In a free-ranging interview, we gained insights into the inner workings of his red-hot independent label, how they develop talent and how Lauren Daigle “accidentally” became a solo artist.
Rob Dempsey says he was a “throwaway teenager.” On his 16th birthday, his mom kicked him out of the house. Homeless, Dempsey lived on the streets, couch-hopped and stayed in friends’ garages. One night when he was scrounging for food, he stumbled upon a Sony Walkman and began to listen to Christian radio. In between songs, the DJs reminded the young, lost teen that he wasn’t alone and that God loved him. When one of the on-air personalities led the sinner’s prayer during his shift one night, Dempsey says, “I prayed it, and I meant it; and I said, ‘God, I kinda want to do what that guy’s doing.’ … So I’m a product of what we do with Christian radio.”
After moving to Nashville in 2000 to connect his successful modeling agency with the music industry, Mitchell Solarek spent the next 15 years building Maximum Artist Group, a company that offers a wide range of artist services, including management, publishing and now record label services through the newly-minted Maxx Recordings. Solarek was the mastermind behind Christian vocal super group Plus One—one of the most successful new artist launches in CCM history—and today manages Natalie Grant, Donald Lawrence, Danny Gokey and Bernie Herms. He also serves as the executive producer of Mary Mary’s popular reality show on We tv. Last month, he announced the debut of Maxx Recordings, a full service record label, whose first three signees—3for3, Kolby Koloff and Riley Clemmons—will intentionally fill a gap echoing Top 40 sensibilities within the CCM genre. In the midst of a hectic travel schedule, Solarek recently took time to share his vision behind Maxx Recordings, how hip-hop is the new pop and why he’s more excited than ever about the present state of the music industry.
After 14 years at Zondervan, Ryan Dunham joined David C. Cook in 2006 as Vice President of Sales and Marketing, where he oversaw the organization’s rebranding efforts. Today, in his current role as President of Integrity Music, Dunham presides over the company’s music divisions in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the U.K. Home to some of the most prolific artists and songwriters in the industry, including All Sons & Daughters, Paul Baloche, Planetshakers, Lincoln Brewster, Desperation Band, Israel Houghton and Jennie Lee Riddle, among others, Integrity currently controls more than 7,000 songs, such as Newsboys’ “We Believe,” “Revelation Song,” “Your Great Name” and more. In addition, parent company David C. Cook holds non-profit status with a goal to provide discipleship resources for churches around the globe. In the past 12 months alone, the organization has reached 15 million children in 142 countries through their curriculum, tailored to address specific needs in each area of the world. Moreover, 35 million resource materials have been distributed, culminating in 94 million lives touched.
Benji Rogers, President and co-founder of PledgeMusic, speaks passionately about an artist’s ability to reach their biggest fans. That’s because he’s been on both sides. He laughs when asked about the amount he spends in support of his favorite artists, and yet it was his own career as a musician that led to the formation of PledgeMusic in the first place. He’s both artist and patron, and his mission with Pledge is to be the bridge that empowers both sides.
The independent songwriter enjoyed a memorable year in 2014, from a very successful Kickstarter campaign and a spot on Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God tour to a hit album, As Sure as the Sun, and the aforementioned Dove Award win for New Artist. Yet for those who think Ellie’s the new girl on the block, she wants you to know that such success comes with a “slow build” of the community around her.
For the contemporary Christian radio station out of Humble, Texas, risk is an essential part of the station’s identity. In fact, as Tammy Johnson explains, if employees are not taking risk, then they are failing in their job performance. As the head of KSBJ’s exciting endeavor entitled NGEN, Tammy knows firsthand how important the culture of risktaking is at KSBJ.
When Eddie DeGarmo recently announced his upcoming retirement as the President of Capitol CMG Publishing, it cast a shadow far beyond the walls of his employer. DeGarmo, after all, has been a key figure in every phase of the Christian music industry – from Grammy-nominated artist to record label founder. Consequently, many will feel his absence.
Twenty years is a high mark for any label, but for an independent like Gotee Records, it’s a monumental achievement. Yet Gotee is an atypical label with an artist roster built on genre pioneers and a penchant for pushing the envelope. Their risks have been oft rewarded, and co-founder Joey Elwood says caving in to industry fears is still his primary concern.
Ed Leonard was born for this. As the son of Daywind founder Dottie Leonard Miller, Ed has witnessed first-hand the company’s growth from a start-up in a garage to a multi-faceted cornerstone in the Christian music industry over the last 27 years.
The era of the music video is often referred to in past tense, when MTV actually played music videos and artists could become as known for their visual creativity as their songwriting. A major success for Mandisa recently showed that the music video is still alive and well.
Andrew Peterson expected to meet his goal and perhaps even exceed it. What he didn’t expect was the tidal wave of support, appreciation and community he felt after his recent Kickstarter campaign for a new novel as the end result capsized the initial target. Andrew has built a sizable fan base after 15-plus years as a singer-songwriter, the development of the acclaimed Christmas tour “Behold the Lamb of God” and his Christy Award-winning Wingfeather Saga series of young adult fantasy novels. It’s not surprising, then, to see an seasoned artist turn to crowdfunding for a new project.