In the first of an ongoing series designed to provide insight into the often mysterious behind-the-scenes world of the music industry, Kmag touches down with Scott McCusker, owner of the U.S.-based Cyber Groove Agency & Management Company, to not only drop some insider knowledge but also answer any questions you may have about linking up with an artist representative or management company. As if that wasn’t enough, Scott has secured not one or two but THREE exclusive guest mixes from Cyber Groove artists Maztek, Liminal, and Corrupted Minds!
Give us a brief history of the agency and your area of expertise/focus.
We have been around since October of the year 2000, so a little over fourteen years now. We started out as a rave promotion crew pushing flyers out to ravers, then moved into doing events throughout NYC, New Jersey, and Connecticut for a couple of years before deciding to just keep it to the agency. We are based out of the East Coast of the U.S.; we have offices in New York and Connecticut (more like rooms but who is counting the measurements). The territories we cover are North America (USA and Canada), and sometimes we will snag something up for parts of South America, Australia, and Europe.
We are primarily a drum & bass agency but we do have artists who lean more on the electro and dubstep spectrum – although we leave the brostep alone. Our rosters can be seen at the following links: AGENCY and MANAGEMENT.
For many readers the world of agents and managers is a complete mystery. Give us a quick overview of the kinds of services you offer.
The readers aren’t alone as we are still working our way through some of those mysteries as well; it’s what makes this business so interesting. Basically our job is to seek and book shows for all of our talent but we are also always on the lookout to further their careers in any way we can. Whether it is setting up collaborations or shopping unsigned tunes to labels, the more opportunities we secure for our artists gives us more to offer up to potential promoters, so it all works hand in hand.
For example, we represented KJ Sawka before he went onto Pendulum, Destroid, and Conspirator and were part of the team that secured his first dnb release and worked with him until he signed with Pendulum and their management team. Similarly, we also represented Dirtyphonics early on in their career, organized their first Canadian tour, and booked them with Insomniac Events in Los Angeles and USC Events in Seattle, WA (the top promoters in the southwest and northwest of the U.S. respectfully). We remain in contact with both of these artists and consider them friends.
One of our current international artists, Prolix (Project Trendkill, Ram, Playaz) has been on an absolute tear and we have organized some important dates for him in Canada, the U.S. (including Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas), and recently Bogota, Columbia.
We are in constant contact with all of our artists and I like to encourage a family or crew-like feeling to the agency. You will notice when looking through our roster of artists a majority of them collaborate on tracks, release on many of the same labels, and constantly play shows together all around the world.
For many DJ/producers out there who are still on the come up, at what stage should they start thinking of representation?
This depends on what level of an artist they are. I have artists on my roster that aren’t grabbing many shows but they are just amazing producers, and then I have artists on my roster that are crazy talented and are getting shows left and right. So it is all about knowing what you got, I mean, honestly knowing what you got.
As an artist you have to gauge how swamped you are with your work…if you’re a local artist playing out three to four times a week or even two times a week, then it might be time putting energy into trying to perform in the next couple of cities over. Also since you are this busy, you can look into finding someone to take some of the work load off of you and work with you to get outside of your local area. The more attractive and hardworking you come across to an agency or a management company the better.
Before they approach you what should they have lined up and prepared to share with you? Are there certain numbers they need to have lined up or is it just a matter of money?
Things artists should have before they reach out are all of their social media sorted (likes or follows aren’t that important – it is more about how engaged their fans are), a studio mix (also a live mix is a plus), photos, biography, and any press they may have received.
As for the money aspect, if we were all about the money then we would have went with another genre of music. With that said, artists do need to be able to make enough money to support themselves and make enough for the management company or agency for us to take them on as a client. This is not because agencies or management companies are greedy, it is because it is a business and even if we were a nonprofit business people need to understand that it costs money to run a business.
Check this scenario with two artists, let’s call them Artist A and Artist B: Artist A can make us more revenue than Artist B so if our roster is full we will take on Artist A for sure. However, if Artist B has crazy potential then we want to stay in touch with that artist and help them to get to the level of Artist A. That is where we would involve our management leg to help grow that artist so they are appealing to the territories that we work within.
A huge part of signing with an agency such as yourself is the organization of tours, right? Especially since many Kmag readers are based in the UK, give us a sense of the steps involved in setting up a tour for your international artists.
All of our international acts for the most part come over only for tours. The tours could be a short three dates or a full two weeks of dates. One-off dates do happen but it is mainly for festivals or with a company that just has to have them. This past summer saw the North American tours of Total Science, Prolix, Maztek, Nymfo, and we have Optiv heading over in December.
How we do tours is find an anchor date and then work from there. If there is a lot of demand we will figure out one weekend and if interest comes in for the second weekend then we’ll make that happen. We work close with our artists’ agents over in the UK / Europe to make this a painless process for everyone involved. Then we book out the first date of the tour and then the last date of the tour and fill in the rest.
A very important thing to mention is the need for work visas for the United States. This is a long and hard process and not everyone can obtain one. A branch of the U.S. government will need to see proof that you are a legit artist that is popular enough to work in the U.S. They do this by asking for proof letters from labels, other industry folks, collect your international and domestic press, and review past contracts for shows outside of the U.S. So if you don’t have all of this, you are not coming to the U.S. to perform. So if you are an international artist and you want to perform in the U.S. it is important for you to find someone who understands this process a great deal. Don’t listen to the agency that says, “You’ll be fine, just come on a tourist visa,” they can’t do anything for you when you get banned for ten years.
Canada is easier for international artists as their visa process is less strict but you do need one and this is worked out by the promoters so not much work is needed on the agency / artist side.
Last but not least, I know you guys have some big things coming up in the near future – give us a sense of where you and your artists are headed.
The last couple of weeks have been very exciting. I can’t drop details just yet but have been catching up with a lot more crews in North America that are putting the spotlight on drum and bass again and we are being looped in since they believe (and we agree) we represent the new sound of drum and bass. We also have a little something for the old school heads since we represent those who stayed relevant over all these years such as Total Science, Freaky Flow, Bachelors of Science and the list goes on.
My artists are incredibly hard working and talented so they deserve everything that comes their way. In the pipeline for them there are more major signings, where more EPs and albums are being asked of them versus single releases, so the future is bright.
To get in touch with me, feel free to hit me on email, Facebook, or Twitter. I believe it is unprofessional to not respond to emails since that person took the time to write me so give me a couple of days if I’m busy and I’ll get back in touch.
If you’re a promoter, head over to our site and fill out a request form and we’ll get back to you in a hurry. For artists and promoters who are looking for cool resources I also keep a blog speaking about industry topics as well so be sure to check that out.
Thanks for the support Chris and big ups to KMag and all its readers – the true Junglists!!