Posted by Jerome | Posted on 11-05-2010
In 2010 everyone has a brand/creative agency, however very few of these collectives are as active and respected as dubFrequency. The brainchild of Jesse Lee, a 29 year Chicago native currently based in LA, dubFrequency strives to inform you what is cool, who is up and coming, all the while doing this on their own terms without Sprite ads . Whether its showcases with the Cool Kids @ SXSW, 3 years ago, parties with Holt & Mano in NYC, or shutting down Coachella (yearly!), dubFrequency has consistently shown & proven why they are one of the best independent marketing agencies currently doing it. I had the chance to chop it with Jesse about his beginnings, how dF consistently stays ahead of the curve (meaning why they are onto the dope shit before you and your favorite blog), why they don’t blog to be “cool” and whether he thinks Kobe or DWade is a better player. This is a damn good read right here people.
For those unfamiliar with Jesse Lee & dubFrequency can you give them some background info?
We’re a branding/marketing agency where our list of clients range from the corporate world of Microsoft, Red Bull, HP, Diesel, AT&T and Coca Cola to artists, record labels and even hotels. I started the company in 2007 so it’s been 3 years now and we’ve recently launched a management company as well as a boutique record label.
I’ve been following the blog for some time now (2-3 years) and it seems that you had a strong presence in Chicago that grew into an even stronger one in L.A….without giving to much away, how did that happen?
I actually grew up in Chicago but 6 months or so after graduating from college, I moved to LA and started working in the music/media industry. Once I had some clout in the business, I put effort into pushing a lot of the Chicago artists I knew; Flosstradamus, The Cool Kids, Kid Sister, Hollywood Holt, Million $ Mano, … etc.
Did working @ URB magazine help plant the seeds for dF? And if so what did u take away from that experience?
Working at URB definitely helped but in terms of planting the seeds, I actually started dF in 2000 (Freshman year in college) while at Univ. of Illinois. I was either DJing or producing events on campus as well as in Chicago since I was 18. Looking back, it’s kind of crazy to think I was calling clubs in the city to let me throw events back then. By the time I graduated from college in 2003, I had produced over 200 events so when I moved to LA in 2004 and started as an intern then in the mailroom of another magazine, I had some advantage over others. At the end of the day, it’s all about what you can do with your opportunities and I’m not just saying this, but a lot of entrepreneurs in this business seemed to have gotten their start throwing parties in high school or college (including Russell Simmons, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and even the founder of URB, Raymond Roker).
Your pool parties @ The Standard Downtown & Friday Night @ Purple Lounge (R.I.P.) seemed to set the benchmark for cool amongst the “cool” crowd in LA. You had the best DJs & performers, RSVPS like crazy for people to get in and sponsors that other parties would kill to have - was there a particular format u used to achieve all of this, or was it hard work, grindin, etc.?
It actually all started with the first Creme de la creme event in April 2007 which The Cool Kids headlined. Back then, it was nearly impossible to catch an up and coming act like them (The Cool Kids’ debut performance in the West Coast) at the rooftop of a boutique hotel. We were fortunate in being able to showcase talented artists with the support of sponsors and partners. If I remember correctly, Microsoft Zune, imeem (RIP), Red Bull and URB participated at that inaugural event. That particular launch party set the tone for the following years.
The site, dubfrequency.com, seems to be consistently updating throughout the day, as it seems you have a team of knowledgeable, cool, and diverse people - how do u think the content on your site separates you from other sites/blogs, etc?
Thank you for noticing that because it’s something we take a lot of pride in. Most people reading this know the level of commitment and dedication that are required in blogging quality content on a consistent basis. With that said, I stress to my staff that it’s important for all of us to blog daily. In terms of content, that’s where we really separate ourselves from other sites. We don’t just blog about music, fashion or ‘cool’ things. A lot of times we just post whatever we deem to be relevant that morning or weekend. We don’t blog to be the ultimate tastemaker or a trendsetter; it’s more about being authentic and genuine with our personal interests.
In your opinion what is more important: starting a brand/agency on the internet then trying your hand in the streets, or being in the streets first and using the internet as a means of showing the internet how successful you/your team is?
I don’t think it matters which comes first but I do believe that at some point, you have to prove to yourself and others in the ’streets.’ How many followers you have on twitter or how many people read your blog will never fully represent you as an individual or a brand. At the end of the day, you should be able to translate those impressions into dollars; and not that money is everything but at some point, one should be able to monetize their efforts.
You seem to have the music shows/conferences (Coachella/SXSW/WMC/CMJ) on lock, consistently throwing and/or partnering with the best events/parties @ these venues - why do u think people want the dubFrequency team a part of their event?
It all comes down to objectivity. If you’re a true marketer or a judge of talent, you have to be able to look at things with an open mind. We never let our personal opinions or bias get in the way of how we make decisions that affect our brand and the business. In the end, we don’t promote certain artists or genres because of the trend either. Besides, it’s more fun when there’s a bit of uncertainty to what/who you’re pushing.
Since 2007/08 I have noticed your assistance in the careers of The Cool Kids, Pac Div, Dom Kennedy, Dude Royal, & Rob Roy (and I’m sure others)…has this been a conscious effort of the df team to use their influence to the careers of these artists in the music industry and has it been something you want to delve into further?
Not to sound cliche, but what goes around really does come around. Without going too much in detail, there have been artists dF and I spent a lot of time ‘helping’ that didn’t necessarily benefit us directly. In the end, there have been far more positives from supporting the folks we believe in and because of that policy, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with all types of artists. One random I can use is a pairing of Travis Barker and Rusko. Everyone obviously knows who Travis is but if you’re not familiar with Rusko, he’s one of the biggest in dubstep producers from the UK who also produced/mixed the majority of M.I.A’s next album. Anyway, introducing those two and having the potential of creating something completely new and different is rewarding.
A good friend we share in common, Victor Nguyen-Long, always speaks about your ability to monetize almost every situation your company is in…with some many artists, DJs, creative enterprises & media outlets consistently giving out free product, what do u think is the turning point that can help people find the value in their product and thus be compensated for it fairly?
The best way to approach it is by having faith in your ability/product. Not everything you do will directly lead to a profitable venture. But by continuing to be active in the industry, you’re going to accumulate credibility and a network of individuals/brands that will support you. It’s difficult to say when the ‘turning point’ may be but in the end, I do think that things work out the way they’re suppose to.
Being that you’re from Chicago, but live in LA we have one question for you: DWade or Kobe?
Whats next for dubFrequency?
Our marketing projects and events are continuing to grow but we’re also about to expand more on the artist management side. Just as labels are offering (or trying to) 360 deals, dFm has the ability to offer artists/musicians a comprehensive support package that most managers can’t provide. We’re proud of our track record in identifying talent at early stages of their career and having the ability to help them ‘break.’ Besides that, we have our boutique record label (dF music) as well as the return of The Basement (our pop up store) which will be completely different from what you may expect from a retail space. Details TBA…
Peace to Jesse Lee & the entire dubFrequency team…