10 Questions with ... Jason Davis
October 13, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- One One 7 - 1999-Present
- CTK Management, 2007-2011
1) Please tell us about how you founded One One 7 Music management/consulting services and how your company can help today's artists?
One One 7 is what I've always done. The company was really birthed out of the necessity to have relationships with the top songwriters and producers in the business and find the best undeveloped talent out there.
I am passionate about the process of marrying those two worlds together and developing competitive projects that have a shot of getting through the narrow box of radio, record labels, and the typical music fan. We have relationships and represent some of the hottest songwriters and producers in the world who are writing and recording much of what's played on the radio.
Sometimes we have relationships with these songwriters/producers that surpass the relationships executives at record labels have with them. There's a lot of turnover at record labels, and because I've been doing this for 16 years some of my relationships are over a decade old. We also have relationships with some of the best publicists in the world, a licensing division helping artists land songs on TV shows and movies, and a booking division where we're able to book tours and help an artist make income on an international level.
2) Who are some of your earliest mentors who gave you a shot in the business?
My early mentors were Grant Cunningham (Sr. VP of Sparrow Records) and George Zamora (CEO of Warner/Elektra/Atlantic Latina) who both used my songs on major albums.
Sixteen years ago, Marvin Peart was the Sr. VP of Epic Records and he was the first record executive I met who had an open door policy with me. Marvin was known for signing Macy Gray and Mandy Moore. He would let me come to his office and hang out and play him music whenever I wanted. I was in his office sometimes as often as once a week asking questions and learning how high the bar was regarding the music an artist needed to get a deal. He ended up showing interest in signing this artist Virginia who I was working with back then. He educated me on the business and we eventually became good friends which was very special for me, being so young in the business.
A few other mentors I want to mention are Dave Novik, former SVP of RCA Records Internationally (signed Dave Matthews Band) and Lee Dannay, SVP of Columbia Records (signed John Mayer). Ruby Marchand was also a very special person I had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with. She was one of the top executives from Time Warner and she was in charge of Time Warner's record companies, which included Warner Brothers, Elektra Records, and Atlantic Records. I worked on an album for WEA Latina/George Zamora and I ended up getting introduced to Ruby Marchand. When I met her in her office for the first time, she told me she wanted to meet me because she was a fan of an album I had wrote four songs on, and I had landed the artist a record deal. Ruby ended up setting up meetings for me to go meet the Presidents of Warner, Elektra, and Atlantic, and she taught me to trust my gut instinct in business.
Those were all people who would literally respond to every E-mail and phone call I made. They all expressed to me that they believed in me and they saw my unique ability to identify and develop talent. That's why today, even if I meet an artist and I don't feel they're ready to work with our company, I still work hard on being responsive and helping them because I remember how much that meant to me in the beginning of my career.
3) You recently expanded into Asia, Canada, and the U.K. Can you please tell us about the music scene in these markets and how they differ from the U.S?
As far as London, Toronto, and South Korea; the music markets are much smaller than the U.S. We find that most of the artists from those territories still have a very strong desire to connect and work with US songwriters and producers (although we do represent and have relationships with some of the biggest writers/producers in those territories).
For example, we represent a songwriter named Heidi Rojas from Los Angeles. She had two #1 singles in the UK in the last two years, including Little Mix's single, "Wings," and Cheryl Cole's single, "Crazy Stupid Love." They're both #1 hits for UK artists, but they were written by a songwriter here in the U.S.
We've built a booking company that has the potential to be the premiere booking company in Asia over the coming years. I have partners in Shanghai, China, and South Korea. We've begun building a roster of name artists who have sold a lot records and can draw 10,000+ fans a night in an arena. We're booking 30-40 shows for these artists on each tour throughout Asia, which is obviously very lucrative.
4) How would you compare the challenges and/or the advantages between working at an independent label versus a major label?
At an independent label, an artist is going to have a lot more freedom to be artistically creative and really help shape the direction of where their music goes. There's definitely less pressure to deliver big numbers when working with an independent label and there tends to be more patience for results.
To me, a major label is like being signed to a major sports team. You have one game to really deliver, which in this business is one single to really deliver. In all fairness to the major labels, they're generally spending a lot more than an independent label would spend on a record deal, and if somebody is giving you a huge amount of money, naturally they're going to want to see results very quickly. An artist on a major label is going to have much less creative control over what is released because the label is investing so much in the project and they want to see results and their money recouped.
5) What is that special "something" that makes a hit record?
When knowledge of craft meets inspiration.
6) Who are some up & coming artists that you admire?
