Doug Rasmussen of Mighty City Music Management Talks Music Business in STL
After an unexpected offer to manage one of his all-time favorite bands, STL resident Doug Rasmussen combined his background in economic development with his knowledge of business management to start Mighty City Music Management. “I’ve been a passionate music consumer for a long time,” Rasmussen said when we sat down at Rise Coffee Shop in The Grove to talk about the growing company, based here in St. Louis.
But even before the company was formed, things started moving with a band out of Athens, Georgia called Five Eight. It’s a band Rasmussen says he had “worshiped for so long” and finally, through social media, convinced them to play a benefit concert he put on for the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group.
The band was impressed with the event, and asked Rasmussen to take over as their manager. “I kinda got my feet wet with that, working on their website, booking some shows, and trying to continue that same effort I put into that show in St. Louis,” he says.
A friend then encouraged Rasmussen to put a brand around what he was doing and make it an official business. So, Mighty City Music Management was launched in March 2014. The name came from Rasmussen’s love for city energy: “I came to St. Louis in the late ’90s to study urban planning. I’ve always found cities and people, music cities and people especially, extremely interesting,” he says.
Five Eight, having shared the stage with big names like REM and Wilco, already gave his company “street cred.” Through that reputation, Rasmussen says he was able to make connections and let the company grow. After attending AthFest, an annual music festival in Athens, Rasmussen picked up Adam Klein (an Americana singer-songwriter out of Athens) as a client and continued to grow his client base out of the Southeast. It wasn’t long until alt country, folk and rock outfit Kenny George Band reached out and was quickly picked up. “It grew organically,” Rasmussen says.
“This year we’re really focusing on our roster and what opportunities are available for them,” Rasmussen says in terms of future promotion for the brand. “The goal is to work off of the new music our artists are putting out and to create a more condensed plan geographically of where we can build some followers in the live circuit and then look for selected festivals and showcase opportunities. We’re trying to be in a position where our artists really scale in popularity.”
The music industry is not an easy one to dive into head-first like Rasmussen has done, taking time away from other higher-paying jobs to focus more on his passion project. “One of the things about the industry, it’s hard to know what the magic potion is,” Rasmussen says about the challenges he’s faced.“I don’t believe there’s a linear path of taking an artist from A to Z, so you really have to be really strategic about decisions you make.”
He also notes that having connections and contacts is very important in the music industry, which can be difficult and time-consuming. “One thing I’ve done is brought a few other people on the team who are willing to work for the potential future of the brand,” says Rasmussen, “As a solo guy for the first year and a half, I found myself quickly becoming consumed.” He’s brought on Brad Roell to handle more of the marketing, promotional side and Lindsay Dames, a student at University of Georgia, as an intern representing the area where most of his clients reside for the time being.
Being based here in St. Louis, hours away from his clients, isn’t challenging at all Rasmussen says. “The importance of being in Athens is great to be a part of that scene, but not required,” he says. “With Skype, cell phones and laptops, you can do this kind of work anywhere.”
He describes working out of St. Louis as being “in a good spot” speaking on the passionate musicians in our community. “It’s good to do this from St. Louis. It’s got a great scene, probably under-recognized,” he says. “You look at communities like Nashville—it has a lot going for it, but you can also argue there’s so much going on that it’s hard to get noticed.” Rasmussen has recently begun work with local artists Salisbury, as well as Cree Rider Family Band.
On the agency side, Rasmussen does booking for Hannah Aldridge, a popular singer-songwriter out of Muscle Shoals, AL. “I got to know her through another client of mine looking to play a show in Nashville,” he says. “I reached out to her agents in August 2014, and we struck up a friendship and a professional relationship.”
With the booking side of Mighty City, Rasmussen says he does it more freelance. “I would say in 2015 I booked 60-70 percent of her shows.” Aldridge is coming to St. Louis Jan. 22 to perform alongside Phoebe Elliot at KDHX’s venue, The Stage. (Be sure to check out the interview we did with Aldridge on her background in music and her experience playing here in St. Louis.)
As far as the future for Mighty City Music Management, Rasmussen and his team are going to work toward understanding the audience’s connection with the music they are consuming, asking the question “how does music affect lifestyle?”
Rasmussen explains, “I think music consumers these days focus on how music affects their own personalities and brands.” With the help from our local community and the contacts Rasmussen has made (and continually making) around the nation, it will be exciting to see where Mighty City Music Management goes in 2016.
For more information on Mighty City, visit mightycitymusic.com.