Spotlight: Tao Group ‘Talent Forecaster’ Mike Snedegar’s A&R Approach to Booking Las Vegas Residencies
As bookings get more competitive, the nightclub executive sources and cultivates fresh voices and faces to get a lock on tomorrow's headliners
It’s half past midnight on a summer Saturday and Mike Snedegar, Tao Group’s entertainment marketing director, is walking rising Roc Nation rapper-singer Gashi through a back corridor of The Cosmopolitan Hotel and into Marquee Nightclub. This is the first night of a multi-date residency for the up-and-coming artist, who has recorded with G-Eazy and French Montana, recently appeared on DJ Snake’s “Paris” and released his own single “Roses” in June. His entourage is deep and nerves are running high. He will soon perform a handful of songs to a crowd of thousands who may be hearing his music for the first time.
For many artists, Las Vegas is a dream come true with the ability to fly in and out for the weekend and bank a big check for performing a short set to fans and new listeners from a major cross-section of national and international music lovers. And in the ever-competitive Las Vegas nightclub scene Snedegar has taken on a new role similar to record company A&R — sourcing and scouting the next big thing to fill rooms, sell tables and tickets and pack the house night after night.
“My first time ever going to Vegas was when DJ Snake flew me out and I recorded a song [“Oh Me Oh My”] with him, Travis Scott and Quavo,” says Gashi, an Albanian artist now based in Brooklyn. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ When you’re in one of those suites, you automatically feel successful. Coming in [to that] I wished one day I could be performing or having a show. And [DJ Snake] told me it would come. And sooner or later, I found my residency…. When you sign a Vegas residency, it shows that you’re here to stay.”
Gashi first caught Snedegar’s attention last year thanks to French Montana, with whom the nightlife exec has worked for four years and says is “somebody that I love and I deeply respect his opinion.” Then, earlier this year he heard Gashi’s “My Year” with G-Eazy when it debuted on Apple’s Beats 1 radio and, after a conversation with his Los Angeles-based Tao-Group-counterpart Deb Fass and the club’s ownership, secured the Libyan-born talent for a one-off booking at Tao Nightclub last March.
“I was super nervous. I don’t have the album out and I’m still a new artist,” Gashi says. His strategy was to come out to “Mo Bamba” by Tao Group resident Sheck Wes to capture the crowd’s attention and proceeded to rock the venue for more than a half hour.
“He came off stage, got into the audience and went on the dance floor while performing,” recalls Snedegar. “He is rapping, and people are surrounding him and he’s jumping up and down. Then he went back onstage and finished the set and had won that crowd over. And by the end of it, I thought this guy’s really special.”
After that, the team went back to Gashi’s hotel room where he played tracks from his upcoming album, due out next month. “I was just blown away,” Snedegar says. “After I heard the album, I thought, ‘This guy is really going to make some waves this year.’ We wanted to have him back immediately, and signed him.”
In addition to the ability to collaborate on the ground, Las Vegas residencies afford some of the best hospitality and treatment in the world and the chance to join the ranks of the most successful names in the music business.
“They come to Vegas because they want to have fun, do a show and then they hang out and party,” Snedegar says. “At Marquee, we have Travis Scott and Mustard, who are two of the biggest in music right now. And then there is a huge amount of promotion in the tri-state area and also nationally [for our shows].”
Snedegar, along with Fass in L.A. and Jordan Miner in Las Vegas, are commonly referred to as Tao Group’s “talent forecasters,” forging deep relationships with influential people from a cross section of industries. Instrumental in securing top talent for some of Las Vegas’ most successful residencies, Snedegar says it all starts with the music.
“Everything else plays into that — how much buzz is on the artist, who is the manager and do they have other artists who are really big? Then you know there is a great team behind them,” he says. “How is the artist going to grow and how you can grow with them?”
Snedegar got his start with Tao Group 14 years ago as owner Jason Strauss’ assistant before moving into the marketing department and later entertainment marketing. Back in those days he was working side by side with celebrity hosts such as Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, but as the nightclub world changed, social media took hold, music tastes evolved and the bookings changed. One thing he says that stays the same, though, is the excitement of seeing someone at the zenith of pop culture.
