EDMBoutique Industry Spotlight: With Mike Fazio
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Fazio for our all-new series Industry Spotlight. Mike has been in the industry for a minute behind the scenes and has worked with a ton of artists. Now stepping out in 2020 check out what Fazio had to say about the industry & state of artist management below.
How did you get involved with music in general?
I’m getting old here so it’s quite a long story but I’ll give you the short version of it all. I’ve been in this industry for many years, I’ve seen cities transform, technology advance, waves of different scenes grow and sometimes even expire. I have been lucky enough to witness projects and sounds you would have never thought could come together, mesh perfectly with one another; and with the right timing – make an impact on culture. That right there is the most exciting part for me, which later on created my mission and business model for supporting artist and their process. In order to be a leader and support system in management, you have to stay humble and always be mindful of the passion that inspired you to get involved from the beginning. This is why, I always love paying homage to my roots and the beginning of this journey because I think it’s important to reconnect.
As the digital landscape transcends we sometimes lose touch with the personalized effects that come with the analog world for example – back in the day, that’s what always inspired me – the simple fact that artists and producers had to be in the same room to create. It forced collaboration and community, which is the platform that was most attractive to me as a social entrepreneur. At the time, there was a lot of rappers who I met around the way and wanted to help them put out their music. I was pretty savvy with computers so I bought a cheap condenser mic and installed Cubase on my computer and started recording their music. I helped distribute it as well since back then it was all physical copies, self marketing, canvassing local businesses to support and show up to shows or events, and I’d do it all. I was on the ground, on my feet, getting CD’s duplicated and passing them out, hosting studio time in my apartment, and teaching or encouraging artists how to set up a MySpace page to promote themselves. I also had another hustle which was throwing events in Philly as a promoter. This was the avenue that started to change the course for me because I found myself instinctively looking for ways to plug in artists I was working with so that they could get some stage time and practice showcasing their music. Without knowing it at the time, this was where I became more involved in artist management in particular since now I was not only hosting studio time, but I was overseeing the stages leading up to a performance which inevitably turned my business hat on as an advocate seeking opportunities to pay it forward and push culture as much as I could.
As time went on, I was basically living in nightclubs where I began to fall in love with DJ culture, and Philly was just simply put, monumental for it. At the time we had AM, Jazzy Jeff, The Skratch Makaniks, Josh Wink, and Diplo. It was a beautiful time! Later on, as I mentioned in the beginning of this interview, I started getting older and with age comes prioritization, ha! I got tired of being in the clubs, although I love showcasing the music I back up and support, I missed the initial stages of creativity so I pivoted my attention back to focusing on artists which lead me to where we are now.
What got you into electronic music?
The Chemical Brothers. I first heard “Block Rockin Beats” back in high school playing over an end of the year video montage that the yearbook staff put together. The song has a sample from an old Schooly D record with so many other interesting elements that I was familiar with which made it so good, man was I instantly hooked so I began to dive into more experimental stuff. “Cajmere – Percolator” was also a game changer for me. This song was always played at school dances and parties. Cajmere has so many classics. For those who don’t know Cajmere is also known as Green Velvet. As far as club music goes, it was ‘Diamond K – Pick Em Up” that got me hype on what has happening in Baltimore. This track was often played on Philly radio mix shows. Come to think of it I think Diamond K was also mix show DJ.
When I was underage, I started going to clubs on Delaware Ave in Philly on the weekends, sliding through wherever I could get in while letting the nightlife absorb me. I would listen to Louie DeVito’s NYC Underground mix series on my way to the club. To this day Louie is a friend of mine and we meet up in Little Italy for pizza on occasion. Louie is a legend and put me onto a lot of amazing dance music. It’s hilarious but “Darude – Sandstorm” was one of them, haha! But yeah I’d bounce from show to venue, bar to club, underground parties to random hole in the walls. I’d finish the night up with a head full of ideas, a pocket full of receipts with scribbled notes and business cards (mine to handout and those I would collect like baseball cards). I’d wake up smelling like cheesesteak knowing that it was solid a weekend and instead of resting, I would go straight to my desk jot down those crazy ideas, put those business cards in front of me, try to decode whatever scribbles I had noted, and BOOM little did I know I was essentially creating the structure of my business and workflow.
Years later, I’m still doing the same thing but now I live in Brooklyn, traveling a lot, going to festivals, and have the luxury of Google docs (you already know, G-Suite my guy!). The only thing these days I smell more of is halal or chopped cheese versus good ol’ cheesesteak.
Which artist are you currently working with?
Astronomar, Eyes Everywhere, G-Buck, Jesse and The Wolf, Love Taps, Nadus, Swizzymack, and UNIIQU3. I also work look after a Shahmen which is a big hip-hop project, and a studio producer based in Italy, his name is Chryverde.
