Jay Warren doesn’t want a record deal ― he wants an investor
Jay Warren has successfully garnered over 15 million music streams, amassed over 2.5 million YouTube views, and received over 60 notable press pieces. In 2020, he also became the first Utah artist to hit number one on the iTunes R&B Album chart―but that was just the start.
With a team that includes Warren as the content creator, Haley Conley as his manager, Justin Bogh as his lawyer, and Nate Waite as his executive producer, Warren has created a five-year revenue plan complete with a 3x revenue reimbursement for private investors.
Going independent means more money for the artist
Warren plans to reach his revenue plan by honing in on six revenue streams that can’t be affected by COVID-19, including record sales and streaming royalties, sync fees, private events, sponsored content, endorsement deals, and membership fees. The additional six revenue streams―Performing Rights Organization (PRO) royalties, feature fees, merchandise sales, YouTube monetization, and public events―depend on the post-pandemic environment.
Warren’s goal over the next 12 months is to land a Billboard Top 100 single, a Billboard Top 200 album, and to accumulate 1 million social media followers through the release of over 1,200 content pieces, and that’s no easy feat. His plan includes writing 30 new songs and an array of supplemental material to market it, as well as releasing music videos, vlogs, YouTube covers, podcast episodes, and social media posts on a regular basis.
“The frequency of content will continually build the audience momentum needed to move the needle with each subsequent release,” Conley says. “If we pair it with real ad dollars across social platforms to get this content in front of a wider group of his target audience, we believe we can grow Jay’s fanbase in spades.”
The team has developed a detailed marketing funnel that will attract those followers―with social media advertising at the top. YouTube and Facebook/Instagram ads will nurture viewers with the help of strategic content to become social followers, and then eventually convert with merchandise, membership subscriptions, and/or concert tickets. Warren notes, “At the end of the day, an artist is only as successful and valuable as the audience they build. Talent without an audience gets an artist nowhere.”
Traditionally, musicians rely on a major record label to fund their project, market their content, and manage their earnings―but major labels keep 70-80 percent of artist’s revenues, and retain ownership of the artist’s creative works in perpetuity. Warren wants to do things differently―following in the footsteps of artists like Chance the Rapper, Macklemore, and Lauv, who hit mainstream success without the support of a major label.
“Major labels’ control over the industry is starting to be dismantled with the advent of streaming, social media, and cheaper tools to create music,” Conley says. “If an artist can build the right team and find access to outside capital sources, they can essentially eliminate the need for a major label and find substantial success, while retaining ownership of their creative works. It’s an unparalleled and exciting time for an industry that has otherwise been incredibly static.”
Going independent means spending more money as an artist
Initially, Warren chose to release his catalog of singles with an independent label by the name of BonFire Records from 2017-2019. Then in April of 2020, he signed a distribution deal with music distributor ONErpm to release his debut album “Give Love” and holiday album “Winter With The Warrens.” Both parties offered an advance on future earnings and services to expand his reach.
All combined, these advances created a modest budget to fund Warren’s project through 2020, with 60 percent of it put towards content creation, 17 percent towards marketing, 13 percent towards infrastructure, and the remaining 10 percent towards operations. That budget turned into revenue with a 5x increase, primarily coming from streaming (34 percent) and public/private events (41 percent). The rest came from sponsored content (9 percent), songwriting/features (5 percent), merch (5 percent), sync fees (5 percent), and PRO royalties (1 percent).
Now the team is looking for a one-time investment from private investors to jumpstart his engine to mainstream success, allowing more money to be allocated on marketing his content than creating the content―the biggest hiccup in almost all independent artist ventures. Under the proposed deal structure, investors will break even by year two, double their money by year three, triple their money by year five, and thereafter retain an interest in gross revenue until they hit a predetermined cap.
“We have to walk a thin line of being conservative for a potential investor but also pushing ourselves enough to break the boundary that so few have been able to do in a quick enough time frame that there’s incentive for the investor,” Conley says. “I feel like we’ve settled on the right spot with this business plan that perfectly straddles that paradox. Though a tad unorthodox, I feel like it could be an interesting opportunity to diversify an investment portfolio to the right investor.”
Going independent means more marketing for the artist
Jay estimates that it takes $3,000 to $5,000 to make a music video―but his biggest cost is mixing and mastering, which costs $50 to $100 an hour. With a lean budget, Warren has to be smart with his expenses and find ways to keep costs low. When creating music, he gives producers a percentage of mechanical royalties so contributors make money in perpetuity on the back end through residuals, as opposed to paying a fixed amount upfront.
The team has proved to be resourceful with marketing expenses too, keeping their plans for previous releases largely Utah-focused. “In order to hit Jay’s goal of going number one last year with a small budget, we felt like our best bet was to concentrate our efforts on his home base,” says Conley. They did that by utilizing other creators in the local creative space, creating various content pieces with local influencers, and partnering with local businesses and groups that already catered to his demographic such as Lime Ricki Swimwear, Albion Fit, The Gem Studio, and Millennium Dance Complex. Now that they’re seeing some success regionally, they’re ready to expand their marketing efforts nationally.
The expanded plan has both a B2C and a B2B angle. At the same time that they are pursuing their target demographic through social ads and content, they will also indirectly be hitting that demographic through media they may be consuming with sync and playlist placements. “It’s like marketing anything else,” Warren says. “You have a product and you have a chief demographic for that product and you just have to figure out where those people are and put your music in front of those people.”
Jay’s favorite part of being a recording artist is performing on stage, but the most fulfilling aspect is hearing stories of how his music has affected others and receiving messages about how his songs have made someone realize or even change something within themselves. “You get to be a therapist without talking to people and that’s really fulfilling,” he says.
In addition to being a proverbial therapist, Warren’s goal is to create music that reignites a belief in real love. “In our culture and generation of dating apps and side chicks, I feel like we’ve forgotten that.”