This week’s executive profile is with long time music industry veteran, Jorge Hernandez. From A&R to Artist Management and more recently digital marketing, there's not a whole lot Jorge hasn't been involved with in the music business.
Through his company IAT Artist Services (www.iatartistservices.com), Jorge provides a variety of content creation and marketing services for independent artists and labels. He also maintains an artist management roster with clients such as Will Jay, who is a WISM veteran. We asked Jorge 5 questions covering everything from his background to the current state of the music business.
Give our readers a quick summary of your background.
I was a serious musician as a kid an ended up with an undergraduate and Master's degree in music performance from the University of Arizona and Indiana University respectively. While at IU I discovered a really vibrant local music scene. Even though I knew nothing about the music business, I jumped into the deep end and began a little record label out of my bedroom. Since it was just me I had to learn every facet of the music business in a hurry. That label quickly morphed into more of a music management gig and from there I ended up moving to Los Angeles and doing A&R for three years. I went right back into music management after that. Even though at this point in my career I've had at least one artist signed to every major label group, I still consider myself a pretty DIY artist development guy because I'm usually finding artists very early on and helping them build their profile from scratch.
Following up on this idea of artist development, what do you see as the main differences for artists today vs when you first entered the business?
I got my start in 1993 and at that time it was very common for a band or singer to be signed purely on the strength of a demo and/or the artist's vision. Of course labels have always preferred that the artist have some kind of following or fan base, but the labels, relative to today's climate anyway, were willing to take a risk. Today that scenario of being signed on a great demo is exceedingly rare if not gone altogether. The rule of the day is if you want to be signed, you have to build an entire infrastructure around your brand. That's an important distinction to make. Musicians have to think of themselves as a brand. The social media profile for your brand has to show healthy numbers and strong engagement. In addition your songs have to be streamed in consequent numbers, and if you're a rock act you'd better be able to sell tickets to your live shows. The irony is that once you have this kind of a profile you may not even want a record deal! Hahaha!
That's interesting that we've come to that point where labels may in effect make themselves obsolete. However, we all know that labels have an enormous advantage in that they have a lot of resources. What can an artist do today to actually compete and be heard?
There is no question you have to find a way to cut through the clutter. The one thing that people do the least but is actually the best thing you can do is volume and I don't mean that in terms of sound, I mean that in terms of content. If youtube has taught me anything it's that people that put out a lot of content consistently and are willing to engage all the time will win. This of course assumes your content is good and you know your audience. I'd also advise that when you do have money to spend, be very very careful to ensure that what you're doing is leading you to maximum return. This is vital. For example I see people with no social media profile, very few songs, basically nothing going on, and the first thing they do is go out and hire a publicist for thousands a month. That is about the worst thing you can do. I want to be clear, I'm not maligning publicists, quite the opposite, they are great and can be a critical part of your marketing plan, but only when the time is right to hire one. When you're in the trenches and trying to build your profile you have to maximize your resources. You don't get a do-over once you've spent your cash. I love what you guys do at WISM because the results are measurable and the ROI is phenomenal. For me WISM is a no brainer part of any marketing mix I recommend.
Thank you for the kind words, that means a lot to us! Tell us about your company IAT Artist Services?
My core business is that of an artist manager. However, I'm also a label guy. I understand what you have to do to build an artist's profile. Even if you're not signed, you are still in fact acting like your own record label. The problem is how do you navigate through all the potential pitfalls of the music business without ever having done it? I essentially come in, sit down with an artist and take an inventory of everything related to their project. What kind of music are they producing? Who's producing it? How competitive is it? What are the artists' goals and based on their resources what's the best course of action to help them get there? I can do as little as helping an artist make great competitive lyric videos all the way to creating a one year plan that encompasses everything including A&R'ing their releases, creating a content and marketing strategy as well as managing their social media.
Any last thoughts for our readers regarding building an audience and a career?
It's no secret that there is a total saturation of music releases. Consumers now have more choices in terms of hearing new music because there is virtually no barrier to entry to making it. That's exciting because that means there is a more vibrant music scene overall, but for an artist it makes it really easy to get lost in the noise. That's why I believe it's more important than ever to take a systematic approach to furthering your career goals. Sure, you can throw whatever you want on the wall and hope it sticks, but that's akin to playing craps in Vegas and frankly your return may actually be better there. With that being said I'm always happy to speak to anyone for free about what they have going on and exploring how I can help them achieve their goals.
Feel free to let your readers know they can reach me directly at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jorge Hernandez (right) with IAT Artist Servicesclient, Will Jay.