Needless to say, in this generation, the music industry is an entirely different world compared to what it once was traditionally. You can’t just simply run a label now. And you can’t simply run a production brand now. You have to do everything at the same time, and operating as a collective that handles every aspect of an artist’s career is essentially the only way to properly survive this business nowadays. But it seems to be the younger crowd that fully utilizes the tools of today and takes full advantage of what the digital age has to offer. It’s an exciting time though; the possibilities are endless. I remember meeting this dude Justin Katerberg back in January when I booked one of his acts for a party in Hollywood, and then became aware of his project called Vitalic Noise. Little did I know that Justin had some big plans at the time, and it was more than a one-man brand. Re-launching now in the fall of 2012, Vitalic Noise welcomes partner Jerry Soer, an experienced man in the business that I’ve seen around for a while. I felt now would be the perfect time to share what exactly VN is all about, and to properly introduce the current faces behind the umbrella. Whether it’s managing acts like Miami Horror and Goldroom, or putting together sell-out tours across the map, these guys are behind the scenes playing a role that is…well…vital. Let’s get familiar, shall we.
The first days of Vitalic Noise were not only an extension of my creativity, but another way for me to continue viewing the music business from a 360 angle as a music blog, event promoter and booking agent.
Hey guys, how’s it going? Let’s begin by introducing yourselves.
I’m Jerry Soer.
I’m Justin Katerberg. You’re Cooper Saver. Is Saver your real last name, or are you some sort of super-hero with a super rad alias of a name?
Haha it’s my real name and you’re not the first to ask that! Sometimes I like to wear a cape but not sure if I’m really a superhero. Anyway, let’s rewind for a minute now. Justin, you were raised in the interior of BC Canada and then migrated to the southern USA. And Jerry, you ended up moving here from Australia after many years in the business down under. What were you guys doing in the music scene prior to finally landing in LA, and what reasons did you have for relocating?
Justin: I feel like I maybe flaunt my Canadian card a little too much, but hey, I’m proud to be part of America’s “hat.” I was raised in a tiny ski resort town of Golden, B.C., before moving down to Nashville, TN in 2008 to intern for a small indie label under the EMI Music system. I took the internship as a form of “schooling,” and tried to dedicate every moment that I had there to not only learn, but to offer as much fresh new music business era advice to an otherwise “old way of thinking” recording label. Out of that internship, I was hired, and moved through the company in both the marketing divisions, and into the A&R field. While still trying to complete my “schooling,” I took to the road as a tour manager for a number of artists on both large and smaller scale tours, headed out with artists on radio promo tours, and even ran merchandise divisions for other artists to learn a little bit more about the business life on the road from a behind the scenes approach. The first days of Vitalic Noise were not only an extension of my creativity, but another way for me to continue viewing the music business from a 360 angle as a music blog, event promoter and booking agent. Now, as a full time manager, understanding exactly how each of these different roles play their part in the success of an artist’s career has proven itself ever so valuable.
Looking back, my background in blogging helped me a lot in understanding how the dance music scene, especially how the Hype Machine blogs drive the distribution and promotion of new music.
Jerry: I was working for an Australian management company for almost five years. Over the last two years my work increasingly took me to the United States for various touring and promotional commitments. Last year at SXSW I realized that I could get a lot more work done being based in LA while remaining closely connected to the Australian music scene, so I moved to LA in September 2011. I find LA quite an amazing place to live and work, in terms of music business it’s the best place to be right now, there’s so much opportunity and great people here.
Jerry, tell us a bit about the blog you used to run and how you ended up becoming manager for Australian acts like Miami Horror and Grafton Primary. Are you originally from Aus?
Jerry: I was born in Indonesia and I moved to Sydney for university. I started the blog whothehell.net in 2006 with Dom Alessio who is now at triple j. Our mission was to catalogue Australian music everyday for a year, and ended up running it for about 4-5 years before passing it on to other bloggers to carry it on. In our time we had a few pretty good first posts such as Empire of The Sun’s “Walking On A Dream” and Pnau’s “Embrace” ft Ladyhawke, remixed by Miami Horror and Fred Falke, which I organized. We didn’t know it at the time, but in 2006 the Australian music was about to start its global ascend, with Midnight Juggernauts, Cut Copy and The Presets all making a mark in the then-rising electro scene.
