Spotlight Corner with Mark Kaye of HearNowLive!
Updated: Nov 28, 2018
We recently interviewed Boston music VIP Mark Kaye, founder of HearNowLive!, a supportive organization for venues and almost 1000 original performers.
Tell us about your “story”. Where do you come from and what made you begin working in the music industry? I was born in Boston, and when I was six years old my parents moved the family to Stoneham, MA. I ended up getting into the music business because in high school I felt my skills on the guitar weren’t evolved enough, so I quit the band I was in, and managed them instead.
I booked them a showcase at the famous CBGB’s in New York City, and on my 18th Birthday did a showcase with 5 A&R record executives in the audience. From there I went to Northeastern’s music industry program, and while working on a project, I got an internship there and then a job as assistant A&R at Polygram Records.
A couple of years later I opened up a hip-hop production house called Throw Down Productions, and we signed local legends in the group Mikst Nutz to Jive Records. They got dropped in favor of Britney Spears and NSync, but the recordings from those demos are still critically acclaimed worldwide. Recently, DJ Jazzy Jeff reached out to one of the former members of Mikst Nutz, the internationally renowned DJ Kon to discuss a formal release of those demos from the early 90’s. After that I diversified even more and got into production, management, and booking and managed some well-known national bands for a few years. When I had my son in 2005, I decided to only work with local bands and just do hired consulting work for the nationals. That experience led me to Hear Now Live!, which has been an amazing experience for me.
HearNowLive! specializes in providing new exposure and revenue opportunities for musicians by maintaining a steady flow of original talent in venues throughout the Greater Boston area. With a roster of nearly 1000 original acts, HNL is a one stop shop for venues wanting to fill their dance floors, and for local bands or up-and-coming national acts in need of promotions and connections.
What would you say, is your favorite thing about the local music scene? My favorite thing is that you can see very talented bands grow from the beginning, see them grow and advance to the national stage, and become stars. There are an incredible number of musicians that make it out of Boston, and go onto having great success with their music on a national level.
What would you change? I guess what I would change is to work harder to get bands to believe in the power of community, and get bands to work together on a daily basis. I’m not talking about one or two bands, I’m talking about everyone and every genre connecting with each other and mutually benefiting from their associations. Boston has thousands of bands, but it’s so small, and bands and venues tend to work against each other instead of together. There is a definitive reason why when bands break from Boston they rarely look back, and it’s because of the lack of camaraderie Boston has lost over the last 6 or 7 years. It is here and now we have to get it back.
I would also try to get bands where creating music isn’t about some social preference, but is all about the music and universally everyone comes together to create a powerful and successful network. There are many specialty music events which I fully support, but we become a powerful force working together.
How long have you been active in the music community? It’s too long to admit, but I booked my first show, the one at CBGB’s at 18, so that’s just a couple years shy of 30 years in the industry.
How has the industry changed since you began? The internet killed the label business which is a double-edged sword because labels used to be able to use their excess money to develop new artists, but with the lack of product sales they couldn’t do that any longer. It’s starting to come back and labels (indie and majors) have figured out a way to make a killing on streaming platforms. Bands also have many more opportunities now through licensing, and branding their product.
What do you see for the future?
The future is bright. I am on the Grammy nominating committee, and a team captain for their advocacy division. Getting the music modernization Act to pass was a giant first step to getting musicians more royalties through streaming. There are several more laws on the table that coincide with the modernization bill that when they pass local musicians will begin to actually see decent income from their streams on every social media platform. It’s a few years away as Washington only looks at these bills every couple of years, but when it happens it will be life changing for those struggling with their music careers.
Any advice for up and coming bands, artists or music business entrepreneurs?
Decide what you want to be local, a party band or you really want to go for it. If you want to go for it stay positive, don’t let your guard down, throw away all of your inhibitions, and meet a lot of people because you can’t do it all on your own. All promoters, venues, industry personnel and musicians should be working together and learning from each other. Imagine the type of movement that would make if it can be pulled off? All clubs would be packed wall to wall again, and instead of bands struggling here and moving away to get noticed, there would be a spotlight shining down on everyone in Boston that’s working hard. This is how it was in the past. Let’s get it back.