espite being an industry that has made a reported 43 billion dollars last year, we always hear that there is no money to be made in the music business. The big boys like UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP, SONY, WARNER and EMI are responsible for the large chunks missing from that mighty pie in the sky. Anything smaller, and more independent than them, gets a mere fraction of the returns that the majors make. Entrepreneur MARKUS MULLER-STACH is the last fellow one would ever expect of jumping into the business of rock n roll. The former stockbroker found little fullfillment in the world of finance and sales. He tapped into his long neglected well of creativity at the end of 2004 when he launched his marketing firm SYNCHRONICITY MARKETING, INC. After nine years of specializing in branding, advertising and digital services, MULLER-STACH set his sights on the music industry and launched the label G4L RECORDS. A few months ago, the label issued the album THE GREAT FILTER from the hard rock/progressive band TO WHOM IT MAY and is currently in the process of seeking out new talent to add to the roster. If there is any doubt about the commitment of this label to the best interest of the music maker and their music, please understand that the lost art of A&R is alive and well at G4L RECORDS. As a matter of fact, KEVIN MARTIN - the lead singer of CANDLEBOX - serves as the label's A&R guy. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with MULLER-STACH regarding the founding of G4L RECORDS. Here is how the interview went.
G4L RECORDS is a label that is off to a promising start and your flagship artist TO WHOM IT MAY is really making some noise with their new album. How do you feel about all of this momentum that the label has managed to gain?
I couldn't be more excited! We couldn't be more excited! This was an artist that KEVIN MARTIN of CANDLEBOX found for me, and he's the head of A&R for our label. They've got such talent and this great sound to them that once you hear it, you want to listen for more. We couldn't be more excited to be launching with them as our first artist.
Bring me back to the beginning of G4L RECORDS. What was the inspiration for starting a record label?
It's been a unique journey. We all have a unique journey in life. My background for the past twenty-five years has been in marketing and advertising and sales and this has all been an evoluton of the artist in me coming out. I started in A.G. EDWARDS as a stockbroker in the early nineties. I made a lot of money but I wasn't very happy. I wasn't very fulfilled. My parents were artists and so are my sisters, aunts and uncles. It's something that runs in my bloodline, but I decided that I didn't want to be like my parents, so I went the business route. That was what I thought I wanted and I explored it. When I left A.G. EDWARDS, I went into technology and ENTERPRISE LEVEL SOFTWARE as part of their sales team and got the chance to travel the country and closed some really big accounts. It gave me the chance to finte-tune my sales chops, but I was still unfulfilled. In the early 2000s, I started a marketing firm with no marketing experience and still closed some huge accounts and had six employees and ran a marketing and advertising agency that did everything from branding to marketing planning strategies and digital media and so forth. That was the first time in my life that I was ever profesionally happy because I had a part in creating something and to be part of a creative process. The artist in me was finally being fulfilled. Now, fast forward to about four years ago, someone told me, "Why don't you start a label?" and I was like "What the hell does a label do?" In simple terms, it's bank and marketing. So I took the time to explore that. I grew up in Newport Beach with the guys from SUGAR RAY and had a good relationship with STAN and MARK McGRATH. So I bounced this idea off of those guys and researched it and a few months later, I started a label. It's been a unique, different journey. It was all about me going after a song in my heart and having the artist in me coming out professionally and leveraging my background in sales and marketing with my passion for music.
Your background in marketing, sales and advertising sound like tremendous assets in a business climate that almost doesn't feel like business. I can't tell you how many labels I've seen get started and then fold almost the same day.
Yeah, it's harsh. It's challenging. We're blending art and business and that is a hard blend to make. For us, it's about signing artists that just blow us away and that was what the band TO WHOM IT MAY did for us. It's all about making smart business decisions and doing everything possible within your power and your rolodex to make it happen. Fortunately, I do bring an advertising and marketing background to the table and have done well creating successful advertising and marketing campaign in the past. And with people like KEVIN MARTIN on my team, I think this label boasts an extremely formidable package.
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Earlier, you said a friend of your suggested that you start a record label. What kind of a friend was that?
(Laughs) Yeah, that's so true! All of the big time industry people that I 've met with, and even my own legal counsel where telling me not to do it. They were like "How much are you willing to lose?" Reactions like that were why I took my time in making the decision. But, I also look at it like this. It's a multi-billion dollar business and it's the coolest thing in the world and I just think that it's important to live a meaningful life and trying to make a difference out there. I like to give back to charity as well. I have had a lot of success in sales and marketing and with this new endeavor, I figured I would do my due dilligence and do it right and that is what I've done. We ended up launching the label a couple of months ago with TO WHOM IT MAY and that was after meticulous planning for three and a half years and seeing thousands of live shows. I've put in my time. It is what it is. It's a business like any other. Sure, it's driven by songs, but it's a business. Hopefully we do it the right way.
