Madison House is an independent agency and management company based in Boulder, Colorado that works with acts like The String Cheese Incident, JJ GREY, David Cook and so many more. This week, TNB spoke with Jordan Burger, the head of their Nashville office, about what sets the company apart, how they are dealing with the age of COVID, and so much more. Click here to read our full conversation and see the highlights below.
Burger – Since our formation in 1996, Madison House Inc. has been dedicated to providing unique and innovative management and booking for our clients. Our approach to the music business comes from a belief in the music we promote, an attention to the needs of both our artists and their fans, and an absolute willingness to try anything. Our business practices incorporate the successful methods of the past and the evolving possibilities of the future https://madisonhouseinc.com/
TNB – What types of artists does the company typically gravitate towards?
Burger– Americana, Funk, Electronic, Singer-Songwriter, Alternative, Southern Rock, Jam, Roots & Folk
TNB– The agency space is a very competitive one with a lot of players. What unique advantages does Madison House offer?
Burger – In an era where many agencies continue to merge, and the larger conglomerates are beholden to investors, Madison House has been a leading innovator, a creative independent player, developing legitimate long lasting career artists, for nearly 25 years now. Every so-called “major” agency is going to attempt to sell the idea of their full-service across many arms. The reality is they often only deliver for their top tier household name clients. A great agent cares to invest early in a worldwide, long term, career growth touring strategy, and attempts to builds relationships with all agents, agencies, label reps, managers, publicists, lawyers, publishers, etc., with an extra touch of personal creativity. Regardless of the size of the firm, quality delivery comes down to the hustle of the agent and the community acceptance, love and sharing of an artist, or their record or live performance. I think our agents at Madison House are as strong if not stronger, and more creative and passionate than any other agents in the business. We have put together a valuable team of bright, hustling, youthful & veteran agents who are always looking to do things a little differently than the normal routine. By example, Madison House created some of the first fan club and destination experiences, manages and books multiple, staple, festival headliners. Madison House Presents oversees the concert season at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY, has presented select dates on national tours for numerous arena artists like Mumford & Sons and Chance the Rapper, and curates festivals like Electric Forest. All the while booking a tremendous roster of talent.
TNB– What advice do you have for acts that are not ready for an agent, but are still looking to get out and start developing markets?
Burger – First and foremost, learn how to book, market and promote your own shows. You’ll appreciate your team more if you know how challenging our job is. Don’t find us, we’ll find you. It’s never been easier for a band to put out music to streaming services, and to create, upload & share videos and other content to sites like tik Tok, youtube and other forms of social media. When your music is really good enough, I promise it will shine through, and fans will come out, and then the industry will find you. We are generally turned off by cold calls and emails and notes that say “we’ve played 10,000 shows, we’re ready for an agent.” The reality is if you’ve played 10,000 shows, you should be able to sell out large venues, or there’s a problem with your show, or your music isn’t connecting. An agent can’t change that, we can only augment what’s working and reacting with fans to a larger level. If you can’t sell out a show after hundreds or thousands of shows in your town, then the reality is your music may not be connecting. Work on your art, don’t worry so much about finding the industry. When your show is good enough, your tickets will sell. When your tickets sell, the venues tell local agents to come out and see, they suggest you as the local act who can sell tickets for larger shows. If your show is good enough, and if your songs are reacting, fans will talk about your band and spread the word for you, and the industry will quickly take notice. So my advice is Don’t call us, when you’re really ready, We’ll ALL come to you! Just go out and play, play, and play some more, package with friends, market your shows, and work on your craft, work on your songs, work on your live performance, and don’t worry so much about finding the industry. When your music is really connecting with an audience, the industry will easily find and come to you. If you’re sending out demos and chasing the industry, and wondering why you’re not getting a record deal, a pub deal, or an agent, the harsh reality is your music or your show is just likely not yet good enough. When it is, the growth is easy and obvious. Fans will do the work of finding the industry for you. So my advice is to keep writing, keep practicing, keep making videos, keep playing live, just get better. Don’t go looking for the industry. If and when you’re ready, for an agent, for a label deal, for a publisher, etc, I promise the industry will come to you.
TNB– Madison House opened its Nashville office in 2016. What are the company’s plans in Nashville over the next 5 years?
