Tim Smith of Blood Company Management has seen a lot in his many years working with Sonny Moore. Moore-known best as Skrillex, the unmistakably coiffed dance/dubstep DJ who snagged a whopping five Grammy nominations last night-has been his client since the musician was a mere sixteen years old, when he fronted the hardcore/screamo band From First To Last. (Smith's Blood Company still represents hardcore artists like Atreyu, Chiodos, and Norma Jean.) From the days of Warped Tour sets to headlining slots at this year's Electric Daisy Carnival, which drew over 100,000 people, Smith reflects with Billboard.biz on Skrillex's success-and how a major label deal had nothing to do with it.
Billboard.biz: What have things been like since last night? How have you been celebrating?
Tim Smith: Last night, I went out to dinner with my wife for her birthday. We got home and watched the show; I found out [Skrillex had been nominated] from somebody about 5 minutes before it went on the air. It's funny, watching the show was really nerve-wracking, because Sonny was the last one announced in that category. I was like, 'Oh, shit, I hope that guy was right!'
Anyway, I watched it and went to bed. Woke up early and it's like a bombardment of text messages, emails, and phone calls. A lot of friends and new friends, I suppose. It's really cool.
Well, that's one way to get new friends. You've been doing this with Sonny for so long, since he was 16 years old. What a crazy road it must have been for you.
Yeah. It's gotten so much harder… definitely a roller coaster. In some respects, this is like round 2. Sonny is one of my favorite people in the world, one of the most genuine. He's talented and has the fame, but he's one of the coolest, most fun people I know. It's a pleasure to work with him.
But to do it as long as I have, you have to like this job, period. You have to enjoy it. It's so much work. If you don't like it, get out of it quick. You won't always manage a boy band that makes millions of dollars.
Over the past year, Skrillex's growth in popularity and as an artist has been nothing short of insanity.
The best part about it is that nothing was ever intentional, under the name and the project Skrillex, for either of us. It's not like a lot of situations [with artists] where you're kind of going at it, expecting that big commercial success. That's the ironic beauty of what happened--it was totally started and created for him to have an artistic outlet. That was the whole reason Skrillex was born and why he created that music. It's really connected with people in the most organic way. I think he's as organic as they come: totally built by the Internet and touring. That's it. No marketing, no paid ads, online ads, print, or television commercials-totally word of mouth. It wouldn't have happened if he wasn't putting out great music and putting on a great live show. That's what's made the past year so insane. The Grammy nomination is the icing on the cake. Totally unexpected. It's these milestones-the SPIN cover, for example. The numbers the tours are hitting…you see this kid coming. It's a major thing and it's like, "How the hell did we get here? Is this real?" It doesn't seem real at all.
This dance scene's growth has been so grassroots, and as you say, you didn't have to spend a dime on an ad for it to be as big as it is. What has that been like for you as a manager, in comparison with projects you've done before?
It's fucking awesome. Our whole style, our business model-I hate to call it that-has remained the same. It's all about delivering the highest quality content and connecting with fans as truthfully as possible without any intermediary party. That value is all about putting on a great live show and putting out great music. Great videos, great merchandise, just trying to have quality products, put on a quality show and do it ourselves. DIY is our ethos and work ethic. Entirely DIY. We don't rely on other people, and because of that, it helps us, even in this new world. We're forging ahead and doing our thing, not for anybody but ourselves, and our fans of course, to make things happen. It is hard…the scenes go and the world goes; things have changed. But it's such an electric movement. It's so vibrant and it's exploding--literally. Other things I've been a part of have been amazing or exciting, but this is so explosive and fresh. It really feels like a movement.
You mention being DIY and grassroots, and yet Skrillex has a major label deal. What hand has major association had in his successes so far, particularly now with the Grammys?
To be honest, and I mean no disrespect-it has nothing to do with it. [Major distribution] had no influence on where he's gotten or his fans at all. His success has been completely due to the leveling of distribution with the Internet. Because those barriers have been broken down, online sales have been amazing. His first album was a free download and everything since then has been focused on the digital side of things. All of our media primarily focuses on the digital. It's that social profile… releasing things digitally, through Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (though that has kind of dwindled). These barriers are broken down due to the Internet. It's not fixated on retail; it's not fixated on major labels. Because of that, an artist like Sonny can accelerate this rapidly. Multiple Grammy nominations in two years or less! No marketing, no push at all, just connections with fans in a true way.
Just 73 days until the awards air on Feb. 12. What's next for you?
A lot of things. Sonny is so creative… new music is always being worked on. A lot of new music actually that will be released over the next year, some in the next couple months. Definitely in the next 6 months I would imagine one of a couple [of releases]. Other than that, just nonstop, great touring. That's what we've always been doing. Now we have the luxury of having the popularity to be able to come up with crazy ideas…We're having fun thinking up cool, different ideas that the kids would like. The thing, though, will be to try to stay focused on our own objectives and not get distracted by all the buzz.
I'm sure you have things planned out for the next year or so, but what are your ultimate goals for Skrillex?
We're already mapped out touring-wise till the end of 2012. We're mapped out at least on what we want to do production-wise. We got that sorted. We got what we want to do music-release-wise. Beyond that, Sonny diversifying and doing things that he's dreamed of.
There's no agenda other than to do what we do best, as best we can. Next year, touring will be absolutely on the best level, around the world, all the best stages; we'll put on the best show possible with the best production. That, to us, is super key: making quality music with quality video, as well as trying to diversify and do other cool things that make sense and feel perfect. Sonny will never do something if he doesn't totally love it. Things like scoring films or doing video games, stuff like that--I think we'll for sure do more of that. He's kicking ass!
Were not crazy goal-oriented; we want to continue [on the level] we're at right now. What's beyond playing the best stages in the world, being nominated for Grammys, and being on the cover of SPIN? I don't know. That's what I'm asking myself. I asked Sonny, "We didn't expect this, but what's next?" I don't think we can really think about much more than what we do. I think that's why it's working: we're in an agenda, but were not trying to get to a certain place. There are absolutely goals, but they're not done for the sake of achieving a goal. The quality of whatever we're doing and that immediacy also leads us to those goals, whatever they are.
That's what's awesome. Skrillex was never going after anything at all--that's the beauty of it. Totally organic, totally artistic, just a real success story. The most perfect story I could dream. I couldn't have dreamed up such a beautiful scenario for Sonny.