I had the opportunity to chat with Jake Udell, who manages one of the biggest acts in dance music right now, Krewella. Jake was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and has been involved in the music industry for some time now. He started as a recording artist under the moniker, JQ, but left that career behind to co-found TH3RD BRAIN MANAGEMENT in order to apply his marketing and business expertise to the managerial side.
For those who are not familiar with the act Krewella, they are an electronic dance music trio consisting of two sisters, Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, and producer Kris Trindl, who blend catchy pop vocals with hard-hitting dance instrumentals. Krewella broke on to the scene with their cover of Skrillex's song "Breathe."
From then on, it has been all success for the trio, who have achieved high praises on their moombahtoon, dubstep, and house-infused EP Play Hard– which topped the iTunes dance music charts. Most recently, their song "Alive" has taken over the radio waves and is currently being played out on all major stations. For all upcoming artists, wanna-be managers, and music industry hopefuls, look to this interview for some insight into the dance music world.
EARMILK: Jake, can you tell us what sparked your interest in the music industry and was being a music manager all part of the plan?
Jake Udell: My interest in the music industry was originally sparked by my boredom with other industries. I wanted to be a part of the action and music seemed exciting. The original plan was to become a recording artist. I never thought I would be a manager. I started my first business when I was 13, so becoming a manager has been a natural progression. I guess you never know where you'll end up, but I've always believed if I work hard and maintain my vision, amazing opportunities will present themselves. Getting involved with Krewella has been one of those unique opportunities that I am very grateful for. I feel blessed for all of my various failures and the people that worked with me to provide the necessary experience to my music industry education – these failures served as the building blocks for my success.
The next step in my journey is to pass along the knowledge from both my successes and failures with other like minded individuals at the TH3RD BRAIN, our collaborative management agency. We're always looking for passionate, creative individuals to join our team — it's the only way our growth is possible. The management platform we are creating and processes we are perfecting will continue to benefit Krewella, and future artists as well. When we, as managers, come together with our artists, we create the TH3RD BRAIN.
EM: What are some of the key factors in Krewella's success? Is it the branding, music, or marketing scheme in place?
JU: There is a lot of strategy that obviously takes place to coordinate releases properly, which includes cohesive branding. But at the end of the day, the music speaks for itself and that is the key to Krewella's success. Their vocally-infused blend of self-produced electronic music spanning a variety of genres was just what the market needed. Their timing was impeccable and their sound was contagious. Just ask Will Runzel and he'll tell you — crack music is the key to success.
My advice for young producers would be to focus more on developing their sound before they release music. Krewella took three years to define their sound before I even started working with them. It was really important that once we started working together their music and their mindset were ready for the next level of their careers. That development process is priceless.
Similarly, as an artist develops their sound through trial and error, they also need to develop the vision for what will make them unique in the marketplace. Krewella was relatively easy because they were two girls and a guy, but nonetheless, we have plans and ideas for them that span well into their careers. I believe artists should have a general idea of where they want to be a year from today, five years, etc. Those plans can be adjusted as their careers take shape, but having a vision to work toward is critical element to an artist's growth process.
EM: What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry? Do you believe there will be a bubble as some speculate? Or will the industry evolve in something more unique?
JU: I guess I'm not sure. I can't predict the future. I'm going to keep working hard and encouraging others around me to do the same and take advantage of the opportunity while it's here. I feel blessed to be in the position I am in with Krewella to help shape the sound of American dance music.
EM: Management teams are often overlooked when it comes to the success of their artists. What would you say makes an effective management team, and what contributors were intricate in your success as a manager?
JU: Pay attention to every detail. Choose your team members wisely. Work harder than everybody, including yourself. Seek opportunity – the best managers are the proactive ones. When an artist starts to see success, more opportunities become available. Some of these opportunities present themselves and others need to be sought after. Think in terms of the longevity of the artist's career – I often see managers making decisions for short-term success instead of long-term gain. I always try to make decisions that support the longevity of my artists. If you truly believe in your artists, then you should always be looking at how what you do today will impact tomorrow and the future.
EM: When you are identifying talent, what are some of the indicators that you are looking for, beyond the musical aspect?
JU: I'm looking for artists with a vision that separates them from every other act in the world. The vision doesn't have to be perfect, but if I can relate to it and further understand how to refine and magnify it, that's an exciting indicator. I look for artists that are responsive to constructive criticism and are motivated to learn and grow. Work ethic is probably the most important indicator — it oftentimes has to come from within and rarely can be taught or learned. Artists need to crave their success the way they crave food and be willing to put in the necessary time and effort to make it. If they don't, somebody else will.
EM: Can you give us a heads up for whats in store in the near future for Krewella in regards to music, residencies, shows, and any other pertinent information?
JU: Krewella is working hard on their debut album, which is due out this fall on Columbia Records. We've partnered with the Light Group for the group's Vegas residency — the new Cirque Du Soleil club opening this May. We're excited for the upcoming collaborations the Krew has with some of the biggest dance artists in the world and to take what we've done here in America and expand on it globally. We've been working with the Krew's agent, Matt Rodriguez over at AM Only, on it since the top of the year and couldn't be more excited as its their first headlining bus tour. I'm not going to spill the details though… You'll have to wait for them to announce it!