By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
So they plotted.
ScoreMore's first show was a seemingly meek one. For $2,000 (Guttfreund had earned an additional $500 doing a bottle club promo for a nightclub), they booked Afroman, most famous for his 2000 hit "Because I Got High." The show cost ScoreMore the entirety of its bankroll. Despite being scheduled for Mother's Day (and despite it being Afroman), it was largely successful.
"I still remember the number," Guttfreund says proudly. "We sold 430 tickets. I'd done research for it. I felt confident. I knew what his fan base was, and I knew where his fan base was, so that's what we marketed towards."
Afroman ended up earning bonus monies, and ScoreMore landed in the green.
From there, things grew organically but quickly.
The two actively began applying what they were learning in school — Guttfreund was pursuing a degree in communications; Bogle was in a music business program — to their business. They developed business plans, short-term and long-term goals. After a while, they formed student-led street teams, recruiting handfuls of kids to sell tickets and promote shows. They even arranged for UT students to earn college credit for doing so. Eventually, practical academia couldn't keep up.
"I had one of my instructors tell me, 'What you're studying is what you're living in life,'" remembers Bogle. "He said, 'I think you should take some time off and really pursue it.' He basically told me to stop going to school [laughs].
"I was feeling that, but I needed some reassurance," Bogle continues. " Like, the classes I was taking, some of them were just wrong. The textbook would be ten years old. We'd be talking about marketing, and there wouldn't be anything in there about Facebook or Twitter, and that's such a large part of what we were doing. I was confused. When he said that, it was just like, 'Holy shit.'"
ScoreMore's business plan, one they have executed from apartment startup to national acclaim, is as simple as it is unassailable: They identify indie rappers who have developed a medium amount of fame on the Internet — acts who are known by nearly all the major blogs and hip-hop sites but are not known enough to warrant big-money deals from major record labels — and then book them to perform in, and through, Texas and Louisiana. Their roster sheet of clients, all of whom were booked well before their ascension, reads like the first few rows of this year's MTV Video Music Awards. To name a few:
There's the aforementioned Wale, signed to megastar Rick Ross's label. There's Big Sean, formerly signed to Kanye West's label and currently signed to Def Jam. There's Mac Miller, whose 2011 album, Blue Slide Park, touched the spire of the Billboard albums chart (the first to do so as an independently distributed debut since The Dogg Pound's Dogg Food did so in 1995). And there's Jay-Z protégé J. Cole.
"J. Cole, I love that story,'" says Guttfreund. "We were the first ones to book him on a tour down here. Like, we were driving him around in a pickup [laughs]. He's J. Cole, he'd never go for that now. [laughs] But so we book him, and he's performing, and the shows are great. He has one, and he gets off stage and is in the back, and he's got his head in his hands, and he's like, 'I can't believe these people know the words to my songs. This is so crazy.' And that's really when that connect came: All of these guys have such loyal fans. Nobody is booking them here. Let's do that. Let's really be the first to bring these guys."
So that's what they did. And that's what they do. They do it so well that they were profiled recently on the regional pages of The New York Times, with Bun B praising, "ScoreMore took chances on a lot of great talent in its early stages. Those relationships that they built — not based on money, but on a belief in someone's talents — paid off."
In the worst-case scenarios, those relationships act as spines for the company, which isn't even really all that "worst." (Guttfreund is fond of telling the story of the time a rapper sent them a check for several thousand dollars because his show didn't go as well as everyone had anticipated it would.)
In the best scenarios, they maintain those relationships with the acts as they grow into fame, earning their trust (and business) later when agencies like Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Live, the two largest entertainment bookers in the world, begin to notice.
The first time ScoreMore booked Kendrick Lamar, back before he'd been cosigned by Dr. Dre and before he made 2012's best rap album, he required a fee that was approximately 6,000 percent lower than it is today.
"It's pretty simple," says Dave Free, who manages Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and a handful of other LA-based rappers, when asked why they've chosen to continue to work with ScoreMore as Kendrick has become one of the most famous rappers in the country. "ScoreMore does good business. They were the first ones to book us on a tour that took us to multiple cities. They understand how to market an out-of-town act to new cities."