Indie management label Electric Feel — comprised of founder Austin Rosen, manager James Canton and head of strategy and marketing Justin Stirling — has a talent roster that has amassed over 10 billion streams, 6.5 billion YouTube video views, and 20 Grammy nominations, including 14 this year alone. The company’s roster includes super-producer Frank Dukes, Louis Bell, Brian Lee, Brody Brown, 1Mind, Carter Lang, Mike Stud, Buddy, Vory, Bridge, Demo Taped, Chuck Adams, Blonder and, since about a month ago, rapper and Republic Records signee Post Malone, in partnership with Dre London.
In addition, the company is behind the current No. 1 and No. 2 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, with Louis Bell co-producing Post Malone and 21 Savage’s charismatic “Rockstar” (alongside producer TankGod) and Frank Dukes, Brian Lee and Louis Bell teaming for Camila Cabello and Young Thug‘s hot “Havana.” Other Hot 100 hits Electric Feel’s roster has contributed to include Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” (Brody Brown), French Montana and Swae Lee‘s “Unforgettable” (1Mind), Post Malone and Quavo‘s “Congratulations” (Frank Dukes, Louis Bell) and Selena Gomez and Marshmello’s “Wolves” (Brian Lee, Louis Bell).
With some many accolades and accomplishments under their belt, the company still flies under the radar and focuses more on the work rather than a public image. However, Billboard had a chance recently to sit down with the label heads and speak more about the company’s founding, how they motivate and manage expectations of their talent, and what’s to come for 2018.
What made you open up a recording studio at 21 as opposed to signing someone right away to manage?
Austin Rosen (Age 29): The studio was just to find talent and put [the artists] together. It was to connect people and give them a place to work. I didn’t have to have someone else picking people. We had a chance to pick people and find out about them. We got to do it on our own terms, so that we were able to develop talent and work together. So now we have it where there’s multiple people on a record that’s a part of the team.
How did you know how to do that? Did you have any friends in the industry?
Austin: Trial and error. And no I just watched the way my dad worked with designers and other creative people. I saw how he was able to connect with them.
How did you go from having a studio to creating a company?
Austin: I worked with French Montana a lot early on in my career around 2012, helping to put together and put out his music. I wanted to do more and work with writers and producers, so around the time he got signed to Bad Boy, I started doing that. But in those sessions, I starting meeting people and working with them. Nipsey Hussle was one artist I was working with. He had a friend that introduced me to Brody Brown, who he thought was really talented. Him and I started working together, and Brody eventually started doing Bruno Mars’ records. But it all started with me just meeting people coming into the studio.
How did the three of you come together?
Austin: I’ve known James for a long time. He just graduated from school and was working for another company, Three Six Zero. So I thought it would be cool for him to come work for us. I thought he was really smart. Justin, I know through Andrew Watt, a writer and producer we work with a lot. And so, I was working with him for a while and we decided to partner.
Why do you feel like you all work together so well?
Austin: We just had to scale the business and it was about having people around to handle the artists we were taking in and trying to break.
How did you come up with the name Electric Feel?
Austin: I had to come up with a name quick, and the song by MGMT was out and I thought it was a really cool play on words. But now I actually do like the name [Laughs].
How important is capital when starting a music management company?
Justin Stirling (Age 24): It depends. It doesn’t cost us money to manage clients unless we sign them to development deals and production deals. Most of the people we manage are generating revenue already. We are at a point where we have operations and overhead so we manage top level clientele. If talent isn’t generating revenue, then we sign them to an early developmental deal and that’s where it does cost money. But it’s important to find talent early, believe in them, and help them get their point across.
How do you scout talent?
James Canton (Age 23): First and foremost, the studio. I believe it’s the best location. Our roster speaks for itself. A lot of dope artists and dope producers gravitate towards each other. A random kid might come in here one night and we might be able to do great things together. Also, you can always find people online. You could get a link through SoundCloud or blogs like Hillydilly. There’s just so many outlets these days. But first and foremost, the studio.
What’s the quickest you’ve signed someone?
Austin: Vory. Literally the day we met him, we started working with him. We just scrapped everything he had done before and put him in here with our guys. Then, he brought in other guys he was finding, just having them come through. Even Brian Lee, the first time I met him, we started working with him on that same day. Brian came from a friend who introduced us who shoots a lot of videos for us.
A lot of it is word of mouth, people introducing us knowing that we do a good job with the people we work with, so they bring people to us. That definitely happens a lot. I like it when it happens that way because then someone is vetting it out already and happens more in an organic way.
Justin: We’ve also created this crazy ecosystem that exists of producers and songwriters, artists. We have a publishing arm of the company and are able to put records out. We kind of have the capability of a management company and a major label that all takes place in-house. We have resources available if you’re a songwriter and want to sit and write music. If you’re a developing artists, we have an in-house studio. That structure alone is very unique… We may have a developing artist and a successful producer, and we have the ability to pair them without it being a big problem of studio rentals or paying high producer fees.
How do you manage your talent’s expectations in what you can do for them?
Justin: I think it’s just providing them with great communication. Austin handles all of the negotiations on splits and everything. I work more on building brands on our producers and writers because at this point, they’re coming out into the forefront in pop culture. Things like the Spotify Genius program puts visibility and focus on them. I look at producers and songwriters as artists and want to build massive brands out of them. Austin does the same thing, but handles the finance and negotiations.
Is there a difference in managing talent in front of the camera or behind the scenes?
Justin: I would like to say that we’re starting to treat it all the same. We partnered with Spotify to put up this massive billboard of a producer we manage named Frank Dukes in the middle of Toronto. That was up until 6 months ago. That was only done for artists. So it’s becoming very similar. In a way, sometimes producers and writers might be less of a hassle than artists.
Why do you feel that producers and writers are more at the forefront?
Austin: Because people want to know who is making the music now. It’s less about manufactured records and more about true records. It’s why songwriter artists are more effective right now than artists that are getting records handed to them.
Do you have any mentors you look up to in the industry?
Austin: Ron Perry. I signed one of the first writers to his company that was non-catalog, which was Brian Lee and we’ve worked a lot throughout the years. He’s really impressive. He sets his goals and he always signs whoever he wants.
James: Definitely Jody Gerson. I was fortunate to grow up around her and she’s definitely part of the reason why I chose this path. She’s always someone I can always call on when I need advice.
Austin: She gave us our publishing joint venture and we work really close with her. She signed Post Malone to his deal as well.
Why do you think it’s important to have mentors in the industry?
Justin: To be humble and give them the respect of knowing that they’ve been there before you and put their dues in. A lot of times young guys like us come so hot-headed at things and don’t realize the people who have experienced more are coming from a place of knowledge. I think it’s a respect thing and there’s no better education than actually talking to someone and seeing what they’ve learned.
What’s next for you?
Austin: We did the entire Camila Cabello album. It’s insane. I’m really close with Roger Gold, which is her manager. We’re both involved with 300 Entertainment and he had known about the writers and producers we had. We did “Work From Home,” which was also the big record for Fifth Harmony. He was scared at first to work with us at first because of not wanting to be so close to the Fifth Harmony sound. But then, we had a session where we made “Havana” and right from there, he let us work with her for three months. We executive produced it, and our producer Frank Dukes did the entire thing. All of our guys are on it. It’s amazing. And then we have Post Malone’s album, which we did the entire thing as well.
What’s some advice you would give to someone who is an upcoming manager? If they wanted to know where to start, what is the first thing you would tell them?
Austin: Hit us up. Partner with us.