passion for seems to be another crucial element to the entire piece. Weiss stresses his picky nature, and that he's "only book[ing] the acts that [he's] personally interested in seeing." For those starting out, that could prove to be difficult financially, but approaching local acts, branding the event correctly, and treating both artists and their targeted audience with respect have proven to be a tried and true formula for success.
But enough about their background. You, our amazing readers, have sent us questions, and it's time to pay up and answer them. Check out what the professionals themselves had to say about everything you've wanted to know about nightlife.
HOW DO YOU GET THE FUNDS TO THROW AN EVENT? - @ONELIFETOVIV
ADAM WEISS: That's why we charge a door fee. You paying for entrance is what pays for the event. You guys are single handedly supporting these artists that come out and perform.
LINDSAY HART: It depends on the event – I work with a lot of venues so often the venue is ultimately paying the artist guarantee or our company is putting up the funds. Sometimes a brand sponsor will put up the money; it varies from situation to situation.
Recent Vicious Buzz Event
XAVIER ABRAHAM: At the beginning, securing funds is very difficult. Fortunately, Vicious Buzz does other work than just events that helps with resources and our relationships with booking agents and artists brings cost down a bit, but most of our events are self-funded. Don’t be discourage though, you can reach out to brands for possible sponsorships. For big name brands like Red Bull, a heavy amount of lead-time is needed to even be considered, giving brands 5 to 6 months of lead time is recommended.
If you’re just starting, try to reach out to local stores in your area for possible funding and choose between 2-4 brands/stores that fit your theme. Branding your event is key as well, if it looks cool and you’re trying to push a certain niche, there’s a higher chance that a brand would be interested in funding your event.
HOW DOES SOMEONE START BOOKING ARTISTS? ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH THESE ARTISTS OR MAIL THEM FOR BOOKING OR DO THEY HEAR ABOUT THE WAVES AND JUST WAN[T] TO BE INVOLVED? - @KVSH24
AW: Nowadays, they usually hear about us through one of their peers. For example, TM88 will play a HAM. Then he'll go back and tell everyone how tite it was, and next thing you know, MetroBoomin is playing a HAM. Its really all from word of mouth. But in the beginning, I was just emailing them off their twitter bios.
Photo Credit: Isabel Kim
LH: A little bit of all of the above! I am friends with a lot of the artists I book, but not all of them. Relationships are VERY important. Key relationships are those with the artists obviously, but also their managers and maybe most importantly, their agents. At this point, we have a reputation for producing quality events that, more often than not, sell out, so artists want to work with us and seek out Move Forward Music.
XA: I try to book artists directly, sending the artists an email with details about the event (time, location, and a tentative lineup is always helpful.) There are times when I have a good relationship with an artist and there are times when I’ll simply contact someone without any prior affiliation.
If you’re throwing a great event, artists may want to get involved and reach out to you directly. That’s always a good thing!
“Sometimes I would invite neighbors to the party to score some major cool points within the community.
— Xavier Abraham
HOW DO YOU AVOID POLICE BREAKING [THE PARTY] UP EVERY TIME? - @TH0T_G0TH
AW: Good security. Police don't really care about warehouse parties as long as there [are] no noise complaints (usually areas with warehouses have no neighbors, so not an issue). And as long as there isn't a shitload of people in the street (this is where good security comes in handy).
LH: Working with legitimate venues minimizes (or almost eliminates) the risk of police breaking up an event. It's when you host events in non-permitted spaces without proper security that you run into those problems.
XA: We try to organize our parties at reputable venues. Whether it’s a dive bar, event space, or nightclub, these places are known to have loud music, security, etc. which lowers the risk of authorities breaking up your party.
If you are going to throw a warehouse / house party (which we have some plans to do this summer), soundproofing would be a nice touch. Try to notify your neighbors and surrounding venues (stores, etc.) as well. Sometimes I invite neighbors to the party to score some major cool points within the community.
Also, inform your invites to keep the noise at a minimal when parking their cars and arriving to the party. Outdoor parties are unpredictable, so we try to avoid those unless it’s at an actual venue.
LA AND NY ARE SUCH CULTURAL PLACES, HOW DO U BREAK THE ICE OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AND PLAY SHOWS AND BE HEARD. [IT FEELS LIKE] IN SUCH A MASSIVELY TALENTED CITY IT'S HARD TO STICK OUT. -@GHETTOLILDRUMMA
AW: I really have no idea. I think it's all luck. Just keep grindin'. If it's meant to be, I think it will happen.
LH: Good music will make its way to the people. Sounds cliché, but it's true. Focus on creating the most quality music possible, find a way to really connect and tune in with your fans, and keep playing shows! Start with your neighborhood, then your city, then region, which ultimately leads to national tour runs. A strong team, patience, and hard work is a must!
“Good music will make its way to the people. Sounds cliché, but it’s true. Focus on creating the most quality music possible, find a way to really connect and tune in with your fans, and keep playing shows!
— Lindsay Hart
XA: For an artist, the best way to be heard is to keep playing shows. Whether there are 10 people in the crowd or 100…just keep pushing and getting your music heard. If you have a unique story and sound, those two factors alone could definitely help as well. It’s all about the hustle. There are too many artists nowadays pushing out new content on a daily basis, so I would make sure you have a good publicist, stay active on social media, and constantly look for new events to get involved in.