A lot of great music was coming out of Melbourne and Sydney, and I was fortunate enough to be going back and forth between the two cities in 2007-2008. I was working for a party promoter, Hugh Waters aka Streetparty when I met Ben Plant who was just starting Miami Horror. We connected well and I could tell that he had a lot of great ideas so we started working together, and later on introduced him to Josh Moriarty who sang on “Don’t Be On With Her” and eventually joined the band. Grafton Primary came to my attention when Miami Horror did a remix of GP’s “I Can Cook” in around 2007. A few years later we ended up working together, and I’m quite excited that their new album is finally ready for a release!
Looking back, my background in blogging helped me a lot in understanding how the dance music scene, especially how the Hype Machine blogs drive the distribution and promotion of new music and even though it’s different now, it still works today.
So when was Vitalic Noise born? Justin, was it just your own thing originally, or were/are there other team members besides you two? Was it just a party at first, or did you know you wanted to manage eventually?
Justin: Vitalic Noise originated as a lifestyle, fashion, and music blog as a simple creative outlet that allowed both myself and my roommate (Beau Burgess) to share virtually anything that we stumbled upon. Maybe a week after we launched the website (January 2010), we threw a massive house party with a full LED’s backdrop, strobe lights, lasers…. insanity. The only thing we were missing was a DJ! We headed down to the local Guitar Center (where we knew we could get artist discounts) and picked up an M-Audio Xponent controller with Torq Software. We “learned” how to spin that night after dinner, fired up the LED’s and opened up the floodgates. I reckon we were the worst DJs you’d ever heard in your life. From there we ended up throwing monthly “VITAL” events showcasing both DJs and live bands on our own hand built stage that we brought into various venues around Nashville. Most of the artists that came in to headline our events were either managed by their “grandmother” or their “best friend from college” and I began to honestly just feel bad for them. I’d always been told that I would make a great manager, but seeing these artists with such massive amounts of talent resting their future in such questionable hands sealed the deal. I wanted to help these guys…bad.
Both of you work with artists of similar sound, which makes sense now that the two of you are joining forces. How would you describe the overall sound of your roster, and what really got you into these kinds of artists way back when?
Justin: The easy reference is obviously to simply say “summertime,” so there you go. Summertime. It’s more than that though, both disco and house music are filled with history. There’s an evolution that is attached to it that is unlike any other genre of music. If you listen to a nu-disco track today, there is a 90% chance that something, whether it is a synthesizer, a drum pattern, or a vocal melody has been sampled from a classic track in its respective genre. It almost feels like opening up a book where the song that you are currently hearing in today’s age is only the first chapter. A preview of where the song really comes from, which you will find later in the book once you dig a little bit deeper.
I owe a lot of my current music knowledge to David Miller (of Future Unlimited), who hijacked my couch - for a year - back in Nashville who put a funnel over my music selection and introduced me to an entire world of sounds from new wave, to proper disco and house cuts.
Jerry: That’s really hard for me to describe what sound we do. I naturally tend to go for sounds that are not too indie, not to disco house and not too rock, but somewhere in between in the middle. I look for a lot of melodies to start with then go from there. I regularly keep in touch with a few young producers and keep track on how they progress with their work over time.
Did you guys have any idea what you were getting yourselves into when first jumping into the industry? What are some of the most important lessons you both have learned so far, and what is the most common mistake people make when creating a music management / event production collective?
Justin: Thankfully I have family who is also in the industry, so I had been forewarned that it is the exact same as any other job, except with less pay. Ha. There is a reason that Ramen Noodle sales have spiked with the downfall of the music industry! Never be too “cool for school,” because you never know when you are going to need to call in a favor from that person that you just threw under the bus. It’s a relational business, and the industry is way too small for your attitude (regardless of genres). Don’t send that angry email right away, click ‘save as draft’ and revisit it in the morning. Trust me, I have to do this every night.
Jerry: I started out by managing a friends’ band while I was working in a bar. From there I ended up volunteering at FBi Radio in Sydney, which taught me a lot about media and how promotion works. Dan Zilber, music director at the station, recommended me for a job at a management company called Aloha and I learnt a lot from its owners Dan Hennessy and Steven Betts.
My advice for people who are interested is to start by volunteering and interning at different companies. I was lucky to be able to call on a few experienced managers for guidance, I suggest looking for a mentor to guide you through. Management is a jack-of-all-trades type of job so you need multiple skills and be highly organized. This industry is small and contact-driven; so don’t burn your bridges.
Do you feel that operating as a multi platform collective is the way to go in this era? What are some of the benefits of tackling all sides of the business under one umbrella? At what point does all the hard work feel rewarding or satisfying?
