When most of us think of the word “artist” we can probably picture someone creating either music or a drawing/painting. Rarely do people refer to the person behind the scenes as the artist. But what if we are all artists in our own respect? I mean think about it…you’re good at something. According to the third definition listed under Merriam Webster, an artist is “a person who is very good at something.” It’s that simple. We all have strengths, and while some are not as evident as others, our strengths are present. Therefore, whether behind the scenes or on stage performing, we are all artists. This includes marketing and radio promotions guru, George Hess.
Even though Hess discovered early on that he would not make his mark in this world by creating music, he learned instead that he wanted to create a platform for a musician’s songs to be heard by the masses. And that’s just what this music veteran has done.
Upon graduation from the University of Denver, he picked up DJing. This was his initial way to discover new music and to share it with others. I’m sure we’ve all learned though, that as the years go by our careers evolve and progress. He went on to own a record shop, and then acquired his first real music industry job in 1989 working under the world-renowned record producer, Clive Davis at Arista Records. For those unfamiliar, Arista was founded by Davis in 1974 and was one of the premiere labels of its time. The label was owned under Sony Music, and lasted for over 30 years until it folded into RCA Records in 2011. While at Arista, Hess headed up the Dance Department. To work for such an esteemed label must truly be an honor.
The success didn’t end there, however. In 1994, he had his first startup – Elite/ADM Marketing. With this national radio and street promotion company he played a vital role in breaking some of the world’s largest acts including Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Lil Jon, 50 Cent, and Sean Paul to name a few. Fast forward to 2015 where he is currently a radio and label representative for Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records and Armin van Buuren’s powerhouse label, Armada Music. He has helped to commercialize songs like Armin’s iconic collaboration “This is What is Feels Like.” Additionally, he recently founded yet another business – Zero2Fifty Group. According to Hess, “We began to realize that while the major labels were good at taking an already successful song and crossing it over [meaning they go into pop], there was a gap in terms of identifying these songs early on and developing them to the point of popular success. Zero2Fifty was conceived to bridge that gap.” The company fosters projects from “zero to fifty” meaning their goal is to break an artist/song early. Zero2Fifty represents acts such as Armin van Buuren, Kaskade, Kiesza, 3LAU, Cosmic Gate, Steve Aoki, Hardwell, Seven Lions, and The Chainsmokers to name a few.
In whatever career field you pursue, it is always crucial to remember the significance of self-care. This is something that you NEED to make time for in your daily schedule. For Hess, eating healthy and exercising are two of his biggest passions aside from music. Fortunately for Hess, his wife Jamie (who works in entertainment/lifestyle PR) is just as enthused about living a healthy lifestyle as her husband. According to Hess, he has taken a particular interest in the interplay between the fitness and EDM spaces. I mean think about it…when you go to the gym, you’re probably listening to some good pump-up EDM right? He and his wife work out together daily and even partake in “Barry’s Bootcamp”, which is a group class that incorporates mostly electronic music into the workouts. He says, “It’s basically a nightclub with treadmills and weights!” When we take the time to take care of ourselves, we see even more results in our professional lives as well.
Along with self-care it is also essential to have a great support system. Not only has he been blessed with a fantastic work environment, but he is also very close with his wife and children. He takes pride in the fact that his oldest son actually works for him, for example. His kids are extremely supportive of their father’s career in the entertainment industry. Likewise, as previously mentioned, since his wife works in a similar field then they are able to share this passion for hard work.
Despite the daily struggle to impact the music industry in a highly saturated space, Hess has learned to “remain grounded, realistic, and tenacious.” He says, “Although our goals are always in sight, we are patient and diligent, understanding how long things can take to break. That’s the reality of this business, and it is critical to understand.” I could not agree more. Slow and steady really does win the race. It is important to maintain integrity and to build a “real” and loyal fan base. Give back to your friends and fans. Help people because you want to, not because you want something in return. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are willing to help you chase your dreams. Remember, you’re a product of your environment.
Now, that you’ve had a chance to read a portion of George’s story, we can only hope that your perception of an artist has now changed. Even though he does not produce music, Hess clearly is an artist when it comes to marketing, promotions, and even being a role model for us younger generations; this my friends…is what he aspires to accomplish.