Management in music is a two-sided coin. On one hand, it’s decidedly important to let your artist(s) control their creative process. On the other hand, the business end of the job - studying engagement, trends, analytics - is equally significant.
For Jarred Howard, creator and manager of Stray Dogs Music Group, realizing the value of both is paramount. Those who know Jarred, however, understand that variety in the music world is nothing new to the ambitious NC native. Howard has fully submerged himself into his craft. On top of Stray Dogs, Jarred writes for Lyrical Lemonade - a physical example of his creative mind. Additionally, a job with Indify (a data-powered company whose goal is artist exposure) showcases his marketing mind.
Stray Dogs Music Group is a full-blown manifestation of these concepts. Somewhere along the line though, the 28-year-old visionary saw an opportunity to pave his own lane - a creative juncture, if you will. How did he do this? Plainly speaking, he prioritized individuality.
Let me explain: music collectives have become a staple of rap. Sure, groups within the genre have remained prevalent since the genres inception, but the manner in which they’ve assembled has continuously evolved. Today, groups like Dreamville, JackBoys and TDE dominate popular culture. Their rosters consist of stylistically similar musicians whose sounds compliment each other.
Jarred took this concept and flipped it on its head. Upon Stray Dog’s creation, he enlisted four artists whose sound and style seldom exist in the same genre and brought them together. Instead of banking on one type of music, artists Mavi, Papichuloteej, Lil Shock and Ducey Gold all occupy their own category - and they do it well, garnering thousands of fans apiece. Instead of constructing a typical music brand, Jarred brilliantly formulated what feels like a creative space for his artists. This allows them to remain true to their desired form of artwork. Stray Dogs Music Group embodies their name to its fullest potential - its a meticulously assembled pack whose goal is to have their voices heard. To no one’s surprise, it's working.
Today, we sit down with Jarred Howard to discuss the ins-and-outs of running a music group, the artists he manages, and his ultimate goal for the future as part of a 6-part series covering and speaking with one of music’s most exciting new assemblies - Stray Dogs Music Group.
Carter : How did you know you wanted to be/get into the industry?
Jarred Howard : "As a kid, I used to always pass out mix CDs in high school. It just kept growing from there, I ended up managing two artists from my high school. Then when I got to college I wanted to network more. I started writing for this blog called Artistic Manifesto, that's when I got my first start writing and then I worked for Viper Magazine. I had my first print work and wrote for Respect Magazine as well. Recently, over the past two years, I started writing for a Lyrical Lemonade and working for a tech company called Indify."
Would you say that writing and management is your primary passion?
"I’d say management is my primary passion, but I really would like to become an A&R ."
So talent searching and all that?
"Yeah, I did some internships, I used to work under Jon Tanners and sent him artists every single week and used to keep excel spreadsheets. I also did some scouting for Alamo and sent them artists every week. To see if they were interested in signing them."
How did Stray Dogs come together?
"I started it last year. All this time I've been studying other managers and studying marketing, things like that. I never had any doubt in my mind that whoever I started working with was going to work. I was waiting to get it into the mood to manage and I went on this trip to New York last year and I got to meet a bunch of different people from a lot of different labels. Everyone is telling me 'You need to start managing. You need to start managing. You need to start managing.' All my meeting people kept saying that so I thought maybe I need to get back into managing.
Teej, I found him off Ashton Howard, he wrote him up on Daily Chiefers and Elevator. I listened to his project because I'm constantly searching for music and I thought his songwriting was dope. I felt like I could help him in the aspects that he was weaker in. My guy Kyle Miller, one of the top guys at Fashionably Early, showed me Lil Shock and Ducey Gold. I started working with them organically, and then Mavi was being written about over on lyrical and I noticed that he was from Charlotte, and people were telling me about him too. I told him to come over to my house, and we just built a relationship organically. I want to step in and build a relationship with artists organically, and not act like I want something from them."
What is the ultimate goal for Stray Dogs?
"Eventually either something like a talent agency or publishing company. I used to want to do distribution but I feel like either a management company, similar to TDE, or Love Renaissance, those would be my ideal goals for Stray Dogs."
How'd you come up with the name and logo for Stray dogs?
"One of the guys at Indify, Jordan, and an A&R, named Moody. We were thinking about creating a YouTube curating channel similar to Alex Bird and Rap Nation. Then we came up with a list of names and I was looking back at the list of names and I wanted to use Stray Dogs. It sounds really cool and I don't see anything else that's similar to it. I went with that, but somebody had told me that it’s because I'm grabbing artists with different sounds and I kind of want to go with that because I think it’s funny. My guy from here in Charlotte, he owns this streetwear brand called Street commerce. His name is Clint. He's really dope, he does like graphic design, so he helped us design the logo."
What would you say makes Stray Dogs different?