Justin: If you truly know how to do everything, then great…go for it. People deserve to benefit from your knowledge. But if you are only going to “half ass” something and just kind of do it properly, then don’t bother wasting your time. You’re going to spread yourself way too thin and end up burning out along the way—a fast track back into your graveyard shift at McDonalds. That’s honestly when I feel rewarded…knowing that I’m not working at McDonalds.
At the moment, which acts are part of the Vitalic Noise family? Who’s the latest addition? Are you guys looking to expand into the future, or keep it pretty tight knit?
Jerry: The roster is currently Miami Horror, DCUP, Knightlife, Goldroom, Grafton Primary, Chela, and Viceroy. We are in talks with a few artists and are always on the look out for new talent on the rise.
I’ve noticed Vitalic Noise has pumped out some nice looking merchandise along with cool graphic work…is this all done in house and designed yourselves?
Justin: Thanks man! Yeah, the merchandise thing isn’t something that we have really pushed yet. It’s not really the focus yet. But the logo, and the VITAL posters were all designed by the genius that is Beau Burgess. I’ve just recently taken to Photoshop, but I guess everything that you see on the website, mixtapes, and video was all designed/made by myself. I even made one of the legendary COOPER SAVER mixtape covers!
Haha that was a good one, thanks again for that! Oh yeah, and how did you come up with the name?
Justin: I know what you are all thinking: they ripped off the name from the artist VITALIC. But honestly we had NO idea who he was at the time. We wanted something that explained how “vital” sound was to us, and a quick skim of an online dictionary showed “vitalic” right beside “vital”. Vitalic Noise was born.
At the moment, what aspect of your jobs are you most focused on, and what would you ideally like to spend more time on in the near future?
Justin: Consistently trying to learn new ways to make my job flow easier. I’m still stuck in the “sticky note” era of things on my desk.
Jerry: As well as Vitalic Noise, we’re also setting up a singles label called Chookie with DCUP. We’ve got DCUP’s new single as the first release, as well as new hits from Viceroy and Good Night Keaton plus a few other projects lined up, I can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve been working on!
As far as Vitalic Noise goes, what would you consider your overall longterm goal(s), and what do you hope people take from your work?
Justin: I just want to make your grandma dance to our artist’s music. It’s as simple as that.
Jerry: That’s a good goal.
Do you have any special events or signings coming up soon? What’s the latest news for Vitalic Noise artist performances and releases?
Justin: Big things! Can’t talk about any new signings quite yet, but we should have a whole HEAP of new music coming out for you this fall/winter. We are also starting a free new weekly disco/house hang on Thursdays at Crow Bar in Newport Beach, CA with Collaborative Media (the crew who does Pacific Festival).
Justin, you recently picked up decks and began teaching yourself to DJ. Vitalic Noise is also a DJ act then, which consists of whom? Do you play your own events exclusively, or do you hope to step out from behind the scenes and hit the stage more often? Jerry, do you have a DJing hobby too?
Justin: Yeah man, Ben Walton and myself have been DJing as a hobby for the last few years. I really just kept it going so that we could control the opening slots at our own events as to stop some bro from dropping 130 BPM bangers at our events while people are still eating dinner. Since then we’ve been lucky enough to DJ all around the country, in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Louisville, Nashville, St Louis, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and more. Our DJ set is going to be really expanding over the next couple of months, so hopefully we get to add a few more cities to this list.
And lastly before we wrap this up, I was wondering if you’d like to share any standout moments of the last year related to Vitalic Noise accomplishments?
Justin: #1 Meeting Cooper Saver. #2 Meeting Jerry Soer.
Hahaha enough with that, Justin. Last things you both would like to plug? What should we be keeping our eyes and ears open for? You guys hitting the road soon, or kicking it at home in LA for now?
Justin: Bring your grandma to the next Vitalic Noise event so that she can dance to some hot beats! Haha. We’ll be throwing a showcase in NYC for CMJ Festival this October, so keep your eyes peeled like an orange to find out more.
Jerry: We have albums coming out from Goldroom, DCUP, Grafton Primary and Miami Horror next year, with new singles from each coming out soon. It’s gonna be a great time!
Thanks so much! See you dudes around.
The Vitalic Noise family will be at CMJ! Their CMJ launch party is happening on Thursday, October 18th at The DL in the lower east side, New York City. Free for everyone with RSVP at Vitalic Noise. Performances by Miami Horror DJs, Goldroom, Viceroy, Flume, Rufus, Jensen Sportag, and Good Night Keaton.
And be sure to check out the Vitalic Noise official mixtape: