10 Questions with ... Ian Harrison
July 14, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I've been at Hopeless Records for 10 years and I oversee all of our marketing and creative worldwide. I started at Hopeless Records out of college as an entry level marketing person in 2005. We were a much smaller company then and they had me working on all sorts of odd jobs including design, PR, and promo... as the new guy at a small company should be doing. About two months after I started our head of sales and marketing and our publicist left Hopeless so I got the chance to hire some new people and move up. I didn't mess it up too bad and we continued to grow as a company. I now oversee a majority of our worldwide team and all our artist campaigns. We just had our biggest year ever last year in our 20 year history and we now have over 25 artists including All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, The Used, New Found Glory, The Wonder Years, Neck Deep, and many more.
1. How did you become interested in the record business?
I initially had no intention of working in music. Which probably pisses off lots of people who are dying to work in music. I was very involved in music, but when I was younger it didn't click for me that there even was a music industry to work in. I just didn't think about it like that. I was a huge fan of the California punk scene and I would go to lots of shows in LA and Orange County and I was studying advertising and design at Cal State Fullerton so I started interning at Nitro Records which was nearby. I started to meet people and realize that I could work on creative projects and help artists grow, so I kept at it.
2. What led you to Hopeless Records 10 years ago and what is your role as Head Of Marketing & Creative?
I oversee our marketing, production, and operation teams worldwide. Now that we have a larger team my day to day mostly involves setting up strategy for projects, working on big opportunities, and making sure the creative is headed in the right direction as well as helping other members of our team solve problems and find ways to build our artists.
I got a job at Hopeless by being involved and being in the right place at the right time. I hung around Nitro for about a year and in that time I met Louis, our company founder, at a BBQ thrown by Nitro's sales guy at the time Jerod Gunsberg. Jerrod was the first guy in music to give me a chance. A few months later Hopeless had a job opening and I got it. Nothing fancy, but it's how it works. When I talk to younger people who want to be in music I tell them that you have to be involved if you want a chance.
3. What do you love most about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I get to be involved in all parts our campaigns around the world from beginning to end and there isn't a lot of bureaucracy to get through to make a good move. I can talk to an artist or our team about strategy and opportunities worldwide across radio, video, PR, digital, branding, what the product looks like, etc. and know that there are not competing priorities in some other department or country that we have to deal with. It's the luxury of having a talented team that's global and just big enough.
A few months ago we had the All Time Low record hit #1 in both the USA and the UK and it was top 10 in a bunch of other counties. That was the first band we signed when I started here 10 years ago and I've known the guys since they were in high school. That's pretty much the ultimate example of getting to see a project through in every way.
4. I can't believe Hopeless is over 20 years old. Give us the history of the San Fernando Valley based label.
Not sure we can believe it's been that long either! Louis Posen started the label in 1993 as a way to help his friends in Guttermouth release a 7 inch. He had been directing music videos for them and some other punk rock bands and they figured if he was responsible enough to make a video happen he could put a record out too. Louis bought a book called "How To Run An Independent Record Label", got some money together and made it happen. The name of the label comes from a song called "Hopeless" off of that first Guttermouth release.
For the first few years Louis ran the label on his own out of his garage with the help of friends and family. We started to gain some traction with some great punk and ska bands like Mustard Plug, Dillinger Four, and 88 Fingers Louie. From there we took another big step signing and breaking Thrice and Avenged Sevenfold in the early 2000's. In 2007 we signed All Time Low and that started a new era of bands for us and really cemented us in the modern area of Warped Tour/Alternative Press style punk/metal/alternative.
Nowadays we have 25 artists including some legends like Taking Back Sunday, The Used, New Found Glory and Bayside. All Time Low is by far bigger than they have every been coming off of their #1 record and we have a likely top 10 album coming this year from The Wonder Years. We also have two new young bands from the UK who we think are going to blow up in the next year - Neck Deep and Milk Teeth... check them out!
5. What's it like working for Louis Posen?
Louis is a true visionary in this industry and a great friend and mentor. We see a lot of other labels looking to match the moves we made years ago and I am glad Louis had the foresight to make those moves early. I could not be happier to be a part of his team or more thankful for him giving me a shot in this business.
6. How many people work at the label? Tell us about the rest of the staff.
The Hopeless team is 28 people strong (13 in the USA and 15 overseas). Plus lots of other close third party people who are basically extended team members. We have been fortunate to have grown a lot over the past few years and we have been able to add really great young people, while at the same time keeping a lot of experience and consistency on our team. Our CFO Al Person has been at Hopeless for over 15 years, our VP Of A&R Eric Tobin has been at the company over 10 years, and our director of operations Erin Choi is also celebrating 10 years with us this month.
7. What's the story behind the label's non-profit organization Sub City?
Sub City is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that we started in 1999 and so far has raised over 2.3 million dollars for various causes that effect young people in our community. As our label and artists grew we wanted to find a way to make a positive impact on the community and help our artists do something good with their influence over fans. Our team runs the nonprofit and we try to build a Sub City component into everything we do including putting out records that donate money to causes artists are passionate about, and running our annual Take Action Tour, which is a full US club tour each year that benefits charity.
Our new big project is the Sub City studio we are building with an amazing organization called New Directions for Youth here in the San Fernando Valley. The studio will be part of a larger teen center for at risk young people. We are funding the construction and connecting our industry partners to offer guidance and equipment to center. Once it is complete kids will have access to a professional recording studio as well as artists and industry professionals who will drop by and teach classes. If anyone is interested in lending their resources, talent, or time to the studio out please contact me email@example.com.
8. What may surprise people the most to learn about Hopeless Records?
I guess it depends on who the person is, but for this audience probably the level of success our artists have without airplay. Radio is definitely part of our mix, and for some of our bands it's a huge driver, especially overseas. But it's amazing how many times people are shocked when I tell them that a band sold over 100k albums, or debuted top 10, or sold 5k tickets in their market all with no airplay. Guess that's on me as the marketing guy, ha-ha! So I'll use this space to fix that... play All Time Low, play The Wonder Years, play Neck Deep, these bands are crushing in your markets.
9. What would surprise people the most about you?
People would probably be surprised to know that I don't like big music festivals. I'm glad they exist and I go to lots of them, but if you see me at one you should be very proud of me. Ha-ha!
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______?
Something going wrong
What are your hobbies?
I like woodworking and making furniture. I would love to someday have a full-time wood shop and no email address.
Last non-industry job?
I was a mediocre bartender at California Pizza Kitchen
First record ever purchased?
Green Day - Dookie
Death By Stereo at the then Palace in LA
Favorite band of all-time?
All Time Low because they are in the room right now.