Another asset to G4L is CANDLEBOX front man KEVIN MARTIN as the A&R man for the label.
Yeah he is. I met KEVIN about a year ago at the VIPER ROOM. I've always been a big fan of his work. I really support the local artists up here in Hollywood and right now there is a big resurgence of the live music out here on the Sunset Strip. We've got the Sunset Jam here at the VIPER ROOM every Monday and we've got the Ultimate Jam at the WHISKEY-A-GO-GO every Tuesday, and that was founded by CHUCK WRIGHT of QUIET RIOT. It is a great resurgence of the music scene although the venues are slowly disappearing out here which is sad for all of us. A year ago I met KEVIN MARTIN and he and I just clicked right away. I was like "Dude! You're KEVIN MARTIN!" and he was like "Uh yes...Yes I am!" It was a big deal to me. I was that guy. I'm not afraid to be that guy. I went up and talked to him and got my picture with him. We stayed in contact and one thing led to another. This was something that he was looking to be a part of and to give back to the musical community for the next phase of his life. He's still touring out there successfully.
You couldn't ask for a better person to be doing A&R - someone whose walked in the shoes of an artist.
I really think so! When you look at how the company is set up, I've got people with 25 years of core expertise at what they do and KEVIN MARTIN is one of them. Here is a guy that has been there, done that and still doing it. He has played the main WOODSTOCK stage in 1994 and has opened for AEROSMITH and METALLICA. He's still out there and touring successfully and still has his finger on the pulse of pop and rock. And beyond that, he's just the greatest dude ever.
What do you see as G4L RECORD's strategy for rolling out product for the artists on your roster?
From my perspective, It's all about doing all of the tried and true ways of breaking an artist or band into public recognition. So much of it is digital but what else is there that still works? Touring still works. We're out there trying to find the right touring partners and developing heavy radio and PR campaigns with a heavy digital focus. We really believe that once we get this band heard, that people are going to be really attracted to them. The band has done their part in the songwriting and putting the album together, and now we, as a label, have to do our part in getting the music out there.
I've interviewed the band TO WHOM IT MAY and I really think they are something else. What is the relationship like between the label and the band?
The relationship is great. I really put myself out there as an artist friendly label. We talked about blending the art with business, and ultimately, in a label relationship, you have a manager, the artist and then the label. It's triangular relationship. I really come from a different mindset. Every individual's skill set is important, so I try to see what everyone is able to bring to the table and empower them, instead of creating an adversarial relationship. That was how a lot of the older labels seemed to function but in my eyes, this is a modern world now. Let's create an overall vision and strategy! I believe in empowering the artist and to get their input on things. From a branding standpoint, no one knows the brand better than the artist. It's their product and it's their business and because of that, we're open to their ideas and whatever graphic designers they may have in mind. I think that level of cooperation is different from the way that most labels have done things in the past. Our methodology is very different and I think it's going to serve us well in the modern world. It's 2018 and people want to feel empowered. They don't want to be told what to do.
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How quickly is the label looking to add new artists to the roster?
We're actually in the process of wrapping up our second artist. It's in the long form phase of negotiation and it's all been verbally agreed to. Sorry that I can't say who they are yet, but I'm very excited to have them on board and we shoud have them squared away by August or September. I'm looking to sign the best artists that we can find. I'm not sticking with any sort of genre. We have the team and expertise to go multi-genre. Our next artist will be an indie artist. Our third artist, if it goes forward, will be a country artist or another hard rock artist. I'm just open to finding the best artists that we can find. We're really looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting this done.
Where do you see G4L RECORDS in five years time?
There is no doubt in my mind that G4L RECORDS will be successful and will help make our artists successful. To what level is hard to quantify, but with me being 49-years old right now and having been through a number of business cycles and having so much professional experience and having run a marketing agency and created businesses from the ground up and having done marketing and growing brands, I know that there is a process to things, but my pedal is on the metal. We want to be a label that is artist friendly and all about promoting developing and collaborating with the artist. That is more what I see from his rather than looking at in dollar figures. I know we'll be successful, but if we do it the right way and empower the artist and create synergy, then we will be successful.
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