We haven’t shot the video for Party Life yet, so we need more images of Sardar out there with the music. His designer has such a great sense of humor and has been creating Memes for Sardar for weeks now (they are archived on his Facebook page, which is Facebook.com/ItsSardar). So last night, I made a quick YouTube montage for the radio guys so they’d have a slide show of the Memes to the JumpSmoker’s Remix. Upon uploading, I also noticed some folks had also made their own montages for the song….coooool….
We went for rhythmic radio “adds” on March 19. It was a bit slow getting all of the pieces in place. We started out our first week with 4th most added (above us were Drake, Jeezy, and Nicki Minaj) which was nice company to be in, but getting the spins in great day parts would prove more of a challenge. Many of the radio PDs like the song, but they feel it’s more POP than Rhythmic. They are correct—but once you go for Pop radio, you can’t come back to Rhythmic. It’s far better to struggle early on and get the rhythmic spins and then add pop spins, than to just get pop spins and forego the thousands of spins rhythmic offers once they catch on. I chose to get all the spins I could get and leave no stone unturned.
It’s like making sparks and hoping it will catch fire.
The cool thing about this record is that I tested it and I know what it can do. I tested it prior to spending a dime of the investor’s money. The challenge is keeping any investor happy and on board. If she feels it isn’t catching fire fast enough, she could pull the plug at any minute. The key to being a good consultant in music, to me, is keeping realistic expectations among your investor (the boss), the artist, and the team. If you come in like a used car salesman promising the world, when things don’t happen immediatey (and they rarely do) everyone loses momentum. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible with my expectations, even if it sells me out of the job. Let’s be real: it’s more fun and promising to hire the bullshitters who tell you what you want to hear.
My philosophy has always been: TEST the record, then build slowly from the ground up. I’m doing this a bit backwards though on this project, because the investor had lost a large amount of money prior to my arrival. Normally, I’d start a record at the street and club level for a few months and then go after radio. I didn’t have that luxury in this case. She needed to SEE movement forward as soon as possible, and I needed her to see it. This song is strong enough to warrant working it a bit backwards (not all are) so I chose to start working it backwards—radio first, then the clubs and streets as it builds slowly at radio. Think about this though: we all have gut instincts in this business and I’m fortunate than mine seem to be correct more than they are wrong…but how amaing is it for any one human being to look at another human being and entrust their money to a gut feeling? Yep, this investor is fucking awesome…
We hit the Top 100 at radio this week (week #3), so I’m not mad!!! Congrats to my team—YOU GUYS ROCK!!!
The week of March 14, eventhough it was the week before our add week at radio, I flew from L.A. (from the photoshoot) to Austin (had to go through Salt Lake City to get there—have you ever seen anything as beautiful as landing in Salt Lake City?)…not because I wanted to attend SXSW (truth is, I really hate SXSW, the attitudes, and the crowds it attracts) but because I wanted to meet with indie radio promo guys who’d be there and meet with the film/tv music placement folks. So for one price, in one location, I could spend 2 days meeting with 10 different people that could help my record. So I did. It was a hectic two days, and I did it with a raging flu, but it had to be done!
My friend MVP from Houston (he’s a former WWE world champ that now wrestles in Japan) met me in Austin because I wanted to introduce one of the indie radio guys to him. Turns out the radio guy is a fan, and what a great way to stand out in his world—bring along a star, but not a music star which he sees all day everyday. Additionally, MVP introduced me to WWE World Champion Mark Henry, and HOT 97 air personality, Scott Rosenberg. Scott wasn’t a star yet in NYC when I left New York in 2001, so our paths had never crossed, eventhough we have many artists in common. It was great to spend time with Scott and his brother Nick. Scott knows more about wrestling than anyone I’d ever met before, and he loves MVP, so he’s family to me now. Plus I got to watch him spin at Broke Mogul’s party, and he’s a great DJ. I was going to pop in on Machine Gun Kelly and watch him perform at 3 am that same night, but the crowd at the SOB event was popping, so I opted for taking radio promoters to breakfast and then onto lovely sleep instead.