For example, LMFAO’s introduction to Las Vegas nightclub residency life before and after the smash hit “Party Rock Anthem.” “One of my favorite things about my job is seeing talent grow. We were opening Marquee and LMFAO started in January 2011 and I remember hearing ‘Party Rock Anthem’ for the first time when they played it at sound check and I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool. This is pretty good. I like this.’ And then they played it that night and people were kind of into it. But it wasn’t out there yet. And then by May, it was crazy. When they would drop that song, it was this insane rush of energy that would explode within the club.”
Even bigger was when DJ Khaled broke onto the scene. “I had been working with Khaled for probably two or three years and then the Snapchat explosion happened and he could not go anywhere. I remember being in his room in the beginning and him posting, ‘Fan love, meet me in the lobby of The Venetian.’ And I was like, ‘What are you doing? Are you crazy? You cannot do this.’ And it had been maybe 12 minutes. We got in the elevator, went downstairs and took five steps out and there was just a sea of people.”
Who is next according to Snedegar? He is hesitant to reveal who he is forecasting right now but always delights in sharing some recent favorites from his playlist.
“Baby Jake. He’s got a song called ‘Cigarettes on Patios’ that I think is going to blow up very soon. Baby Rose has the most beautiful voice. And I love Rosalia, Pink Sweat$. Ally Brooke, she was in Fifth Harmony, but she’s now solo and she’s got some amazing music coming out this year. She’s somebody that I started working with. She’s really talented. I love Rex Orange County,” he says. “Play-N-Skillz — they are producers, songwriters. They produced ‘Con Calma’ [by Daddy Yankee and Snow]. Kim Petras, Brockhampton, Phora, Normani.”
Snedegar continues, “So many people are signed to residencies now. There is definitely a trend in Las Vegas where venues are working with younger artists and building them, creating partnerships that can hopefully last as their career expands. I try to find that new artist and maintain the relationship as they grow — it could be a YouTuber influencer, an athlete, an actor. We bring them into our company and culture so they become part of our fabric.”
In my career it’s important to have gratitude, perspective and priority. Gratitude to always remind myself I am doing the things I once dreamed of. Perspective to remind myself when things get tense, it’s not the end of the world and tomorrow is another day. And priority because I recently did a mile a day challenge with DJ Vice where I ran at least one mile every day for a month. It really opened up my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t giving myself priority, in fitness, and in other areas as well. It was a game changer. I now have a trainer I see three times per week and exercise has become something I look forward to instead of something I felt like I had to do.
When you’re coming up start at the bottom. When I started in restaurants I was a dishwasher at 19 and worked my way up to a manager. When I started in nightlife I was a busboy, and worked my way up to where I am now. Appreciate the journey, it goes quickly.
I’ve learned that relationships are everything, cultivate and curate them accordingly. It’s been amazing to see so many people I met in the beginning of their careers who are now ascending to bigger roles in their fields. I’m a connector, I love putting people together who I think would synergize well and it’s always come back to me in other forms.
The best advice I’ve received was from DJ Riz: “Consistency equals longevity.”
The best advice I learned is that it’s important to get good at having uncomfortable conversations. When I was younger I always feared confrontation. But doing what I do, things get tense from time to time. As much as it sucks at the time when you’re in those moments, the more uncomfortable you are, the better you’ll be after it’s over.
I’ve always been music-obsessed. In the third grade I had a subscription to Metal Edge Magazine and Teen Beat Magazine. I loved Motley Crue, Poison, Ratt, Def Leppard, Winger, Cinderella, but I also loved Debbie Gibson, George Michael, New Kids on The Block and Tiffany. I remember where I was the first time I heard “Head Over Feet” by Alanis Morissette and how it made me smile, I instantly knew it would be become one of my favorite songs. I remember waiting in line at midnight for the *NSYNC No Strings Attached album and Backstreet Boys Millenium. I remember seeing Whitney Houston in 1990 as my first concert. I remember seeing R.E.M. in high school in 1995 and being obsessed with Michael Stipe, slowly inching my way out of the closet. And I will never forget sneaking out of the house in the seventh grade to go to the midnight sale of Madonna’s Sex book, standing outside of the store and trying to give people my money I saved mowing lawns to buy it for me at 13 years old. (No one did). Music has always been a huge part of my life, I couldn’t function without it.
Spotlight is a Billboard Business series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.