I'm inspired by Meghan Trainor's story because it is a perfect example of what we do at One One 7, and what the real key to success in this business is. She was signed as a songwriter with Big Yellow Dog Music while she was still in high school. She wrote and self-released an album in 2011, and went on several songwriting trips which resulted in cuts with Rascal Flatts, Sabrina Carpenter, and many more.
She finally broke through as an artist when she met Grammy-nominated producer Kevin Kadish (Jason Mraz, Colt Ford) and wrote her single, "All About That Bass," which eventually got her signed to Epic Records.
I love her story so much for two reasons:
- At such a young age, Trainor had an exceptional drive and passion for music. She traveled and worked non-stop, always perfecting her skills and her craft. An artist's drive and dedication are equally, if not more important than an artist's talent, and that hard work pays off.
- She had success stories before she broke into the industry and got signed to Epic Records, but it wasn't until she finally met the right producer after a very long journey. Having that relationship with the right producer is a massive component to finding success in this business, which is why we work so hard to have a deep roster of the hottest talent for our artists to work with at One One 7.
7) Please tell us about One One 7 TV?
The idea behind One One 7 TV was to create a channel with inspiring, faith-based content that would bring people closer to Christ.
Today, One One 7 TV has featured the biggest artists in Christian music. We have been on the red carpet at the Dove Awards and we also shot exclusive behind-the-scenes footage at the K-Love Fan Awards. Our channel has thousands of viewers checking out exclusive interviews and acoustic performances daily.
We have also been credited for helping to break major CCM artist's singles through our channel. We recently expanded One One 7 TV to Los Angeles in addition to our main studio in Nashville, and we're starting to do more interviews with actors and athletes as well.
8) Who are some of the artists we might find on your phone or MP3 player?
In my personal time, I primarily listen to contemporary Christian music. The reason I do is because the message of what's being written about is very big. I also find it very encouraging and uplifting to listen to. Because I grew up in the 80's, I do listen to a lot of music from that decade... rock music like Def Leppard or artists like Phil Collins and Lionel Richie. I love 80s music and I love Contemporary Christian music, but obviously being so passionate about music, I do listen to and find enjoyment in many different genres as long as the message isn't a negative one.
9) As music purchases have migrated to the Internet, the music industry has transformed back into a "singles business." How can record companies persuade consumers to buy the entire album of their favorite artist?
From my experience, a record company or an individual can't really persuade another individual to purchase anything. All a record company can ever do (which is obviously very expensive) is to expose the music that's on their roster.
It always comes down to whether or not the music is great. What record labels can do, which is what we've done and been very successful doing it, is be very passionate and focused on artist development. We're patient with artists who are growing and we view artists with more of a long term approach. I think record companies will win by really investing heart and passion and patience into an artist's growth.
With the turnover rate at record companies being pretty high, I notice that in today's music business most of the record company executives don't have as far-reaching of a rolodex of relationships as one would expect. I find myself often having relationships with songwriters and producers who the executives at record companies don't even know.
Here's why that's so vital: every artist is their own individual, one part of a two part chemical equation. The other part of that equation is the producer matching perfectly with the artist. It's a marriage between artist and producer. I'm a firm believer in that if you don't know 100 successful songwriters and producers in different genres, it's difficult to effectively pair people, and this is why a lot of the music today sounds very generic.
Artists are being paired with producers who may not be the best fit, and that chemical equation is not a home run as a result. Because of my 16 years of building relationships internationally, we have the ability to pair artists in a way that many people at record companies don't have. Often, record companies are trying to take an artist and fit a square peg into a round hole.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Song is king.
Do you have a great road story you'd like to share?
I have a great road story from roughly 15 years ago. I was on tour with an artist I was managing. Just before this tour, five labels had a bidding war over signing this artist. We toured the mid-west and visited radio stations, we went to clubs and the artist performed shows. This was at the very beginning of the record company working the song, so the public didn't know the song yet.
I was in a club in Chicago and I knew that every person in that club hadn't heard the song before. This club was packed; you couldn't make out the words of the songs because the music was so loud. The Sony Music promotion guy, the road manager and I were in the club and we got the DJ to play my artist's new song. He played the song one time throughout the entire night. About an hour and a half after they played the song, the club was shutting down. We left the club and as we were walking out, we noticed a group of girls also leaving the club. They were going home and they were all standing there together on the street corner singing my artist's song, word for word. Out of all the hits they played that night for hours, they were singing my artist's song in perfect melody. It really hit me then how all of the power is really in the song when you have the right song, which is the hardest piece to get right in this industry.