The LA Media Entrepreneur moves the game forward in a new age
By JP Durand
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/26/17 – The 90’s and early 2000’s heralded a disturbing but inevitable shift in the music business. In short, the record biz was always like an elaborate check-kiting scheme crossbred with Vegas-style gambling: keep putting out new material on the hopes that one hit record would pay for everything else. Meanwhile, the money coming in from middlemen distributors would keep overhead, recording budgets, alimony, and “recreation” aloft. But eventually everyone knew the check would come due – Napster and the attendant move to the digital medium finally pulled the rug out from the already-sluggish corporate music business model as we knew it.
A younger generation, one that included Jason Swartz, was unfettered by the rules and demands of the old paradigm. The hard work of concert promotion, particularly of 90’s rap and alternative music, offered Swartz a ground floor opportunity to build his own concepts for generating income and influence in the new media landscape, a quest that has continued for over 20 years. Amongst more recent endeavours from him and his company, Alliance Talent, are helping successful artists with huge followings to generate more passive income for themselves by connecting them with emerging media hotspots that want to get more exposure for their content as well as consistent and growing readership, a sort of “cross-hype”, if you will.
These are the new and emerging synergies of the modern age, and Swartz is riding the crest of the wave.
“No one was really building a big email list back then . . . it was more of a cash society then” says Swartz, speaking of his early promotion efforts. “I used to have three interns at every single show – I told them that I want every single email of every single person that walks in this building. But people were really hesitant to give their email back then to give an email . . . now people give up their email much more easily”. During the nascent internet era, It meant then that if he could cross the right email list with the right act – whether Mos Def, Pharcyde, or De La Soul – the concert would sell tickets with less paid promotion to the underground computer user of the day. Here we can see the first signs of a long-term model: passion for the artist, the concert, the medium and understanding of where they fit in the market, crossed with the right audience, right promotional opportunity, and use of the current technology available.
Years later, this relentless push has led to Swartz’s ventures into festival talent booking, where he has arranged high profile appearances at festivals around the world for the likes of Steve Aoki, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Derulo, Charli XCX, Diplo, and Justin Bieber, amongst many others. Most of these famous folks worked with Swartz while in the earlier part of their careers. Thanks to that history, Swartz had formed a sense of confidence and respect with the artists’ management – they have remembered and know he will lead them to good opportunities . Working with these type of high profile clients and keeping his finger on the pulse of new trends has led Swartz to his newest endeavor – arranging “social media monetization” opportunities for high profile clients with followers in the range of 500,000 – 35,000,000 and more.
Swartz states “About 4 years ago, I learned about this business model where people could get paid for driving traffic, not just for affiliate marketing, but to news publications. Just like anyone who is trying to get somebody to read their magazines more often, there’s a whole world of people that try to drive traffic to news publications that are online because obviously then the users are part of those advertising schemes and then those publications make more money”. Thus, in the process of simply sharing information with followers, the celebrity or artist facebooker is changing the focus and content of their news stream, and reaching a new audience, while delivering that readership back to the media company who then compensates the artist. Critically, this facebooker is not making an endorsement – as Swartz says, “they don’t have to be specific about sponsoring a liquor company or a clothing brand, but just sharing news – what recipes they like, what sports they may follow. It exposes their fans to a larger part of their personality.” And the artist makes money without getting on a tour bus, without a personal appearance. The result is less work and more money, utilizing what Facebook has uniquely developed as the “ultimate user experience”. Says Swartz, “The share button on Facebook is the essential key to allowing information to go viral on the Facebook network. While Instagram has added features that help ‘shared content’, the actual ability to instantly share to a large audience is a feature exclusively available on Facebook and again the key tool that allows the Facebook monetization programs that my company uses to succeed. This is the basis for why Facebook has grown to be the largest connected online community on the planet. “
As a person who has seen from the inside the vast changes in the nature of the entertainment industry, Swartz is tapping a potentially lucrative but inherently ephemeral financial stream. His ability to foresee and ride these trends is as important to the success of Alliance as any single good deal. And his advice on all things social media is scalable, if one is willing, as ever, to do the work. “If an individual person is trying to be an influencer, from a micro-influencer to a internationally-known celebrity, if they are looking to increase their following and increase interest from people in their social media channels, they have to engage in lifestyle marketing in the sense that they have to open and show a broader version of who they are. They can’t just show who they are in the public eye as an actor or an athlete – everyone is happy to see a basketball player dunk on somebody, but if you see him cooking with Martha Stewart, it’s like whoa, this guy is a lot more interesting than I thought. Or if he’s riding motorcycles or doing yoga.” In order for someone to become influential, they need to appeal a larger demographic, and therefore have a larger style social media portfolio to present to the world.
In short, Swartz is in the connection business. He is an expert at facebook monetization without the use of brands or endorsements for anyone who has a large enough following, saying that this kind of deep and recognized facebook user could be making an extra $10,000 to $50,000 a month of passive income. For the right client, he can hook it up. Even today, managers of big name musical talent sometimes rely on either their record companies or manager/investors to hire someone to get eyeballs on them. Any Hollywood party will yield stories of artist companies throwing good money after inadequate or just plain bad social marketing services. But Swartz has in a sense reverse-engineered that concept thanks to online news entities (like Wittyfeed, for example) that are willing to pay artists in exchange for putting eyes on their stories.
For the up and coming artist with less likes, Swartz has good advice. His concepts revolve around asking “what is the lowest common denominator in terms of what people like to see?” The answers are somewhat obvious – good looking people, kittens, food. If an entertainer is good at what they do, they will certainly garner a following. But if they really actively share who they are, their interests and stories about those interests, and carefully curate how they present themselves, they can set themselves on a path grow their fanbase and try to lay a claim to more passive income, maybe become a full-fledged Alliance client someday. It’s sage advice from a longtime maverick in a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t business.
Jason Swartz runs Alliance Entertainment. http://www.alliancetalent.net/