Burger – Nashville is changing and growing in so many ways. There are lots of transplants from NY, LA, Chicago, and it is important that we respect the original beauty of Nashville and what Music City is. While our presence is changing the landscape, I’ve been in Nashville for 8 years now, it is important that we Add to Nashville’s legacy, and not attempt to change or disrespect it. I honestly love country music, and I actually love worship music too, would be thrilled to be more involved with either genre. But our team primarily gets excited by Americana, Jam, Pop, Alternative, Folk & Electronic acts, which is an equally exciting part of the evolving Music City story. We are doing our best to embrace the local culture, to be a part of the Nashville music community, in amazing times of celebration and in obvious recent tragic situations, no matter the genre. While other agencies are consolidating and often firing their overflow, we are out looking for agents and hiring. I should clarify our hiring plans are on pause, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but Madison House has a strong core of agents and we’re excited to get back to where we left off. We’re looking for agents that know how to sign and develop artists, with their own distinctive taste, style & hustle. We’re looking for innovators and entrepreneurs. We’re looking for exciting live bands or artists, in all musical genres, that are headlining with confidence, filling small venues nationally and growing their base organically. In this time of agency consolidation, there are still many wonderful independent booking agencies in town that do just as great a job as the majors. At Madison House, we have half a dozen offices with nearly 50+ employees around the nation. Our home base is Boulder CO, and here in Nashville, where I was alone setting up shop just a few years ago, we’ve just hired our seventh Nashville employee, and we recently took over the original classic Grimey’s record store above the O.G. Basement on 8th Ave. Some of the stars represented out of our local Nashville office include rising superstar electronic artists like CloZee & MEMBA, Grammy nominees Southern Avenue, #1 hit Alternative rock band The Unlikely Candidates, soulful funk band Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, Americana stars Smooth Hound Smith, singer songwriter Emma Hern, bluesy jam band Travers Brothership, and Idol Winners David Cook & Kris Allen. There are strong, quality, independent agencies here, providing amazing opportunities for creative, healthy touring musicians, with active fans. It’s an exciting and opportunistic time to live in Music City. We are here for the long haul, and we’re excited to work with phenomenal talent, from all genres of music, so get to know us.
TNB– So much of the Madison House Business obviously comes from live shows, how are you guys dealing with the current situation? Similarly it looks like live shows will be the last thing to return at the end of this. How is Madison House preparing/taking advantage of this time?
Burger– We are definitely concerned about the fate of the live music industry right now. There’s no revenue at the moment and no clarity within cities, states, or the country as to a uniformed plan for reopening businesses. Live music is such a valuable part of a person’s soul, but suddenly the enjoyment of a concert is a pariah’s activity. The largest of corporations have furloughed thousands of employees, but many of them have investor backing. The independent firms, the rock clubs, local promoters, the tour crews and indie agents, the bartenders, the sound mixers, the stagehands .. there are so many people affected at all levels, on up to the largest of corporations.
At Madison House we’ve been having a lot of discussions about how we can be supportive of our teammates, our managers, our artists and tour crews. Mental health is as important throughout this crisis as one’s physical well being. There’s been a lot of canceling and rescheduling, and canceling those rescheduled dates these last few weeks, and now we are working on ideas with our artists that share our creative spirit, to support live performances in this new world of social distancing. We are also reflecting wisely on where we just came from, I feel I’ve had a bit more quality time at home, and now thinking a lot about how we can improve upon our individual and collective businesses when we re-emerge from this thing. We need to look at this time as an opportunity to correct past mistakes, and open new doors, try out new ideas, better ourselves as people. I hope I for one can emerge from this time a better and more focused person, agent, and father.
TNB– On one hand, it’s a great time to put out content since everyone is at home absorbing it, yet it is now that much harder to cut through. Any interesting content/livestream highlights/strategies from Madison House artists?
Burger– Initially everyone dove headfirst into the Instagram / facebook Live for Venmo model. Which is great, but also like playing on a street corner and without the need for an agent. My first ever booking client was a pop duo called “Evan and Jaron” and Evan went on to create the ticketed live stream platform known as Stage-It. There seems to be a live stream for everything now though. I’m more impressed with those who are figuring out ways to be unique with their streams, those with themes, locations, costumes, reasons .. originality! I’m also grateful to those artists who see the value we bring to their team and are including us in their online live performance opportunities, so that we can continue to be there for them in all the years to come. We are actually working on a concept now I hope to share more about soon. For now, we just have to focus on staying healthy, taking care of and being good to each other. There will be festival hugs again soon, I promise.