Record sales. Radio airplay. Touring. Management. Each one of these pillars of the music business has defined the health and longevity of artists' careers for decades.
If you ask Patrick Hess, forget just about everything you thought you knew; it's a new world.
Hess is the founder of Day 6 Management, a company dedicated to pursuing the Millennial generation with exciting acts such as Spencer Kane, Joel Vaughn and Abigail Duhon, and by innovating new platforms for its artists, such as the Millennial Tour. In the process of getting his artists into places label-signed artists can't get, Hess and his team are rewriting the rules of the Christian music industry.
In this exclusive interview, Hess talks about the new rules of engagement, shares some of his successes, and looks into the future.
Let's just get right to it... what is Day 6 Management? How long have you been around? How did you get started?
Well, Day 6 as an entity has been in business since 1999 as a marketing and consulting firm for a lot of corporations and brands and products, so I started that company in '99.
I'd retired from the automotive industry--where I was the vice president of international sales and marketing and big business all over the world, selling North American vehicles in 27 different countries. I learned a lot about having to deal with overcoming cultural biases in each market I'd go to overseas and learning how to take an Americanized product and try to help a local culture adapt and understand the product and make sure that it was consumable for them.
That principle is very much the same as what you do in the music industry. You're talking about different demographics, different people and cultural tastes, so I transitioned my company from [physical] products into the music industry about six years ago, and I started really helping to market it with Spencer Kane and then Abigail Duhon, who were involved with the iShine television show.
That's way different from what you're doing now!
Principally speaking, marketing is marketing is marketing. The things you do aren't much different but the way you do it obviously, to fit the market you're going into, can be dramatically different.
I started shifting a lot of my attention and resources to the entertainment industry and then in the last couple of years, more specifically developed a very unique marketing model for online social media and the demographics of trying to reach using social media platforms. I developed a street team for Spencer and Abigail with 40 different volunteer fans and pseudo interns from all over the world that basically are the engine of making our PR movements and exposure for the artists that we have.
So basically, I took a lot of my principles from what I'd done in the past, applied it to the social media platforms and the Internet and reaching the demographic--which is primarily high school and college-age people, the millennial generation--and started working in that regard.
Day 6 has become a platform for indie artists who are trying to reach high school and college/millennial age youth with their music and their messaging through the music or the things that they care about, like bullying or cutting or the cultural issues that hit even Christians in the marketplace. We created this platform that's a management company, a small label and a national tour--the Millennial Tour--so we have kind of a one-stop-shop for the emerging artists that's really gotten some regional, national attention.
We're not necessarily trying to be a development platform. We're looking more to be a catalyst to get them ready for the next level, kind of like a Triple-A baseball team. We want to be professional, but not necessarily limit our scope to developing new artists. We're wanting to find the ones who are already touring, the ones who've already put out music, the ones who are just needing that shot in the arm to help their brand become more known.
You're based in Indiana but obviously travel a bunch. Has it been hard for you guys to do this outside of the entertainment capitals?
Well, I think what makes what we're doing unique is we're not relying on the traditional music model that the bigs, like Capital or Word or Provident, are. A lot of their business model--and I'm going to be very black and white--is very archaic in thinking still. I think the music industry has evolved so quickly in such a short time. It's like turning the Queen Mary on the ocean; it's going to take time to shift your direction.
I don't know that being outside of the nucleus of Nashville has hindered what we're doing. I almost think it's kind of helped us because we've stayed out of the traditional model of business and we've been able to do things independently, using social media as our platform and trying to reach the demographic we're reaching without having to have the overhead of a big tour or the marketing budget of having a major label that will spend 18 months on a cycle of an album.
We take a totally different approach. We only do EPs if there's going to be any collection of music and, at the same time, we're basing a lot of our decisions off a single at a time and just trying to reach audiences that way. So from my standpoint, travel is more focused on where we are with The Millennial Tour or when we're hitting spot markets with maybe one-off dates and things like that with the artists, but I think it's given us an advantage to not be under the cloud or the pressure of having to do the same way everybody does in Nashville.
Yeah, that's valid for sure. You mentioned social media a number of times. How have you been able to do what you have done? I mean, where did all this come from as far as being able to rally a street team and any of the other initiatives you've had success with?
Well, there's a couple of things that the evolution of social media in the music industry has taught us. Obviously, YouTube was a big factor in launching a lot of artists in the last 6/7 years. Like Justin Bieber, a lot of the people who post covers were getting discovered. There's a social media world of social stars, like when Vine was a thing. You get these videos and overnight, kids and people that are in the demographic we're trying to reach would have fame.