What is it about your roster that makes it unique?
I take pride in getting behind cultural music scenes, my values are straightforward and I stay loyal to them: Humility, Reciprocity, Authenticity, and Creative Collaboration. Overall, for me it’s more meaningful and rewarding to work with artists who are using their art as a platform to tell their story, bring to the mainstream a narrative that reflects on more than just the attention they receive but is a form of expression communicating the pride they have in where they come from.
Culture is so important and crucial to instill in up and coming generations, the newer generation of listeners are more educated on the sound, have more access to streaming options, adapt to technological tools in a blink of an eye, a total era where consumers are also their own multimedia strategists that can connect to whatever the internet provides despite being worlds apart. That alone, is magnificent if you think about it, that’s the core of humanity this bridge we have with one another, especially when it comes to the role of music and how it’s manifested into our daily lives. All the artists that I work with have similar visions, making it a great partnership to work as a team versus dictating or structuring a business with one over the other. Thankfully, music is rising into an era that is promoting more of these values and becoming more inclusive. Brand partnerships are extremely important for independent artists, attaining sponsorship and visibility from bigger brands and corporations is essential to paying the bills – and even those bigger names and companies are becoming more aware and want to align themselves with authentic musicians and creative influencers.
That’s where I believe my artists thrive, they have their own voice, vision, and strategy to where they want to be. I love that, I am always doing what I can to advocate a sense of independence and empowerment which reflects the strength of our network as a family, that energy is contagious because it stands for something and isn’t blown away by the first wind of the season. I’m really happy to have the opportunity to work with such talent and I’m going to do whatever it takes to bring their specific genres forward. This has become my mission in life.
Are there any particular moments that you are proud of most?
Last year UNIIQU3 had the opportunity to work with the WNBA on a commercial that was aired during the draft. It’s ironic because back in the day she made a track called “WNBA Theme Song” and I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be crazy if we got to actually work with the league one day? We got invited to the actual draft and I ran into Geno Auriemma who grew up in my hometown, he asked why I was there and I told him why and he was blown away. This just goes to show good things can happen if you put it out there in the universe.
What is happening right now in the industry that is exciting you the most?
The advancement of music tech. I was just at a big summit last month and was introduced to a lot of innovative startups that are going to change the future of music. It’s also really cool to watch the whole landscape change each day. It’s crazy how much of an impact TikTok has become especially for club music, the #1 viral record right now is a Jersey Club record because of it.
Are there any challenges that you face often in the business?
Absolutely. Like any business, it can be very “clicky”. It’s sad to say but no matter how hard you work, some things just won’t get done if you aren’t friends with certain people. You have to act like a politician in this business and show your face, shake hands with the right people, and get involved as much as you can. As easy as that all sounds, it can be difficult because some of these guys will act cool with you at first but will quickly toss you to the side. That’s just the nature of the game though, you have to be relentless, consistent, you have to be your own motivator, you have to be okay with taking a thousand steps sideways and backwards sometimes just to get an inch of a step forward. But, those inches measure up and before you know it you are making leaps standing on the ground you paved, but walking on the industry that has transformed over decades before you even learned how to walk. To be independent is not always as fashionable as Instagram promotes it, your not only your boss, you are also your own publicist, your own therapist, your own promoter, your own accountant, your own administrative body. That’s a lot to carry, but with time and structure it becomes second nature and you begin to appreciate the challenges thrown at you in a new light.
Are you working on anything new that you’d like to mention?
I just picked up Astronomar and G-Buck who I’ve been a fan of for a while. Both are living legends who have an arsenal of music coming out and it’s never going to stop. I’m hype! We are going to crush it. I am also working on a brand new project that started out as an idea just fun called “THE DRIV3R”. To quickly describe it, it’s a futuristic take on Synthwave with elements of other electronic genres. We released the first single a few weeks ago with no label and it’s is already off to a decent start. The visuals are insane once you see them! I am really excited to get more involved with the gaming community with this one.
What is your overall goal?
To continue to put club music on the map and see how far we can go with it. It’s time for the underdogs to win. And I believe we can do it, we ARE doing it.
Any last words?
If anyone reading this is working their way up in the business or aspiring to be a musician just remember nothing will come easy, no matter how many people you know, how long you think you’ve known what you know, this game will surprise your every turn and keep you humble because it’s constantly changing and breathing as its own body. So make sure you make every step count and tally up those small victories. There’s many obstacles you might face but keep going no matter what and if you ever feel down make it a priority to talk to someone,build your tribe, and be okay to ask for help and can count on those that have come before you for advice.
@mikefazio / @evilmgmt