Why a Former Interscope VP Traded the Music Biz For the Budding Cannabis Industry

Brock Batten
Andrew Mains

Andrew Mains learned marketing during his eight years at Interscope Records, where as vp digital he worked with artists like 50 Cent and Trent Reznor. Now, after years of working for different startups, he’s putting his expertise to use as a cannabis consultant with one goal: combating the issue of perception. “The music industry is phenomenal at making people understand why something is fun, why it makes you feel good,” says Mains. “That was, in so many ways, the entire point of the record industry.”

For the past four years Mains has worked with over a dozen clients spanning the cannabis supply chain, from farms to THC and CBD manufacturers to companies creating vape pens, beauty products and coffee. Last May he launched his own company, Hemp & CBD Procurement Partners.

Billboard: What in music prepared you for this pivot to cannabis?
Andrew Mains: Artists are brilliant natural storytellers and, because of those years spent in music, I consider myself to be a half-decent brand marketer. It's my intuition around how some things should be packaged and described and to whom it should be marketed and how, that I mostly got from the record business. I think that the record business in general has a lot of people with that skill set. It's what's demanded of them.

How about working with artists specifically and the challenges that presents?
This going to sound a little flip, but I don't mean it that way: my ability to manage shitshows, managing complicated personalities who do not necessarily always have each other's best interests in mind, is absolutely portable to the cannabis and THC business in a really big way. Some of the most talented cannabis growers and product manufacturers are the most complicated people to be around. But if you don't have, not just the stomach -- if you enjoy working in and around those types of personalities and that type of energy, it's hard to get anywhere. I would've gotten shaken out of the business in the first couple of minutes. I've been in rooms with farmers where they were recently robbed at gunpoint, and that's in the air. And my ability to empathize with somebody who's been robbed at gunpoint without having to try -- because I've been around artists in studios where armed guards walked in off the street unannounced and had semi-hostile confrontations between two sets of armed security personnel -- helps.

Can you explain the work you're doing?
My job is extremely broad. In any given week, I might help a farm in Vermont sell all of its CBD flower to CBD manufacturers all over the place who are then going to turn that into vape cards or tincture or even coffee. My clients are as diverse as farms for whom I help sell their raw material to CBD manufacturers; CBD manufacturers who need to sell their raw ingredients to product companies; and the product companies themselves, who need access to buy those materials but also have started to seek my advice more and more on basic marketing strategy. So it's from one end to the other.

How's business?
It's thriving. There's more than I could ever manage. There's way more than I can focus on all at once and do a half-decent job.

Do you make more doing this than you did in the music industry?
Not at its height. In 2006 and 2007, the record industry was still doling out salaries that were probably ridiculous. [Cannabis] is a very healthy living, but I have gone two months without making a red cent because I was in a moment where there was one particular outcome that I really cared about the most and I was just going to chase that with everything I had, or in that same period of time I was maybe working on a couple of small deals, and even those collapse as often as they work.

Frequently, my compensation will be transactional fees: If I do an extraordinarily good job helping a manufacturer locate just the right hemp or THC for the project that they're working on, by the time I'm done with that, I've saved them a bunch of money and I compensate myself [accordingly].

Do you think more people will come over from the music industry? 
I've already started to get hit by the first of them. At least a couple of times a month, some of the smartest, most likable people I ever knew in the music business hit me up with a soft inquiry out of the blue: "Why did you choose to do this?" They're definitely starting to poke around and think, "Is this something I would ever do?"

What do you see as the best opportunities for artists in this space?
The Bob Marley and Willie Nelson weed strains, I don't think that's the point. The point is, "How do you really get across that this is good for you, will make you feel good and is relaxing?" 

I suppose it's separating their face from their branding ability. Oftentimes, artists over-index as emotionally intelligent; their ability to connect to complicated personalities inside the industry and connect to an audience is rare. Diplo weed would suck, for example, but a weed brand overseen by his marketing sensibilities would thrive. He puts so much attitude and swagger and flavor on top of music that was already working and makes it his, but so much of it is the way he talks about it, the way he shows up for it -- that's also what makes great consumer brands in the weed space.

A version of this article originally appeared in the July 27 issue of Billboard.


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