Watching and observing that culture, I believe, taught us a lot of things about how to market using social media in a way that is probably not done at the larger levels because it's just a micromanaging process. You can't generically say, "Hey let's put out a tweet this week." It's hour by hour, you really have to be paying attention to what's happening, what's trending, what's popular and try to leverage that every single day for each artist that you have. That discipline is difficult in the Christian industry because Christian music has traditionally been targeting radio as their main vehicle for reaching people. We take the approach of, if we use social media on a large scale, that's going to be our ability to reach the people we're trying to reach. That's our radio platform.
I think the strategy is not so much just pushing out posts that are commercial-oriented selling, it's selling the individual and their life. When I talk to my artists, I tell them social media isn't about, "Hey, I've got a concert coming up." Social media is about, "I just made a sandwich; check it out." Your fans will eat that stuff up every day and that's a really different mindset than what you would find at a major label. They're trying to manage branding and social media, we're trying to manage personalities, trying to give content that lets the fans and the people feel like they actually know what's going on in the life of the person that they care about their music.
Honestly, it's not as critical that your music is competitive at the production level that maybe some of the majors give; it becomes more important that people care about the individual that's making the music more than they do the music itself. So I think that philosophy has created a lot of buzz and stuff around the artist that we're working with in the social media world.
So really, what you've learned from the social media age we're in is just content--be social--and like you said, putting forth a person, their lives and their personality rather than the advertising messages. Would you say that's a big thing you've learned or are there some other things from social media that artists are taking away?
I think when you tour in person, you get fans coming up to you after concerts and they say, "Hey, your music has meant a lot to me because I was going through this storm in my life and that song really reached me." The social media platform has blown that up by the hundreds. You can take one or two conversations at a live concert where you really connect with that individual fan in person, but on social media, most of the artists that we work with get direct messages, they get emails, they get replies, "Hey, I love this," or "Hey, I was having a bad day and this really meant a lot to me."
The connectivity on social media, I think becomes more of the ability to transfer people from just casual listeners to loyal fans, and I think that's what a lot of artists are missing out on when I think social media. There's a lot of ways to go out and buy followers; there are services that can do that.
You can tell when a person is truly engaging their audience versus just trying to make their numbers look important, so I think genuine engagement is the part that requires a commitment of time every day. Honestly, a lot of the artists just don't have the discipline. They think social media is just another accolade they can throw out there, but it is actually a job requirement for our artists, you will spend an hour or two every day doing something on social that keeps you engaged with your fans.
I think I'm being spoiled, because I have an insight into probably the greatest social media artist in the Christian music industry, which is Anthem Lights, with Spencer being a part of their group. If you look at their business model and behind the scenes, what's amazing to me is that they keep getting asked by the major labels, "How do you guys keep doing this?" You know Anthem Lights' album Hymns just went No. 1 on iTunes and they are not a major label. They're not putting in millions of dollars in advertizing, but yet they're getting the response and the respect from fans. The only thing they do five days a week is put out social media posts, they do YouTube videos and they respond to fans. That's the only thing they do in their business model and they're making a career out of it.
So it's not like the formula is illogical or hard to understand, it's the fact that you actually have to be committed to doing that and it takes a long time to start seeing that fruit come back in because you have to invest yourself and prove that you're not just one week going to be hard core then gone for four more weeks.
On top of the social media aspect of what you do in a management company, they're really doing more things than they have ever done before. These days, talk about some of the nontraditional roles that you've assumed.
One of the things that independent artists face is obviously low budget. They don't have a lot of funds to do a lot to help promote their brand and everybody wants somebody to take on the expense of promotion on their new music or a cool looking video or banner ads on websites. It all requires money and even a lot of the artists that come to me want to know what kind of opportunities they could get to help offset expenses, so one of the unique things that we do is we offer some of those services in-house, and are done at the major league level, we do it in-house and we even barter resources. Some of our artists are already good at doing certain things and when they're part of our Day 6 team, we work with each other like a team.
We have a new artist called DAVI and he has his own company doing videos for a music artist, so he is part of our team now and he will offer his services at an extremely discounted rate to help our other artists because it's helping him pay for his rent. But at the same time, we're getting high quality production without having to break the bank.
