For the latest Industry Spotlight, I had the chance to talk with Moe Shalizi, who provided some remarkable insight into his journey into the music business and talked about how he built the careers of some of our favorite artists. With No Filters Group and Buygore under his belt, he’s become one of the most sought after managers in the industry and we’re very excited to have him featured as the latest edition to our Industry Spotlight series. For aspiring artists, managers, and everyone in between, Moe Shalizi will undoubtably share some crucial knowledge as to what it takes to truly succeed in the electronic music industry.
Describe your journey into discovering electronic music and getting into the business
I’ve always been a pretty business minded person. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I really started getting into electronic music. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to save up and buy myself some cdj1000 mk3’s and a djm 800 to try to learn how to dj. With this purchase, I knew I had to figure out a way to recoup the money I had just spent. Dance music was growing but all of the cool events were either in OC or LA and the inland empire had nothing to offer. So with the help of some friends I started a weekly EDM night at a local dive bar in Corona called Racks. We made a cool little deal with the bar owner and I provided all of the sound equipment and took over so many people’s Facebook accounts to spam the heck out of our night. None of us ever imagined that we’d pull in hundreds of college kids every Thursday night for 6 months straight. It was on one of those nights that I got a Facebook message from Kennedy Jones, Klepto from KleptoMaddox at that time. He said that it was J. Rabbits birthday and that him and the whole US dubstep group wanted to come in and check out our night. At that point I lost my shit as I had only heard about Klepto and the US Dubstep guys through the grapevine and J.Rabbit was one of my favorite artists. It was that night that I formed a relationship with Steven Pahel (Current label manager for Buygore), Andrew Jones (Kennedy Jones), and Kevin Maddox ( Maddox) that would forever change my life.
As our weekly event continued to progress, I had gotten accepted into a few Universities and made my decision to go to UC Riverside. Well all-good things come to an end and the night died due to some unforeseen circumstances. But my new found relationships didn’t. At that time Steven had been picked up to go on the road with Borgore as his official photographer, which was a big deal so we were all stoked. Meanwhile I would spend my nights after school hanging with Kennedy just watching him make music. Well, Steven used his new position to help bring some recognition to the rest of us and introduced us all to Borgore. Kennedy officially joined the Buygore family with his big remix of “Suavemente” at the time and the moment I met Asaf, we just hit it off. I hung around with my new Buygore family and soaked up as much knowledge as I could about the industry but couldn’t officially do anything as I was still a fulltime business student working on getting my finance degree (now graduated). But once my class load got lighter, I decided that I was ready to work with all my friends and I was given the opportunity to start managing under Buygore. I quit my job with Hewlett Packard and ever since then its been nothing but an amazing roller coaster of every kind of emotion you could ever think of. Quitting my regular 9-5 job wasn’t easy but I knew that the satisfaction I would get from building my artists was greater than any amount of money I could ever make. And I’ve continued to live by that philosophy and it hasn’t failed me.
The idea of putting your faith in someone to manage your career and take it to the next level is not an easy one to do but I’ve been extremely lucky to have some incredibly dedicated and talented dudes like Jauz, Sikdope, Kennedy Jones, Dotcom, and Kayliox on my roster who have all trusted me. We have not only all become a team but we have formed our own brotherhood. A brotherhood that hang out regularly doing real trap shit together and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
How would you describe your job as a manager?
There are a lot of different ways to describe my job as a manager but I would say it’s like a really fucking intense game of chess, where every move is important. Personally, I believe biggest role I have as a manager is creating brand equity for my artists. There are many different factors that go into managing someone’s career but figuring out different ways to develop and unlock value for my artists is the most important. It could be anything from creating a social media campaign to an endorsement or publishing deal. All of this brings value to the brand, which results in a form of equity for the artist. As a manager you also have to do a lot of decision making, some being harder than others. In the end you always want toe ensure that whatever your decision may be, the results bring some kind of value to the brand. I’ve made some touch calls like passing on playing big shows or festivals just because the time slot or billing would not bring any value to our brand and that’s one thing I think that has plagued the industry today. A lot of new managers don’t think about the longevity of the act, instead they think about quick money.
What are some of your personal tastes in music? Dance music and other? Favorite artist?
When it comes to music, I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop/rap. Some of my personal favorites being Three Six Mafia, Immortal Technique, Vinnie Paz/ Jedi Mind Tricks, and Andre Nickatina. Once I started to listen to dance music, I lost touch with Hip Hop and became a bass head, listening to a lot of heavier stuff. As dance music progressed my tastes changed but I can confidently say I love all dance music. As far as my favorite artists go, I would have to say Tchami wins that title. No matter what the guy puts out it turns me into the penguin from Happy Feet.
