April 23, 2013
Fred Croshal spent years learning the ins-and-outs of breaking records and establishing artists in a traditional record company structure. The new digital environment has significantly altered the traditional way of doing business, so Croshal went out on his own and formed his own company that on the one hand, manages artists involved in the label process, while on the other, helps heritage artists make their presence known outside of traditional music system. Here, he explains how he and his artists can achieve success in any way they can.
Please explain exactly what you do and how you got to this point.
A lot of people don't understand our company because we've been successful offering a variety of services. The Croshal Entertainment Group, on one hand, is in entertainment management; it's what people consider to be the traditional management of artists and their career. Then there is the marketing side of our business, which is managing individual projects. We have been successful on both sides due to continued focus and staying true to quality vs. quantity.
Ten years ago, I decided to start my own company, after having worked retail and in a multitude of positions within the record company structure - including running the day-to-day at Maverick Recording Company as GM, which was a great experience. I took all my past experiences and opened up shop, ideally to help artists, managers, record labels and product lines. I wanted to create a flexible platform, knowing how our industry was evolving and will continue to evolve.
The project management side is where we work directly with artists and their managers to release their music independently in the most competitive way possible. We have offered this service for many great artists over the years with sales totaling more than four million.
How do you hook up with these artists? Do you go after them or do they come to you?
We don't advertise, so it's all been word-of-mouth ... artists, attorneys or business managers talking with one another ... the best kind of advertising. We've worked with some great artists -- Jackson Browne, CSN, Elliott Yamin and Gnarls Barkley to name a few. Most recently we have helped in the release for Bonnie Raitt, who has sold approximately 320,000 of her record, "Slipstream," and earned a Grammy.
Why would artists choose you over a traditional label?
Our advantages are the following: 1) If they release a record independently with us, they maintain full creative control; 2) they get to own their art - their own master ; and 3) having that kind of control, they have the ability to a make lot more money than the traditional 15% artist royalty.
The downside for the artist is that they must fund the project themselves or find outside investment to cover the costs of the project.
Now this doesn't work for everyone, but it does work for artists who have strong brand recognition, a solid touring base -- those are basics -- and let's not ever forget, quality music.
How does individual project management work?
Each artist that we deal with not only has a different team that we create for them, but that team is all outsourced. Typically, each project can have its own publicist, an internet marketing company, a radio promotion team, and artwork/production, and we help to garner distribution. Internally, we deal with maintaining their budget, hiring the team and holding them accountable, and orchestrating the release -- all the things record companies do. We work very closely with the artist and their management to set up the proper team and oversee all the detail.
When we meet with the artists and their management, we do a bit of an evaluation because everything we set up is tailored to the strength of the music and of course, the strength of the artist and their fan base. The immediate goals and expectations are different on each artist. The goal for some may be to sell hundreds of thousands, and then there are artists that we helped to develop "from the ground up". When you're talking about different marketing initiatives ... that can encompass everything from getting a proper photo shoot or setting up special networking. A lot of those things are considered when you start laying a foundation and expanding it, which we do as a service.
How important is radio promotion to these projects?
To be honest, not every project we've put out has been taken to radio. They may have a radio element, where we're servicing a focus track to different formats, but once again, it comes down to the team's goals, which are discussed with the artists and their managers. That dictates who we use and when we use them, etc.
For some artists, we're basically just using radio as platform to do some interviews and create awareness of their album release; for others it's about putting together a full promo team to chase a single up the charts. Once again, it's really dictated within the goals of each project.
Have you or artists considered crowdsourcing to generate funds?
A couple of the newer artists that we dealt with have tried that and achieved various degrees of success. Our bigger clients have not yet tried any of the options out there.
In your traditional management duties, such as you have with New Found Glory, how has the relationship with labels changed over the years?
As much as this business evolves, it's obvious that the labels have gone through a very difficult period as they continue to evolve. Right now, I believe they are at a point where they are in need of as much support from outside sources as possible. Now if you think about it for a second, having someone like our company, who already has label expertise, we can be great partners that understand the challenges in budgeting and everything else that is today's music business. We become an extra set of hands to help them, not relying on them for everything.
What's your take on 360 deals?
It can work for the right artist. Much like my indie release model, it has proven successful - just not for every artist.
It takes an incredible amount money to market and brand pop artists, due to the additional expense, radio plans, the costs on videos to photo shoots, etc., so for example those artists it may make more sense to sign a 360 deal with a label.
Describe how you manage New Found Glory nowadays.
This is an example of a band that works extremely hard and has a very solid fan base due to touring and interaction with their fans, so we looked at this as a great opportunity to enhance that relationship exampled by releasing their first live album this September independently via Bridge Nine Records. They are very much in the direct-to-fan business and just released a Ramones cover EP for Record Store Day.
We also have a Country duo, Nik and Sam, in Nashville and they have a great publishing company behind them, Bicycle. What we've done in the last of couple years is garner them a strong team -- a great booking agent, sponsorship with Gretsch guitars - and with continued writing, performing and recording, we are now ready to line up meetings in the upcoming months with Nashville labels.
From your experience, is managing a Country act different than a rock one?
Yes, but experience-wise, I spent five years in sales at Sony Music Dallas, where I worked a lot of great Country records. As fate would have it, a lot of my friends have made their way down to Nashville over the years and are now running labels today.
When I look at Nashville and Country music as a whole, there's an extremely loyal fan base that will consistently come out to buy the artists' music and concert tickets -- and when I talk about fan loyalty to their favorite artists, Country artists that are established don't necessarily need a current hit at radio to continue to thrive.
Your company seems to have found a niche, both working with traditional labels in your management responsibilities, and working with artists who are out of the "industry hit-making machine" on a project-by-project basis. What kind of future goals do you set for both aspects of your enterprise?
I'm really happy with where we're at right now. Looking at all the artists we love working with, both in management and marketing, we consider our company to be a real artist advocacy. We stand behind their vision and promote it to the best of our ability. Part of the reason we're helping artists release records independently is because there are so many artists out there that are making incredibly great music, and we love being able to offer an alternative to them from only releasing on a major label.
Could you see yourself growing the company to almost a small indie label size - or even bigger?
Not really. We are comfortable with the size roster we currently have. I would also say to be able to maintain our success rate; we can't take on too many projects, as we really feel it would dilute our services. As I said earlier, it's all about quality vs. quantity and maintaining our focus.