Today’s interview is with Carl Caprioglio of The Oglio Entertainment Group, Inc., a great independent record label that is a lot more than just a record label.
Now in its 20th year, Oglio achieved worldwide recognition as a successful niche marketer of entertainment products. Oglio releases have received acclaim and significant sales success including a Billboard Top 50 hit benefiting the Make A Wish Foundation, and projects with Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Cyndi Lauper, Robby Krieger (Doors), Ray Manzarek (Doors), Nerf Herder, Parry Gripp, Kool Keith, Ultramagnetic MCs, Rob Schneider, Jackie Martling (Howard Stern Show), Andy Dick, Craig Gass, and George Lopez. Oglio’s growth has been significant enough to earn a position on Inc. Magazine’s 1998 listing of the 500 fastest growing companies in America. In 2013, Oglio extended into the management space with the launch of “Manage It Comedy” – a service designed to help the working comic manage their business. Manage It Comedy helps comedians release their merchandise to market, build a web presence and use social media to market themselves.
1. Describe a typical day at the office.
One of the great things about being in the entertainment business is that there is not typical day. That said, I do have a bit of a routine that starts with attacking my email in box and checking all the regular social media sites for my artists’ activities. Once I have a handle on the mayhem that has ensued since the last time I checked those places, I write up my daily priorities on one of my office white boards and get to work. My office is in Torrance, a bit of a drive from the media centers of Los Angeles, so I try to set up a lunch meeting or two each week. My workday ends with more email and project development from home after dinner.
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
To quote the great Hannibal Smith from the A-Team – “I love it when a plan comes together.” Whether it is a record that goes from concept to release or a licensing deal or a new direction for my business, the most satisfying part of my job is that feeling of that success when it comes to fruition. It really isn’t tied to money (although that helps) but it is more about that great rush of satisfaction.
3. What are some projects that you are currently working on that you can discuss?
On the record side we have two new releases – one from the metal bash-up band Beatallica that combines the sounds of Metallica and The Beatles and the other from comedian Craig Gass of Howard Stern Show fame. They are wildly different projects but both are personal favorites.
Recently my attention has been moving toward artist management. Over the years a few of the artists on my label have asked me about managing them, but I liked the label side and didn’t pursue it at the time. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the interaction with the artists and bringing that interaction to another level seems like a natural move. I can provide the bigger picture help they need and still handle the label side if needed. It seems like a logical move and I use much of the same skillset that have developed over the last 20 years in business.
4. What do you think are the most important issues facing labels and artists at this time?
Top of the list has to be the idea that music should be free and that both artists and labels can make up the income by selling t-shirts or touring. As a label owner and a friend to artists, I’ve had many discussions about how “fans” find a justification for stealing music. Despite the perception that labels and artists were caught off guard, we could see this train coming, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do much about it. For me I simply underestimated people’s willingness to steal and the ease of which they justify their actions.
5. What do you think is the most profitable area of the music industry for independent artists today?
For your typical independent artist, I’m going to go with the new broad definition of “merch.” Merch (short for “merchandise”) now encompasses music, t-shirts, hats, hoodies, iPhone cases, tote bags, jewelry, USB drives and anything else you can put on your merch table or sell on your website. At one time the music part of the merch table was controlled by the labels but now that control is back with the artist in most cases. My favorite merch items are USB drives in fun shapes that artists can load up with not only their music but also videos, art and even a recording of the show from that very night. One of my artists, MC Lars, sells a small metal USB robot loaded with the music, videos and art from his album “This Gigantic Robot Kills” and it is a best seller for him on the road.
6. What other avenues are still profitable for artists?
I see PledgeMusic and Kickstarter as great avenues for artists with a fan base that can be mobilized. I have seen PledgeMusic and Kickstarter album campaigns that have raised substantially more than the actual recording costs. The extra revenue goes right into the pockets of the artists and the artists then have the ability to sell their music for 100% profit from the release date forward. This is a very powerful tool available to artists that have a following.
7. What types of deals are mostly being offered now among the independent labels?
In 1999, Oglio started offering “profit split” deals to artists that brought us recordings ready to be released. At the time it was a very unusual proposal but we felt that the partnership feel made for a more positive and collaborative working relationship. We treated our artists like business associates and we set our plans based on our mutual goals. Those deals worked well for both sides and Oglio was able to work with some legendary artists that would not have normally been interested in an independent label. I see those joint venture deals becoming more and more popular as artists have more control and labels look for ways to mitigate the risk involved in recording costs.
8. What is an independent label looking for when considering signing a new artist? Is there any criteria an artist needs to have to even be considered for a deal?
At Oglio it starts with the music. We have to feel strongly about the music itself and also its commercial potential. Every artist feels that their music is fantastic but the point where we often disagree is what we can offer as a label and still make a profit on the project. If the artist doesn’t have a fan base, touring history and traction, it just might be too soon for a label to get involved. We often turn down artists with the suggestion to self release and play live shows while they gain the momentum we would need to get involved.