What do you look for in potential signees when considering them for management? Is it based solely on their music or are there personal qualities in an artist that makes them seem more favorable? Or can it be a combination of several things?
When looking at potential signees there are definitely a few different things I look at. The first thing being versatility. The way dance music has evolved, peoples tastes are constantly changing. So if you have an artist that only knows how to make trap, it’s a lot more difficult to keep up with the times. The second thing is work ethic. As a manager, the more content you have from an artist; the more opportunities you have to make something happen with it. I look at it as if the manager is the gun and the content an artist provides as bullets. The next thing I look at is branding/social media. When fans are excited about a new artist, it makes it a lot easier to build a solid platform to start on.
You manage some world-renowned artists such as Jauz, Sikdope, Dotcom, and Kayliox. What would you say are important qualities to have in an artist-manager relationship to ensure success?
With all of my artists, I always strive to create a dynamic that goes deeper than just being their manager. For example anytime Dawid (Sikdope) or Chris (Dotcom) get a little tipsy, they call or text me expressing their love for me and we just bullshit with each other lol. Essentially, all of my artists have become my best friends and I honestly feel it works a lot better that way. I don’t want them to ever hesitate reaching out to me if they need anything. We even have a group text going where we all just share funny memes with each other and talk shit. It’s actually pretty entertaining. But in order for that kind of relationship to work the artist has to also respect you as their manager and know when to separate fun and business. Luckily all of my boys are pretty good at this and that’s why we have all come so far together.
Another quality that I would say that is very important to ensure success is the relationship an artist and manager have with their booking agent. I consider myself very lucky to call guys like Ben Hogan & Steve Gordon from Circle Talent Agency and Matt Rodriguez & Brewster Lee from AM Only some of my good friends. These guys have all played a very big part in the success of my artists.
How does the Buygore team stand out from other labels/management? What does being a manager on Buygore mean to you?
Many people don’t know that there are only 5 of us that make up both the label and management. Steven, who is currently the label manager for Buygore, was actually one of my best friends before all of this. When I first got into the scene, I started to throw a monthly event called “State of Bass” in Corona. With the help of Steven, Andrew (Kennedy Jones), and Kevin (Maddox) it became the biggest bass shows in the Inland Empire. It wasn’t until Steven got hired to go on tour with Borgore as his photographer that shit got real. Whenever Steven and Asaf would get back from tour, we would all hang out. With Asaf and I, it was an instant connection. We come from a similar background and just clicked really well. He then told me he wanted me to be a part of the Buygore team and its been blood, sweat, and tears ever since. We have watched and helped each other grow over the last 4-5 years, which makes the bond we have with each other much deeper. We bump heads, we fight, we make up but at the end of it all we are all brothers (we have a sister too, Krystal Lee). To me the bond I share with my Buygore team is one that I will always cherish. We have all accomplished a lot together. I know this is so cliché but we all “started from the bottom and now we’re here.” (don’t judge me)
Why do you believe having a strong and recognizable brand is crucial to an artists’ success?
In today’s industry, I believe the two main components of an artist’s success come from their brand and their music. I would even go as far as saying a solid brand is the most important. Just like anything else, when you build a strong brand you also build brand loyalty. This translates into fans who are willing to go the extra mile to support an artist whether it be something as small as telling a friend about your music or driving cross country to come watch you play a show. When you’ve got a fan base that really just vibes with you on every level, you can’t go wrong. Someone like Dillon Francis is a perfect example of that. He could go months without putting out music but he is hilarious and his fans love him. He is always doing something out of the box that keeps his fans entertained. To me that is what creates the longevity that an artist needs to sustain this volatile and competitive industry.
If there is one important piece of advice that you would give to any aspiring managers and musicians, what would it be?
If I had to give one piece of advice to any of the above I would have to say always remain humble and never think that you’re above anyone else. I see a lot of dudes who are fresh in the game, gain a little recognition and all of a sudden turn into rockstars. This game is so volatile and you never know what can happen to you. That one fan you turned down for a picture could also be the same kid that potentially would come to every show of yours and has an uncle that’s a talent buyer for insomniac (hypothetically speaking of course). That’s why I always stress the importance of constantly interacting with their fans to my artists.
As a manager, I live by the same principles. I look at guys like Steve Satterthwaite, Richard Bishop, and Luke Allen from Redlight Management, who are busy managing some of the biggest acts but anytime I call them for help with something they are willing to go the extra mile to give me a hand. That’s why anytime I talk to aspiring managers; I’m always quick to help them out as much as I can.