Marshmello and Moe Shalizi (Source: Instagram)
The 28-year-old, who left Red Light Management to launch his own company in December, also represents Jauz, Ookay, Slushii, among others. He’s regarded as one of the brightest “next generation” managers in the industry (hence MBW’s feature).
Shalizi spoke with MBW about a variety of topics, including Marshmello’s groundbreaking concert on the hugely popular game, Fortnite.
His advice to independent artists:
“Play it slow. A lot of people get excited and go sign a label deal, but all of my guys [signed to Shalizi Group] are independent. That gives us the freedom to do what we want to do. What affects a lot of artists is that point when they start making a little bit of money. Everything changes, they go sign a deal and now they have a bunch of A&Rs telling them how their music should sound, following trends. Some artists need a label, they need that infrastructure, and some artists don’t. And for the artists that don’t, if you’re starting to bubble, you did that yourself, you know? So keep doing it.”
On Marshmello’s Fortnite performance:
“We were really nervous when it happened just ’cause we were just praying it would go successfully, especially with the voice of [‘mello] talking into the game for everybody to hear. But, in the end, it was amazing. [Mello] was in this room, geared up head-to-toe with a body-motion suit and everything, with maybe 30 or 40 people [surrounding him]. It was a crazy thing to be a part of. We’d worked on [it] for six months with [Epic Games]; those guys were and are completely ahead of the curve, big time. I think what they’re doing is going to be revolutionary for music.”
On building a core audience:
“The mistake people often make is they go way too quick into the commercial space. And once you’re there, you can’t really jump back. We look at other artists, other DJs that are now tied to corny pop single after corny pop single to keep them relevant, which is like, just whack. It’s easy to go and get a big feature [with a pop star], but we stay away from them. Everyone we’ve worked with – like Anne-Marie, Bastille or CHVRCHES – aren’t [pop megastars]. We’ve taken the position, even with the hip-hop stuff we do, to leverage our audience with the core audiences of these artists who are crazy loyal. That helps keep the [‘mello] brand cool, you know? To some people, Marshmello is as far from cool as possible, but it’s not like we ever went and did an obvious record with the biggest pop stars. That helps set us apart.”
On the traditional record label model:
“To me, the idea of owning other people’s music is weird. It’s like, if you were a painter and I was like, ‘Hey, paint a masterpiece for me, then I’m gonna own everything and give you 18%.’ You’d be like, ‘Where does the rest of the money go? Where does the 82% go?’ I mean, there is a lot of value that labels can add. But for artists, owning your masters is so important right now, ‘cause that’s your money in perpetuity. You can make money forever on those masters thanks to streaming. Streaming’s just growing, so not owning your own sh#t is crazy; just for an advance, you’re giving away everything. But then I’ve sat with artists [who signed major label deals] and they’re like, dude, I was at a place in my life where the $150,000 advance I signed allowed me to make the music I make now. I’m like, fair enough. We were lucky never to be in that position. But yeah, I get it; for some people, they need that peace of mind of having some money in the bank and being able to focus. But at what cost? A five album deal? That’s a lot of f#cking music.”
His advice to new managers:
“… the biggest thing for managers is that you have to really believe in what you’re doing. Management involves a lot of luck, and good management is really about what you do when that luck finally hits. If you have acts that are popping off but then they’re mismanaged, a week later, nobody’s talking about your act again. So have a strategy to build, for the next six months at least. ‘Cause it’s not easy when something big happens. And that fact gets forgotten.”