As Texas awaits an overwhelming amount of live music with South by Southwest headed to Austin next week, for the past nine years local promoter ScoreMore has been holding it down across the Lone Star State, making sure well-hyped concerts aren't just a once-a-year kind of thing — and not just in the major cities either.
For years, ScoreMore has marketed itself as "Your favorite rappers' favorite promoters," building a strong reputation early on by bringing J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and others out for their first Texas shows. The company became known among artists for treating the acts well and, meanwhile, established a grassroots following that's grown into a packed concert calendar with five annual festivals around the state. In all, it amounted to over 180,000 tickets sold and $15 million in gross revenue for 2017.
As a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Sascha Stone Guttfreund started ScoreMore with $1,500 he made waiting tables and selling cable and internet door-to-door. With co-founder Claire Bogle, he began booking artists for tours around Texas that were only made possible because the acts' costs were shared across the various concerts. They plotted routes hitting the state's major cities, along with some of its underserved markets, with a mind for nearby college campuses or at least a young population that could be tapped to create a street team.
"When you survey the landscape, you're looking for opportunity … and so for us it made more sense to kind of get in where we could fit in," says Guttfreund, who now manages Tory Lanez as well. "If you go and you build these properties and you build them in smaller markets and allow artists to get into that market and play in front of more people, then it's something that will make a lot of sense to them. Fans end up appreciating it more too."
Guttfreund says his experience in door-to-door sales was crucial to developing ScoreMore's street team model for promotion and consignment sales. By creating a collective attitude around the events and cutting in others on profits, ScoreMore was able to cultivate a greater fanbase for the shows. And, as the acts they booked early grew on a national scale, everyone involved with ScoreMore was able to point to those first shows as a reason to turn up next time. The first time they booked Lamar, just about 100 people came to the show, Guttfreund remembers, "and all the kids that were promoting our shows, they could also go back to their friends and be like, 'Remember when I told you to come to the show and you didn't? Well, now what's happened?'" ScoreMore still uses this system for sales, and at its Mala Luna festival in San Antonio last October, Guttfreund says the company brought in over $300,000 via consignment tickets alone.
Speaking about this business model, even at age 28, Guttfreund starts to sound a little old-school. Recalling conversations with others in the industry, he says he's often asked why he goes through all the trouble of working with a street team and managing inventory when "everything is online now."
"It's the same reason why no matter how fancy the football stadium, do you ever notice that they always got the guys walking around selling stuff direct to the seats?" he says. "That's because they know that makes for a higher probability of having a real conversion. It doesn't matter how fancy their concessions system is."
Since ScoreMore has established a name for itself, while the company does still put on its own shows, Guttfreund says agents will now approach him to specifically handle the Texas dates on a tour. (On the calendar this month are dates in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio with A$AP Ferg, Jeezy and Ty Dolla $ign, among others.) And as the festival properties — JMBLYA in Dallas, Austin and Houston; Neon Desert in El Paso; and Mala Luna in San Antonio — continue to grow, Guttfreund teased a new festival in the works for September outside of Texas that will be produced alongside an artist curator.
"I think the artists see us as partners, and I think we are and we have been — we can start with you when you're doing 100 tickets and we can grow you to where you're headlining festivals in front of 30,000," says Guttfreund. "The idea is to create a system that allows artists to grow and to support those who are."
He adds, "A lot of people try to say, 'You guys deserve credit.' No, we don't deserve credit for doing anything other than identifying good talent. The rest is the music."
When you're coming up you say and do cringeworthy things. It's OK. The biggest thing is to learn how to drop our ego and apologize when we're wrong. When you're coming up you might think that apologizing is a form of weakness or of losing strategy in the business dynamic. That's simply not true. We all struggle and make mistakes, but when we own them it's very often received well. People can relate to trying to make amends — we all have things to fix. In the beginning we think that every little deal makes or breaks us. It doesn't. We get context over time.
The best advice I've received is put life first. I spent a lot of time asking different people I admire, "How do you handle the work/life balance?" I've gotten great answers from many, but my favorite from Gary Keller (founder of Keller Williams). He told me, "Well… it's easy. You schedule personal first. Work will fill around it because that's what happens when you love what you do," but if you don't take the time to schedule and protect personal time, it doesn't exist. He told me that every Friday throughout his son's childhood that his plan was Friday lunch at school. If he ever had a meeting, they'd drive with him to go have lunch with his son and they'd speak on the way there and back. I always loved that. I work hard to schedule time to protect my mental and physical health. In order to build a solid foundation of the mind, body and spirit, we need to prioritize it. If not, it doesn't happen.
I've learned so much of what happens on a daily basis is out of our control. The question is establishing the criteria for which you can evaluate yourself. So what I've learned is that if I continue to exercise and express gratitude (one thank you email per day) daily, that I'm putting myself in a better position to evaluate my day. Did I do everything in my power to fix this or deliver that? I bust my ass. I'm in the office from 9-6 on a treadmill desk banging out calls and executing deliverables. Yes, I do still write a to-do list. It helps.
I knew I was committed to music when I used to go from class to the airport and back to school on no sleep. I would do tours every weekend. I didn't get time off. I never thought to myself, hey this is my career, it just happened because I refused to give up on myself or in this team and I happened to be on a team that all felt the same way. Why? Commitment to the music and the culture.
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