"Everybody doesn’t have the same sound. There is no shame at all and I love everybody under it but I'm just giving an example, something like Dreamville. Everybody on Dreamville they relatively the same fans. Not to say they all sound the same because obviously everybody has a different sound and everybody's super talented on their team, but they're going to attract the same fans. With my musical taste, I'm kind of everywhere. Teej is more indie-pop leaning, and Mavi has super niche underground hardcore rap stans that fuck with him. Shock is more like on the Lil Mosey type wave and Ducey is more on the Uzi and Ty Fontaine wave.
It's a combination of a bunch of different things that I like. I feel like 4 artists are a good start for me. I really did it because people tell me the quickest way to be an A&R is to manage an artist. The fastest way that I came up with in my head was to manage four different artists with four different sounds and make them all pop and make them all visible. Me being successful and doing that it's awesome, it created a very different opportunity for me."
What would you say is the toughest part of managing four different artists?
"With everything I'm doing - it's a lack of time. I write for Lyrical, I work for Indify, and I'm also working a part-time job so I have my hand in a bunch of different things. The toughest thing is really just to get the artists to be urgent to do things on time because they’re on artist time. They're thinking more about music and I’m more of a hands-on manager, I take all the demos and we go over the demos and we say what's good, we say what we can add. I don't have to be as hands-on with Mavi, I just tell him how I feel about the music. He kind of does his own thing. I’m more hands-on with Teej, Shock, and Ducey through the creation process.
The hardest thing is getting them to listen because managing is like having a kid. Doing this makes me have more respect for my mom because I'll tell Shock to do something, and you know how your mom used to tell you to do something and you'll sit around all day and, and not do it and they’ll come back to be like 'What were you doing all day? You could have just been doing this.' That's the hardest thing to get them to understand. There's a business side to this, that you have to complete things. The person that helps me out the most is Jake Zinn. Rayan my intern helps me with the socials and everything. As a manager, you're focused on the business side and networking with people and making sure their engagement is high, looking at analytics and studying trends and all that."
What's the most important thing you've learned during your time?
"The most important thing is numbers and stats are cool, but you have to have a fan base outside the DSPs and you need to be working on your fan base and building your core just in case you have that #1 hit. I saw a tweet yesterday by a guy named William on Twitter, he manages Lucki, he said something along the line of 'You need to create a core fan base, where whenever you have a hit, your fans are automatically going to carry you because you already have that fan base and instead of you coming in with a hit and trying to scrounge or scrap and search for fans.' I've noticed this throughout my time, a lot of these people have streams, but nobody really cares about them. I see people at 60-100 million but they can't even fill a 100-200-person venue. Mavi has a lot of relationships, and he's closing in on about a million streams online but I think the thing about him is he's more culturally relevant.
It's the same thing with shock too. He has a fan base in the gaming community. Yesterday, a Tik-Toker had used his music, and he went from 17 videos yesterday featuring his music to just under 100 videos in that short time span and that's just a bunch of kids.
The most important thing is creating content every week.
The three most important things are
Creating content for your fans.
Building outside of streaming services and creating a core fan base.
Having a story your fans can connect to. Talking about turn-up shit is cool, but, unless you have the lyrical ability or have an interesting story about you, it’ll get harder in the future. If you don't have a super-star element to you then you're in the middle of the pack, and it's going to be easier for you to fall off because fans don't have a story or narrative to latch on to. "
What are some goals for Stray Dogs in the next couple of months?
"Within the next couple of months, I want each artist to have a deal, not a label deal but have a situational deal. It could be a marketing deal or something like that. There are offers on the table right now for everybody, but I'm trying to complete those deals and find the best fit for every artist. I feel like this is important too, when you're managing different people, you have to notice everybody needs something different. You wouldn't just sign everybody to Interscope because it doesn’t for everybody."
What's your process for finding different companies that you feel fit the artists?
"I feel like me working at Indify helps because at Indify we handle investments for artists, so with our clients and people, we send them artists and help pitch artists to them to help facilitate deals.
People like Connor, Shav, Mel, and Jordan I'm looking at what they're doing and listening in on conversations, taking notes at my indify business meetings, and things like that. Taking notes on if this company is looking for this or this company tends to sign people that do well on YouTube and Tik Tok or this company is willing to take a risk on talent. It's just to get an idea of what people want."
What are three essentials like you can't live without?
"I’d say I can't live without music, sports, and my mom."
Who do you cheer for sports-wise?
"College basketball I'm a really big Duke fan.
I'm a big Steelers fan
I'm a big Lakers fan
I’m a big Yankees fan too. But I'll pay attention to all sports
I was really into NASCAR when I was a kid, shit was funny."
Who have you been listening to Lately? Do you have a favorite album so far this year?
"My Favorite Albums that I’ve been listening to this year are Uzi’s album, Don Tolliver’s, Conan Gray, Lil Baby, Giveon, and The Weeknd’s album."
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