Soulive: Sound Business

By Christopher Palmer

Soulive: Sound Business

By Christopher Palmer
Soulive is at the forefront of change in the music industry as they turn their music and collaborations into a new business model.
Soulive is at the forefront of change in the music industry as they turn their music and collaborations into a new business model. With artists managing their own record label as well as the development of their live performance opportunities, the distinctions between record executive, concert promoter and musician are less defined.

It’s a model driven by the love of music. Artists with a creative entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to connect directly with their fan base; building their own recording and touring entities and marketing directly to their fan-base.

No corporate middleman needed. Soulive has accomplished each of these things. Their model is not powered by a business plan, but rather a natural love for writing, recording and performing. The “new music paradigm” is how Soulive co-manager Morgan Young characterized this effort in a recent interview.

From the very first jam session together in 1999, Neal and Alan Evans and Eric Krasno, began recording their performances. This initial session in Woodstock, New York became the nucleus of Get Down!, the first Soulive record. They licensed it to Japan, where it quickly sold 100,000 copies, and in turn allowed the band to finance the self-release of that record here in the United States, which was the founding of Velour, explained the band’s co-manager Morgan Young in a recent interview. “Quite quickly, they were a do-it-yourself start-up releasing their own records and touring internationally.”

Within a year of these first sessions, Soulive had signed with a major booking agency and became active playing festivals, performing in college markets around the country and opening for established bands such as the Derek Trucks Band. “It became a word of mouth thing,” said Young. Soon, the trio was touring with the Rolling Stones and Dave Matthews and were appearing at Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

As the band released their follow-up recording Turn it Out (Velour) and continued touring a building a community of fans, labels such as Blue Note and Stax became interested. The band signed with Blue Note – which released three records during their 2001-2003 tenure—and Stax Records released No Place Like Soul in 2007. Each of these releases contributed significantly to Soulive’s profile, but it became apparent to the band, that the direct connection they had developed with their fans did not require the work of a major record label.

With this realization, in 2008, Soulive formed Royal Family Records, a music production company with the concept of bringing together a family of artists who share the same musical inspirations and aspirations. Since, the label has developed into a creative consortium of musicians and support staff, collaborating on recordings and live performances. The roster includes artists such Lettuce, Nigel Hall and Chapter 2, with Soulive as the hub of the operation. In 2010, Soulive released Rubber Soulive their take on Beatles classics.

And so 12 year after a jam that started a group, Eric Krasno, and Neal and Alan Evans are also this music’s savvy new business entrepreneurs, and why not?

“Why should we take [advance] money from a label when all they’re gonna do is email our fans?,” asks Young. “ We can do that ourselves.”