VENUE LEASING IS PROBABLY THE MOST INTIMIDATING PART OF THROWING EVENTS TO ME. HOW DIFFICULT CAN IT BE TO COMPLY WITH THE NEEDS OF THE AUDIENCE, ARTIST, LICENSE-HOLDERS, ETC? - @VILLUSTRIOUS
AW: Ah, it's pretty simple. Most venues just have a flat rental fee. As long as you have enough people pay entrance, you can cover the rental fee + artist fees...We started in small gallery spaces that held 50-100 people (not very expensive to rent)...built up our fan base slowly until we were able to book spaces with 1000 cap. Just start small. Rome wasn't built in a day!
“Whether it’s stage equipment, riders, and certain amenities, make sure any and all is cleared in advance.
— Xavier Abraham
LH: It's really not as daunting as it seems. It's important to be organized and to use and understand contracts. Proper contracting alleviates a lot of confusion and makes it very clear what you are and are not at risk for.
XA: Venue leasing is definitely scary because there’s some capital involved on your end. As an event coordinator, you’re investing money for a good return through ticket sales, percentage at the bar, etc. If you plan your event carefully with proper promotion, it’s an exciting thing when you have a great turnout…and your return could be a hefty amount.
If you’re dealing with artist, booking agents, and sponsors there would be certain agreements that you would need to comply with. Whether it’s stage equipment, riders, and certain amenities, make sure any and all is cleared in advance. Also, create a professional RSVP page for your audience and make sure your RSVP list is organized so there’s no fuss at the door. Doing things last minute just adds more stress…and you wouldn’t want that. As an event coordinator you just need to be on the ball, which makes the process easier.
I'M AN ARTIST COMING OUT OF WHITTIER, CA AREA... I HAVE BEEN MAKING HIP HOP MUSIC FOR ABOUT 3 YEARS STEADY, & I'VE BEEN THROWING SHOWS/EVENTS FOR TWO YEARS.I FINALLY HAVE A STEADY GOOD TURNOUT OF PEOPLE GOING TO MY “PARTIES"/SHOWS. WHAT'S ONE THING YOU COULD RECOMMEND TO KEEP A CONSISTENCY WITH THESE EVENTS?
IN SHORT, HOW DO I GET THESE PEOPLE, ALL THESE PEOPLE I DON'T KNOW, TO KEEP COMING TO THESE SHOWS LIKE THEY HAVE? I KNOW BOOKING BIG ACTS IS ONE, BUT I WANT TO KEEP IT AS GRASSROOT/DIY AS I CAN. - @GROOVYSTAINS
AW: You're on the right path. Just keep doing what you're doing. Keep it local. If you stay consistent and true to what you like about the event, people will follow. But you should definitely branch out to bigger artists. When we first started, I did this weekly party called H.O.E. House. We just had local heads play...but for the last one of that series we had Danny Brown play (this was 2012). That caused a big jump for us.
LH: Keep going! You're on the right path; keep building your music in your city, then when the following is there route a mini tour throughout CA, then a west coast run, etc. Continue playing more shows in more markets to really build your fanbase. If you haven't already, focus on your online presence; this is just as important as IRL. When buyers consider booking acts they most often look at tour history, social media followers, Youtube plays, soundcloud plays, and press features.
XA: One thing I would recommend is creating a RSVP list for your events. Start collecting email addresses and contact information, building a list would help you keep track of attendees, which will enable you to invite them out for future events. As the RSVP list grows, your events & shows will begin to grow...
“When we first started, I did this weekly party called H.O.E. House. We just had local heads play...but for the last one of that series we had Danny Brown play (this was 2012). That caused a big jump for us.
— Adam Weiss
BEFORE YOU HAD BIGGER ARTISTS PLAYING YOUR SHOWS, HOW DID YOU GET BIG ENOUGH CROWDS TO FILL VENUES? - @ITISNOTCLAIRE
AW: We didn't do big venues. First we stared in gallery spaces that held 50-150 people...as the fan base grew organically we moved to spaces that held 300ish...eventually more people caught on and we moved onto spaces that fit 600 people, and so forth. You just have to move gradually. But a good tip to pack your party early on is to not charge a shitload for admission...$5 parties. do open bar the first hour, or free the first hour, etc..
“...Create a professional RSVP page for your audience and make sure your RSVP list is organized so there’s no fuss at the door. Doing things last minute just adds more stress…and you wouldn’t want that. As an event coordinator you just need to be on the ball, which makes the process easier.
— Xavier Abraham
LH: I choose venues very carefully based on each artist, their vibe, and their ticket draw. So if it's a new, lesser known artist, I'd look for a 100-200 max person venue. The goal is to always have a full room no matter the size of the act or the venue, so choose accordingly. It's also important to really target the artist's audience, whether it be through social media, press previews, flyer-ing, etc.
XA: It’s all about putting together unique events, something out of the norm or simply create a fun theme. Great visuals and a branding always help (flyer design, website, etc.) Vicious Buzz can create brand designs and websites in-house (logos, creative branding, posters, flyers, illustrations, web designs, etc.), so it definitely has made the process easier.
Building from the ground up and creating a solid following takes time. It’s all about patience. Be consistent and don’t be discourage when there’s only a few attendees at your event. Connect with everyone at your shows, introduce yourself, say hello, and have business cards ready, handing it out personally to everyone that attends. Things have a funny way of working out…you just gotta keep working.