We've become more of a production services company as well as management on top of that and then we keep booking in-house. We do all of our own booking for our artist so that that saves them a ton of money and also gives them good exposure. There's a lot of, I'd say vertical integration is what we would call it. Everything is being done in-house as opposed to outsourcing a lot of things.
That's awesome. Now picking the artists, you already kind of mentioned here that you're not necessarily looking for the development stage, you're looking for those who already have a strong work ethic and experience touring, social media acumen and what not. What else do you look for? Whether it's stylistically or just some of the criteria you're looking to fill your roster with?
Historically, building around Abigail and Spencer who are more like a foundation from a few years ago, we have a little bit more reputation in the pop kind of sound. But I think for The Millennial Tour, when we brought it up three years ago, we were doing the festival circuit for Christian festivals and then we started booking some churches. We started realizing that not every geographic area in the country likes the same style of music for their youth. It kind of struck us that we can't be just one genre and be a specialist in that. I've really tried to make sure that if we're taking on an artist, their musical style is not competing with what we already have, but reaching a different segment of the market. We're trying to diversify our lineup so that when we do book the tour or when we do have music coming out, we're reaching a broader spectrum.
In talking about how we interview artists, I think the biggest challenge I've run across is-- and this is true in this industry big time especially looking at nationals-- every artist is gifted and talented. So when it comes to skill, it's not a matter of saying can they sing and how good are they? It's more of their work ethic, like you mentioned, I specifically want to see somebody who's hustling and is 24/7 always doing something to help their career. A lot of them have two and three jobs that they work just to be able to afford to be able to put out their next project and I think that work ethic is big from where I'm coming from, because it's like being an entrepreneur.
You can't just walk in with a big check from the bank and pay for everything, you're going to be putting a lot of sweat equity into your brand and I try to talk to each artist about what I do for them, coming alongside them and helping them build their brand as opposed to just negotiating contracts the way a traditional manager would. I'm more of like a board or director member with them-- here's your company, you run it. Your day to day operations, that's your job. I'm the guy who's monitoring, observing and giving you resources and connections and advice along the way to help do that.
It is an ever-changing fast pace and things are changing quickly. In a time where people are not buying music as much and the major labels are freaking out, how do artists financially survive? Does it require extensive touring or being your own clothing label with selling your merch? What, from your perspective, allows artists to survive?
I think even the 360 deals that major labels are creating, which are trying to tap into every revenue stream from an artist, I think those are flawed in some regards because it still limits their cash flow to traditional streams. When you're in the indie world, you've got to get opportunities to make money any way you can. I tell my guys, as long as it's not immoral or unethical, go do it. Some of my artists double up as producers and they make music for other artists, some are working with collaborations with other artists, getting cash flow by being a feature on another person's project. You get cash flow by doing small one-off dates in your local geographic market. There are sync fees and sync licensing, like Abigail Duhon just got her song "Dance Up" featured on Dude Perfect. That was a big deal and that generated a spike in revenue. There's a lot of ways you can diversify your brand and generate revenue, more than the traditional touring merge and music sales.
Well it sounds like you're really keeping a pulse on, not just where things are, but where they're going. How do you stay ahead of the game and really get to where you see music going from this point?
I think as an artist, if I'm starting myself in the business, if I'm established as an artist, I'm more inclined to want to stay independent as long as I can. Because number one, you have creative control when you're an indie and that's very important to a lot of artists. I see the future of the industry, even in the Christian industry, it can be following trends. I see Chance the Rapper getting Grammys and he's not with a major label, he did it as an indie. He created his own niche in the business by creating his own sound and doing his own thing, and I think that trend is going to continue because the industry has to grow creatively and the only way that really can happen is when you get the bean counters out of the mix and have them stay out of the process. I think for our standpoint, what we're doing I think is the future, and I say future as in the next 18 to 24 months.
Streaming is replacing radio in a lot of ways because an artist historically would try to get on radio, try to get on a chart, and you could do the studies and look at all the pie charts and figure out which markets are playing the music the most--oh, it's in Chicago, OK let's go book shows in Chicago because the station there is really spinning you a lot. That archaic model isn't as important now that streaming is available and reaching people all over the world, so I think artists probably need to think more globally instead of regionally and if they can think that way then they'll start putting their revenues and stuff into ways to get a return on their investment on a global scale. The metaphor that has worked for us is instead of trying to make one big huge fire, you start little camp fires all over the country or all over the different regions and before you know it you'll have a globe. I agree with the regional model when you're getting started, but once you already have a brand, if you want to continue growing that you've got to think internationally.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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