Dinner At Jake Udell’s House

Moe pulled away in his Ferrari.

It’s hard to explain the SoCal lifestyle if you don’t live here. The warm fall evenings. The emphasis on out instead of in. But when you find yourself perched on a cliff in the hills, overlooking a sparkling San Fernando Valley, in your shirtsleeves on September 26th, you wonder how you got here, how so few know, and how life is exceedingly good.

I met Jake at EDMbiz a few years back. This twentysomething manager was the talk of the conference. Can I hang with twentysomethings? It’s kind of like the Chris Rock line, about getting married, you don’t want to be the oldest dude in the bar. I wonder if these cats don’t think I’ve got something better to do. After all, baby boomers are notoriously self-centered, believing they have all the answers, and are all about lifestyle, fine wines, exotic vacations, they appear bulletproof, like they have all the answers.

I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t even know the questions. Especially in today’s diverse world. So I’m curious to hang with the youngsters, it’s so stimulating, and wavering I remembered that Irving will take a phone call from anyone, once. Because he’s like MTV, continuing to stay young for if you don’t, you eventually lose touch, and you’re out of the game.

This is happening now.

First was streaming. The boomers hate it. The youngsters embrace it. And overnight, all the new stars are young acts. Hip-hop dominates and the oldsters are touring to decreasing audiences, unless they’re on the verge of death, and the media keeps talking about the value of recordings when the truth is they’re just a tiny piece of the pie. That’s right, the internet has opened up so many other avenues of revenue. If you’re willing to shut up about CDs and Spotify you can employ the new tools to make bank, like Marshmello.

He sold out three Shrines. That’s 15,000 people people. And you’ve probably never even heard of him. I had, but I can’t say I knew his music, that I was aware of his impact.

He was a struggling EDM artist, where you’re confined to your lane, and he was making a different kind of music, and his manager, Moe Shalizi came up with the concept. Of an alias. Found someone on Instagram to make the first helmet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Moe broke up with his girlfriend because he’s working all the time, he’s the one who drives the Ferrari. He grew up in godforsaken Riverside, for heaven’s sake, got a degree at the UC in that burg whilst living at home and hosting DJ parties in a bar. That’s right, the only innovators, the only pioneers aren’t in Silicon Valley, where the rewards are big but the work is often drudgery. And eventually Moe transferred to management, after some hair-raising affairs at the bar, where he was pulling down $1500 a night, net, and went to work for Red Light Management, where they thought they’d manage and he’d do the day to day.

But you can’t keep a millennial down. They’re competent, know how to work, despite the crybaby stories you read in the press. Hell, it’s like the sixties all over again, the press is clueless.

And the pre-Marshmello Marshmello is making 80k a year, but then he becomes the character and… Skrillex makes contact. They get lucky, Marshmello gets to town and Moe makes him call Sonny and he’s in the midst of an interview with Katie Couric, who Marshmello is clueless as to the identity of, and the end result is his call ends up in the final piece.

And fans find it.

It’s a veritable web out there I tell you. All interconnected. You get lucky one place and people spread the word other places.

And now Marshmello has done a deal with Hostess, I mean come on, who wouldn’t laugh about that, it’s a match made in hilarity, and he’s still sans major despite having eight singles with household names lined up and it’s all been done slowly and under the radar and… Marshmello and Moe don’t need the cash, do they even need a major?

It’s unclear. Sure, a major can deliver terrestrial radio, but is that where Marshmello belongs, does his audience even care?

And Moe is relatively quiet. Get him going and he’ll tell you his story. But he’s not interrupting and boasting, it’s only when you listen and hear the facts that you realize how successful he is.

Whereas Jeff Levin is just the opposite. He’s selling from minute one, like a traditional manager. And I’ve heard it all and I take it with a grain of salt but when he showed me a video of pandemonium when his client Logan Paul opened a pop-up shop in Manhattan, it was impossible to be unimpressed. Everybody came out, everybody was cheering, for this guy most people have no idea of.

But he’s got 3.6 million YouTube subscribers. And is in movies and on TV and this is a new star. Accessible. AND IN YOUR FACE EVERY DAY! Logan jumped from Vine to YouTube and has posted a new vlog, usually fifteen minutes in length, every single day for 380 days straight. God, no one else has the CONSTITUTION! Musicians are always bitching about doing the heavy lifting, they need someone to help, the system is against them, whereas this guy Logan is making the system work for him!

Now Jeff was an entrepreneur back in college, he started a laundry service. That’s right, these guys didn’t grind and then wake up and decide to be entrepreneurs, they were ALWAYS entrepreneurs. Then he paid his dues at ICM and at Awesomeness TV and now at the ripe old age of 31 is managing Logan. Hell, Moe is 27. Jake 28! Think about that, Jake and Moe weren’t even 10 when Napster launched, they’re not burdened by history, shackled to the past.

And Jeff talks about brand partnerships and advertising and the more you hear the more you’re convinced that this couldn’t all be true until you Google it and it is. Logan’s video today was launched two hours ago and already has 472,555 views, hell, I doubt that’s accurate, because YESTERDAY’S already has 4.1 million! Yup, the clips average 5 million views a day, and let’s be clear, there are musicians accumulating this number of streams, but they’re the ones ruling Spotify that the oldsters hate. But the joke is on the oldsters. The youngsters have tapped into the zeitgeist, and the oldsters are in the self-satisfied rearview mirror.

And now you’re saying that social media stars fade. There’s no there there. But Logan is selling story and has already been on “Law & Order” and “Stitchers” and has done a video with the Rock and even if it all ends tomorrow, he’s made money, and proven the paradigm…the younger generation will embrace a new kind of star, one outside the traditional actor/musician paradigm. Hell, they think they KNOW Logan. Do we really know the people on the big screen?

And speaking of a younger generation, Jake manages 13 year old Grace VanderWaal, winner of “America’s Got Talent” in 2016.

He pursued it. Was a joke in the competition. People wouldn’t even take his phone calls. But after getting Grace a gig at the Special Olympics in Austria and hooking her up with Cirque du Soleil she ultimately signed with him.

Took six months. And when he finally flew to meet Grace herself, previously her attorney wouldn’t allow it, she was bored and thought he wasn’t big enough until…

He asked her what she wanted to do.

Everybody was TELLING Grace what she should do! She felt caged. She was unhappy with the choice of single, well Jake said they could make their own video of another track and put it online. WE CAN DO THAT? Yup, you can build your own website, communicate with your fans, she was afraid of the label, no one was on her side, and that’s what a manager does, protect the interests of the artist whilst brainstorming opportunities.

And the truth is the oldsters are consumed with the old opportunities. Get a record contract and sign a deal with Live Nation or AEG. But there’s so much more. And it’s all online. And it’s all data. And it’s all incomprehensible to the old guard, their cheese has not only been moved, but stolen, and they don’t like it, these youngsters running circles around them, debating the value of Facebook ads, leveraging the power of their stars in heretofore unseen ways.

It’s exhausting just hearing about it.

But not every millennial is triumphing. Jake’s old friends are becoming professionals, doctors and lawyers, they’re playing it safe. Moe doesn’t even talk to the guys he grew up with, who are now cops. Jeff knows some successes, but it’s not everybody. That’s right, we paint millennials with a broad brush, but the truth is they’re individuals. And they’re excited about the entertainment business and the opportunities. But they’re not bitching and they’re not confined by the system, they’re doing it THEIR WAY! AND THEY’RE YOUNG!

If you’re in your twenties you’ve got forty years ahead of you. They know all the players, Scooter, et al, and they’re less into personal glory than power and money, changing the world.

And they are…

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