The connections I made those few days will last me a lifetime in this business. The Film and TV placement folks, the Game Music Supervisors, and the music supervisors from the brands that were in attendance were able to offer me insight, ideas, and timing suggestions of when to reach out to companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Bacardi, and Chrysler for our music. Securing placements as an indie will be relatively simple now that I have the proper connections. That trip will pay for itself with the first placement or licensing deal (which I think is occuring now for one of Sardar’s older songs and videos).
I slept about 6 hours total in 2 and a half days of meetings and engagements, but it was worth it!! I flew out of San Antonio on Friday morning and focused on our new radio adds coming in that weekend!! If ever you can’t find good flights in and out of Austin, San Antoino is less than an hour’s drive away, and it’s a straight shot…plus there’s a Gucci outlet on the way… (cute new bag!)
I got a call from a friend of Tupac’s asking me for help back in the Spring. At the time, I was about to set up J Diggs’ label, so I passed on working this other project. But something happened with Diggs’ investor, and I ended up wasting 6 months waiting for dude’s money to get right. It’s always more challening to work with friends because you end up doing stuff you’d never do for a regular client….like waiting for 6 months for the investor to get straight. Anyway, I used the time to write a book and started setting up SlavesNoMore.com, so it wasn’t a total waste…and I traveled and watched more TV than I’d watched in the previous 20 years combined. But I craved work and needed a project I could sink my teeth into.
So in November when Sardar called me for the second time—or was it third, I was available to meet with them. I flew out to L.A. to meet with his team and his investor, and I was impressed with everyone. We sat in Skip Saylor’s studio listening to all of the music and they outlined for me that they’d spent a lot of money and lost it. This industry is like being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. They’d lost a whole lot of money.
I try not to work with folks who’ve gotten burned too badly because 1) they usually have too little money left to do this properly, and 2) they are super gun shy about trusting anyone. There was something about these folks though. I know what it was. The label was funded by a middle aged white woman from the TV and Film industry. She saw this ‘hood gangsta rapper and felt his passion and struggle, and decided to fund his dream. She believed in Sardar! She funded it for her middle aged boyfriend (sexy middle aged boyfriend, in case he’s reading this and is offended by the crack about his age—hell, I’M middle aged!!) to run. He always wanted to be in the music industry. He’s long gone, but we all have chugged on focused and stealthily. Anyway, after that meeting it became my mission in life to get the investor’s money back plus a fair profit for believing outside of her comfort zone. What a cool story for the start up of a label.
Anyway, as I sat in Skip’s studio that day, I heard gangsta rap song after gangsta rap song. I wasn’t real impressed. It was good, but not great, and today you HAVE to be great to stand out. It’s just so over saturated and splintered. PLUS, rap is going more pop and less street right now. I began to wonder how to market a kid who sounded too much like Tupac (Pac taught Sardar how to rhyme when Sardar was a kid), had a name I hated (that we changed to Sardar, his birth name), and had a flow straight out of the mid-90s.
And then, something magical happened….someone in his entourage, from way in the back of the room said “Play the uptempo shit for her!” So Ian, the engineer, cued up a few pop songs. On came Party Life. I asked him to play it over again. And then again. I heard a hit record. I wasn’t 100% sold on the lyrics, but I knew they had something. I asked them to play another song. Ian played Antidote. Holy fuck! Another hit record.
I asked Ian to silence the speakers and looked at Sardar in the middle of that room, in the midst of all those people and very sadly told him, “I’m sorry sweetheart, you aren’t a Gangsta Rapper, you are a pop star.” You could hear a pin drop in that room. In my memory, everyone ran for cover and ducked to hear how a Gangsta would react to those words. In reality, they all just froze and Sardar nodded, thought about it for a minute, and said “OK, Pac trusted you; I trust you.” Everyone began to breathe again.
I spent the day and night talking to Sardar. He was a pop star. If he could change his name, his image, his lyrics, and his style, we could all win. We could get this investor her money back and build a real label and have some serious success in today’s music industry. He said he could do it. I let him sleep on it and asked him the next day “can you do this?” His answer, “YES!”
I waited one more day and asked him again, “are you SURE can you do this?” He again said “YES!”
And THAT, my friends, is the true beginnings of Sardar…the pop star gangsta rapper. LOL