Breaking out in the bass scene in today’s world is no easy feat. Some of the most hyped up-and-coming dubstep and trap acts really have to do something unique and exceptional to stand out. Mike Lisanti of Warpath Group has seen the success of his clients break through this barrier and are on the fast track to becoming household names. With acts like TYNAN, Kompany, and Champagne Drip all represented by Lisanti, it’s clear that managing in-demand bass DJs is no easy task. We got the scoop from Mike on how working the scene from literally every angle sent him full circle into a management career, juggling brand development as well as hands-on A&R between all of his acts.
What got you into electronic music? How did you get introduced to the scene?
I’m a traditionally trained guitar player. I know how to read music and still know a handful of my jazz standards to this day. I’ve always been into whatever the new thing was in music, from the post-hardcore and metal/screamo days, to the rise of all the dance music subgenres in the first decade of the 2000s. All in all, I would say that just being a “DJ” was never something I was interested in. So I immediately picked up Ableton in 2010 as soon as I started playing at local spots in my college town for extra cash or whatever.
(Kompany b2b AFK – Photo: @fredericlyphotos)
Tell us about your former group Charity Strike. Why did you end it and are you happy with your new path?
This was a project that I had started with my friend Philip Scully in 2012 back when I was going to school at UCSB. We won a couple of Beatport remix contests and caught some buzz from that (back when remix contests were a thing). After a year of doing a good amount of tour dates and getting a lot of the Dutch label-affiliated looks, the model for pitching was evolving to stacking copious amounts of records and keeping them on the shelf as “ammo.” This concept of stacking original records is the most important thing a producer can do, and once I realized that, it hit me that I didn’t enjoy producing enough to always be strapped with 10+ unreleased demos each month. I began to realize that I had more fun selling other people’s product. Once I knew that the artist side wasn’t for me, I got a job at Dim Mak Records in 2014 through my good friend Basie Hauser (who is now known as Ephwurd). After about a year of helping them with radio stuff, I worked on A&R-ing tunes with my mentor at the time, Lorne Padman (Vice President of Dim Mak Records). Then a good family friend, David Gordoni (who is now a senior agent at United Talent Agency), tipped me off that one of his clients, Borgeous, needed a hand on the road. David has been there from the beginning of my career offering advice as well as support and now handles bookings for some of my artists in Asia. Crazy how things can come full circle. I grabbed the job tour managing Borgeous and doing his day-to-day, which landed me in Las Vegas in 2015. I did that for about a year and a half, and just at about the time he moved to Red Light, I realized that I wanted to start breaking my own guys, so the timing was perfect. John (Borgeous) is still one of my best friends to this day. So long story short, I would say that I feel happy and blessed with the path I have chosen.
(Mike w/ Kompany)
You have multiple clients playing Wobbleland this weekend in San Francisco. What’s it take for a bass act to get to that level of performing at one of the premiere bass festivals in the country?
Yeah I’m really excited for this weekend. TYNAN and Kompany are doing a b2b on the first day of Wobbleland and Champagne Drip is doing a b2b set with Zeke Beats on the second night. I’m really happy with all the hard work that TYNAN’s agent Corey Krogman (UTA), Kompany’s agent Max Freeman (UTA), and Champagne Drip’s agent Cory Riskin (APA) have been putting in on the boys this past year. That Zeke Beats b2b Champagne Drip package is a legendary combo. They crushed it at Countdown on NYE during their massive Bassrush debut together. I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve for this Wobbleland performance. In regards to being able to stand out enough to big buyers, promoters, and even getting agents to join your team, the artist really needs to make sure that they’re staying active in releasing music, social media presence with linear growth, and of course making sure the entire product looks good. Just like any business, you want to make sure that your product is 100% ready before you go on sale with it and start adding personnel expenses, etc. Regarding music output and strategy, unless you have an infinitely enormous reach on social media (like people getting famous from being in your Instagram stories or something), I always recommend having a home for your music — and if playing the label game feels like it takes too long, create your own internal road map for releases independently and retool whenever necessary. I prefer to keep the release schedule monthly with my dudes. That internal battery is everything because regardless of who’s jumping on board to partner with the product or not, the show must go on.
(Champagne Drip b2b Zeke Beats – Photo: @alexvarsa)
Can you talk a bit about Warpath? How did you link up with Warpath Group?
Warpath Group is a company based out of Oklahoma City that is owned by Loper and Nate Schoenfeldt. They currently manage acts like Liquid Stranger and Protohype and are running the label management for Wakaan. We work really closely on clients together as we co-manage acts. I work remotely out of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, in 2014 they had approached me as an artist to start working with them on the next chapter of whatever I was doing back then. I was already done focusing on being an artist at that point, so the conversation kind of fizzled out organically. We reconnected in Amsterdam during ADE 2016 over a coffee and some ridiculously good European breakfast out there. Months later I approached TYNAN to manage him, and since he had something going on with Nate where the focus was on his (now) side project Ohmy, Nate believed in me enough to allow me to partner with him on TYNAN and co-manage. Shortly after that, I brought Kompany into Warpath and then Loper gave me Champagne Drip to partner with him on and the rest of this second full circle story is history.
Do you believe that people need college in order to get into artist management?
Although I graduated from UCSB, I really think it’s just a way to train your brain to excel and stay motivated in things that aren’t necessarily fun or easy (which is how all work is in reality). I got a little lucky because one of my focuses in school was Mandarin Chinese, so now whenever I’m in China with one of my boys (which is a huge market for dance and bass music right now), knowing Mandarin helps a lot with some of the language barriers. Although I highly encourage education for everyone, I don’t believe it’s fully necessary to get into managing an artist’s business.
(TYNAN @ Hard Summer – Photo: @dougfilms)
You have your hand in a few different pots right now. What other projects are you working on in the dance music scene?
I still do radio engineering with various artists through Sirius XM as well as A&R/consulting for some acts out in Asia. I’m currently developing a couple of newly signed clients on the management side who I’m really excited about: Effin and KRILLA. Check them out for sure.
All that can be pretty tiring I’d imagine. How do you unwind in your spare time?
I go to the gym twice a day almost every day, I like boxing quite a bit, as well as flat ground skateboarding. On Sundays whenever I’m in town, I play in an organized wood bat adult baseball league (not softball). I also enjoy cooking my weekly meal preps, hanging out with my dog Bandit, and I frickin’ love playing video games — especially when any of my boys are online.
(Mike w/ TYNAN)
Favorite festival? Venue?
I have a lot of favorite festivals, but I have to say my all-time favorite is EDC Las Vegas because it’s the one where even I’ll go and disappear into the crowd sometimes to just enjoy the event. My favorite venue is NOA Beach Club in Croatia. That place is nuts.
How do you see the bass music scene unfolding in the next five years? Positive growth?
I view bass music as something that’ll remain having dedicated fans in a similar way as to how a lot of the metal acts that are worth tickets are still going. There’s a strong sense of fan loyalty in the bass community and I really like that a lot.
(TYNAN in China – Photo: @mikelisanti)
Favorite food? Movie? Bath soap? Travel spot?
Favorite food by far is pizza (I just can’t eat it that much or I’ll gain weight).Favorite live action movie is City Of God and my favorite animated movie is COCO.Favorite bath soap is charcoal and clean body wash by AXE.Favorite travel spot to date is Morocco for sure. North Africa is so sick.