Mark Bradley runs a DC area artist development company. He books and promotes shows, teaches music lessons, and provides bands with discounted graphic design and photography. Mark puts the people he works with first; he understands how important musicians’ work is to them and treats them with the respect they deserve.
What's your musical background?
I've been in and out of bands since high school. I play bass, guitar, write songs, and for a while I played drums for a friends’ singer/songwriter project. In school I played trombone, baritone, and bass guitar. I've always been pretty musically inclined in that I can play new instruments easily but I've never been GREAT at any one thing.
I was in a band called Forward Smash for a while, which I would consider my one really serious band. Last year I worked on developing my knowledge in the business side of things as a promoter, getting my start at Court Square Music and Empire booking local shows. I did two weekend tours and moved up to booking touring bands like This or the Apocalypse, Ashes Remain, and From Indian Lakes.
How did you get started as a promoter?
I had been doing benefit shows since my sophomore year in high school when I had one at my house for a school project. My friend Dario and I decided last summer to do an outdoor festival in August, but the park cancelled on us and Tyler at Empire let us do it there for a reasonable rent. That started our business relationship, and since then we did stuff there every few months. Tyler helped me out a LOT with learning how to approach bigger bands and agents, how to stay organized, and how to coordinate locals. In Harrisonburg, I started working for Court Square Music and my friend Alan who was trying to re-build his business. I booked shows and learned how to run sound there. We did some pretty cool stuff like a Battle of the Bands that had over 100 people, The Reverbnation Tour with Blameshift and Apparitions, and a Suicide Awareness concert where we raised over $500 for TWLOHA through tickets and selling baked goods.
Now I’m working on building my artist development company, which will be a one-stop shop for bands and musicians to get to the next step in their career, regardless of where that next step may be. Being a promoter is something that I hope to keep doing, but it is a means to the end of establishing this company in the future.
How did you get involved at Empire? How do you feel about the direction they're heading now that they're no longer Jaxx?
Tyler and I started with that local festival last August, and my band had actually played there a few times before. After doing shows there every few months, I asked to be an intern and work there this past summer, which was a really enlightening time. I learned SO much more than I would have in any class, and I gained a lot of new contacts.
The reputation of Jaxx still sometimes comes back to haunt us, but for the most part people understand that they’re stepping into a new place. It’s complete new ownership; not just a name change either. I think that the bands they've managed to bring in and the genres we promote now are a huge step up from before; two years ago, Alex Goot would have never been a logical act to bring to Jaxx but at Empire, the show was packed and went without a hitch.
Why did you become a promoter?
I became a promoter out of a desire to learn about the behind-the-scenes of the industry and gain more experience in what I love doing.
What's the hardest part of being a promoter and running shows?
There are a lot of things that make me want to pull my hair out sometimes; I can’t really name one particular thing, but here’s a list: when bands drop out, when venues treat bands badly while I’m not there, when I work really hard to support people and they act like I still owe them, and when older bands act like I’m a child. I really love what I do, but there are just a lot of people to deal with and keep organized that when one of those things happens (especially bands dropping), it really throws a giant wrench in the whole thing.
What's the best part?
The best part is after the show when everything is over, everyone is taken care of, and people talk about all their stories and their aspirations and everything feels possible. I also love when I've been able to help someone out and they are appreciative of the opportunity; that means the world to me. I go out of my way to be a nice guy, so being supported back makes things worthwhile.
What went into making your local music sampler?
A lot of great bands and headaches… It was something I've always wanted to do, so I just decided to do it. #yolo. I set up (what I thought were) reasonable deadlines and fees, and in the end it was still a little bit of a hustle and a rush. We ordered the CDs Friday though (a week after I thought we would) and they’ll be there JUST in time for the 10/4-10/6 weekend of shows when we’re launching the Sampler.
There was also a big hassle in getting funding. I want to make the sampler free so we don’t discourage anyone from being able to check out the bands, and I also want to minimize the cost to bands. I was pretty blessed and everything worked out, but next time something has to change in that aspect, either with sponsors, making the CDs cost money, or charging bands more to be on it. The most important thing though is that the experiment worked out well with minimal grey hairs and 20 great bands will get a ton of new exposure!
What would you like to do in the future?
I’m an Elementary Ed student, so I’d either like to be a teacher or run an artist development store/venue. The artist development store would combine both passions, and give back to the community through lessons and purposeful shows. Whatever I do, I want to give back to the people that have supported me and give new aspiring industry professionals/musicians/kids a chance to succeed.
How and why did you start your own artist development company?
I really just wanted to make an ambiguous title for all the stuff I was preparing to do (booking, promoting, lessons, songwriting, being in bands, etc.) and I figured that would be a good word for it. I do think that artist development is something that used to be of great benefit, but now is nonexistent. The mentality is that of “teach a man to fish”; develop the person and not only the product and you get a better, more sustainable product. Nowadays product development is what is most common; look at how many co-writers and producers are on any given popular track and it’s clear that the emphasis is on the product.
What does your artist development company do?
Right now we offer live show booking, graphic design, and promotion (through the sampler). I hope to expand to do everything: recording, digital distribution, printing (flyers, shirts, short-run CD duplication), lessons, consultations, management, as well as put on workshops and seminars. Pretty much it would be a label without the label. Eventually we’re also going to change the name because I really didn't expect it to go this far (I hate using my own name).
What's something you wish all bands knew?
I wish bands knew that it takes a LOT more time and work than they think to succeed. Music is fun, and though we are the relief of the actual 9 to 5-ers, if you want to have a career in music, then you have to MAKE it your 9-5 in a sense. It can and will start to feel like a job, but in the end if you remember why you started and also take some time for yourself to have fun, you’ll succeed and enjoy it. No successful bands got where they are now because they posted a song online, played a bar, and got signed; it takes a lot of work, money, and time.
Thank you for reading. If you read this and want to work together, feel free to reach out via email. Hopefully I didn't come across as self-centered or egotistic; I love what I do and want to spread what I've learned.