Hey Philly! I recently said down and learned a few tips and tricks from Brandon Hathaway for how to be successful in the music business. Brandon makes up half of Tha 317, an Irish Hip-Hop band that seriously knows how to throw down. He not only performs, but is also the main promoter for the band and was kind enough to share with me a lot of great advice on the business side of things from concert booking to networking, and even filled me in on the growing music scene out in Ohio. The scene is getting big so if you're a band looking to tour, make sure you hit up the area, and then party with Tha 317! But seriously, listen to this guy if you want to learn how to land a gig, multi-task to the extreme, and make everything a party.
When did you form Tha 317 and how/why did you come up the Irish/Hip-Hop fusion?
Brandon: Well we actually started in February of 2009 and the funny thing was that it was started by coincidence. There was actually another member and they were in a group called Guinness and Shamus. It happened that the three of us wanted to start a group and we were all Irish. We were actually originally called Pogue Mahone then we added 317 for St. Patrick’s Day. But it turned out there was a bar in Canada called Pogue Mahone so we stuck with Tha 317Guinness and Shamus are cousins, but Guinness is no longer with us. Tha 317 is now myself, and my stage name is "Lucky Fargas," and the other member of the group goes by "Shamus O'Grady".
So you’re the main promoter for Tha 317 and have found a lot of success in finding shows…how did you go about starting the booking process? Did you learn from someone else or did you kind of just jump in?
Brandon: No I pretty much just jumped into it because music has always been my passion. I knew I wanted to work in it, either performing or writing or whatever, so I wanted to learn more about the business side of things. I’ve worked in retail so I’ve always been good at talking to people. I started at a small venue down in Akron as the first spot and with all the networking I’ve done since, I’ve sort of kept my eyes out. It’s all about who you know here, especially in NE Ohio. It’s all about how you get to know people and about networking.
How do you juggle creating music, writing and booking? You are also in school correct?
Brandon: It really is tough on me honestly. I do take online classes though so they can fit into my schedule. I just got my Associates and now I’m working on my Bachelors. I kind of like to kill two birds with one stone so I work a lot with the band online focusing on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation. It’s really about the internet. That’s where I can talk up the band and talk to venue owners. Every moment I’m not doing school work I’m constantly online networking. It’s hard to breathe sometimes but it’s my passion so I got to do it.
You guys play a lot in NE Ohio, so where are the best cities/venues for hip-hop artists to go to where they might receive a lot of positive reaction?
Brandon: There’s a lot in the Cleveland area. Akron itself isn’t really good for venues, but there is a great venue in Akron called Chuck’s Steakhouse that we play and it welcomes all different kinds of genres which is awesome. Then there’s Peabody’s in Cleveland which is a great venue and right outside of Cleveland in Mentor is a venue called Livewire Lounge that’s great and also welcomes all kinds of genres. There’s another great place in Akron called Musica. It’s great for in or out of town bands, but they don’t like it when you play another show close to the venue on a nearby date, so we’ll probably be back out there in June. And then also, an amazing venue is the Cleveland Agora. It’s really a great venue but it’s not easy to book. But when you get a chance to play there the place is very legendary.
Hip Hop tends to scare off venue owners. They seem to be afraid of the possible violence that comes with booking a Hip Hop show. How does this differ in Northeast Ohio and why?
Brandon: Well, it can be an issue but the problem with hip-hop is that it’s been given a bad name. Take metal fans, they tear up shows and mosh too and get a crazy rep as well. But it’s all about the way you conduct yourselves and interact with venue owners. It’s really about building relationships with the owners of the venues. I always sit down and get to know them very well. We also have a really good crowd. Our crowd is people who are chill and just want to have fun. We like to party and so do they. We also mix up our shows with different genres so it’s like one big fun show.
Everyone knows that the music business is all about networking. If you could choose the best three tips for networking that every person trying to book a show should always know, what would they be?
Brandon: Well, you’ve got to utilize your social networking and constantly promote, promote, promote. That’s what I use Facebook and Twitter for, it’s not even personal use. Promoting, promoting, promoting is number 1. Number 2, I’m constantly going out to find out what’s hot and talking to the venue owners. I don’t even know if there are three things I could pick. It’s really all about promoting and getting on the social media sites. That’s how I’ve been doing what I’ve doing and getting us shows. And stay positive. You’re gonna hear a lot of bad feedback for a while you just got to stay positive. Sometimes you’ll here two no’s from a venue before you get a yes so you just got to stay on top of things.
Tha 317 has played with some rising OH acts including iPhonic, EST and MGK. How was it sharing the stage with them and how did those relationships come about?
Brandon: I mean, it’s been an amazing experience. We actually just did a show with EST and MGK and got to hang out with them backstage. I’m still interested in learning things from them. I actually discovered iPhonic before they even got big and they have opened up for us a couple times back in 09-10, and now they’re getting big. That’s been a great experience getting to know them and getting to play shows with them now. It’s been a really cool experience. And now MGK is going national with his crew, it’s really an amazing experience sharing the stage with them.
What do you think all these fast growing OH hip-hop artists’ fan bases are saying about the state of OH’s music scene?
Brandon: Ohio has made a very sharp turn over the last couple of years and has become very good as far as the scene goes. There are lot of artists coming out of here such as iPhonic, MGK, Aaron L, and Chip tha Ripper. I think its saying a lot. Cleveland has always been the underdog and then Labron came out of here and people started realizing there’s talent here. And you’re gonna see a lot of big names coming out of here in the future. I think it’s taking a turn for the best. It’s cool that we’re coming up out of the wave and here when all this is happening right now.
Do you have any future plans for a career as a booking agent since you’ve had so much success with your own band?
Brandon: Right now I’m obviously focusing on Tha 317, but at the same time it’s good for me to learn the business side of 317 and having my degree. Yeah, if things don’t pan out for me I will definitely do this for a living, the behind the scenes. But it’s been a great experience for me to be able to do this for my current group.
Are there any crazy plans for St. Patrick’s Day for Tha 317? I’m assuming it’s your most sacred day of the year.
Brandon: Yeah, absolutely! We’ve got a great show set up this year which is actually gonna be at Chucks Steakhouse and we’ve got a lot of live bands playing and different genres its gonna be a really big event its one of those must come see events.
Got any last minute advice for the young booker out there trying to land their band their very first gig?
Brandon: Stay positive, stay energetic, and keep yourself together because it is a rough industry it’s a very rough business to get in and it can be very discouraging. Stay focused, stay positive, and keep driving. You gotta have some thick skin to be in this business.
As always, go check him and Tha 317 out!
Monster Entertainment LLC