My model is kind of the Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come”
– Bobby Kimberley
MM: How did YLMC come together?
BK: Young Lions came together kind of accidentally. When I left my full time salaried gig I got all these emails from label people and artists asking, “We want to still work with you. I’m going to build you into our Factor budget and invoice you. Who am I invoicing and what are you?
I was freelancing and thought maybe I should register this thing and push it as a company. Leading into NXNE 2011 I launched the company; Young Lions Music Club. The name just had a nice catch to it and was inspired by The Constantines, who I’m a big fan of. I had a showcase that year. It was the Young Lions Music Club showcase and that was the birth of it, just a name to put everything under the umbrella.
MM: You worked at Sony in that big label scene and at The Musebox you were working with artists of all different sizes. Now that you’ve worked at opposite ends of the industry spectrum, what are the differences in how they approach new music?
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]There’s no right answer anymore… No Push A to get B” [/pullquote] BK: It’s no secret that time and time again the big labels keep failing artists. It just comes down to not being able to be creative and flexible enough to break an artist.
If an artist is at the level where they can get mainstream radio and the cover of all these big magazines, then the major label is exactly what you need. They’re still functioning in that arena. But they’re having an impossible time getting artists to that level cause they just don’t have a clue.
There’s no right answer anymore. There’s no “Push A to get B and push C to get D”, it’s just a combination of being a great artist, having great content, and being creative in your approach.
The bands that I’m working with, none of them are humongous. I can’t say I know how to make a band humongous these days.
I don’t think anybody really can say that with certainty. Just be a really good band and I think that’s the biggest part of it.
MM: You’ve had years of experience working with bands. When did you start working specifically with brands?
BK: In University my summer job was as a promo rep for Labatt and Coca Cola. There’s a stigma if you’re not a mainstream kind of person, you therefore can’t involve yourself with the mainstream services like Coca Cola or Labatt or whatever.
MM: That concept of selling out?
BK: Right. But for me at the time I was a broke college student and they’re paying me $600 a week plus giving me a vehicle just to drive around and give out beer? Fuck anyone who says that’s not a sweet gig. I guess with that experience in school the stigma attached to working with brands had washed away a long time ago.
MM: So when did you start bridging that gap between independent artists and brands?
BK: When I was at The Musebox I was trying to shake the heads of the managers. Why are we carrying 40 band rosters? Why don’t we just pitch to Nissan? Nissan just dropped a million and a half dollars on this campaign to launch a new car and get cool people driving it; like creative musicians. If we got a million and a half dollar contract to do this thing, that’s what we’re bringing in two years worth of business.
[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]That’s what Young Lions has developed into: A community coveted by people who have products to promote” [/pullquote]As the business development guy at The Musebox, I was having these conversations with EMI and Universal and Sony and having to drop our rates down to miniscule numbers. It became increasingly obvious that it just isn’t sustainable.
When I left I did so with the thought process that I’m not going to be a broke artist’s publicist working a dozen contracts. I’m going to build something that is a coveted entity for brands. That’s what Young Lions has essentially developed into: a community that is coveted by people who have products to promote.
Whether it’s a beer company or a show company or a poutine stand, you want to target these people? We have these people. The common thread is music, and we’re not going to work with brands that I don’t think our audience would be excited about. But I have no problem in saying, “this party is paid for by Toyota.”
MM: It appears to work well when you bring musicians and brands together at an event. It seems at the core of the Young Lions Music Club are these events. These buzz-worthy parties…
BK: They are the easiest way to get people excited, and it’s the easiest way to attach sponsors. I think the live event, whether it’s a dance party or a concert, is always going to be at the crux of what we’re doing.
On one side were a marketing agency but on the other side, which is perhaps even more exciting, we’re building and fostering a community.
In bringing people together I want it to get to a point where you come out to a Young Lions thing and you’re high-fiving a hundred people cause they’re all your friends now. My challenge is to get people continuously interacting and more familiar with each other.