Industry Spotlight: Jason Davis (One One 7)

Hello and welcome to the one and only Industry Spotlight feature we are running this week. The person highlighted has well over a decade of experience, and the advice he has to share is nothing short of priceless. If you’re interested in artist management, marketing, or A&R in any way – this is the column for you.

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Jason Davis may not be a household name, but during his years in the industry there is not a doubt in my mind that he has worked with someone you – and everyone you know – loves. He started out as a songwriter, and in the fifteen years since he has risen through the ranks to help lead several major companies. I did not know much about his experiences prior to conducting the interview below, but I was immediately blown away by the stories he shared. His career is what everyone aspires to in a way, and today he let’s us in on how traversed the ever-tricky world known as the music business.

One of the biggest goals we have with this blog is showcase the various perspectives people in this industry have on the so-called music business. Jason is the first person we have spoken with to not only successfully transition from artist to industry professional, but he’s also one of the most driven people we have interviewed to date. If you have any questions we missed, or if you would simply like to share your views on Jason’s words, comment below. You can find Jason and One One 7 on Twitter.

H: Thank you for joining us. Before we begin, please take a moment and introduce yourself to our readers:

JD: Thank you for having me. My name is Jason Davis and I am the CEO and founder of international entertainment industry corporation, One One 7. Fifteen years ago I broke into the business after winning an ASCAP award as a songwriter and since then I’ve played the role of A&R executive, executive TV Producer, entertainment consultant, and author. My company today focuses on developing and creating opportunities for artists to find success in this business.

H: It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Jason. This is one interview we have been looking forward to for quite a while. Tell me, what’s new in your world today?

JD: It’s my pleasure. I’m doing well! Today is another day for me to fight passionately for artists and do what I love.

H: I’d like to begin by learning a bit about your history with music. When you think about your childhood, what memories of music and/or art come to mind?

JD: My first memory of music is seeing KISS perform on TV when I was 3 years old. I remember seeing them in makeup, breathing fire and breaking guitars on stage and I was so taken by how unique that was. I also specifically remember being in a friends room when I was 8 years old seeing Ozzy Osborne on an album cover dressed like a wolf. I was intrigued by how different music artists were from everybody else.

H: Do you recall the first concert you ever attended? If so, who was it? Bonus points if you share an early ‘fan boy’ story:

JD: The first concert I ever attended was David Lee Roth on the Eat Em’ and Smile tour. It was his first tour away from Van Halen. I remember two things from that show. Number 1 was the energy of the exchange between the artist and the audience. It was almost electric; it was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen. The other thing I remember was that he cursed a lot and used a lot of profanity and even as a 13 year old boy I thought it was very off-putting.

H: A lot of the people we speak with are able to pinpoint specific moments or experiences in life that lead them to the career they have today. Was there ever a ‘lightbulb moment’ for you? If so, when?

JD: I remember the day I wrote my first hit song and I called up a friend of mine who had a studio and I offered him money to record my song. I knew if I paid him he would put more heart into the project and the song would turn out better. That was the first moment in business I realized something I would carry with me forever: you really know when someone believes in his or herself if they’re willing to pay for something. That’s the way I’ve operated throughout my career. I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always invested in myself.

H: Did you attend college or have any kind of formal training in this industry prior to entering the music business as a professional?

JD: I started working as soon as I graduated from high school. I taught myself this business. I worked relentlessly to make connections with major label executives and through a combination of networking, taking risks, and being passionate about music, I ended up where I am today.

H: We go back and forth on this a lot, but as someone who has made a name for themselves in music do you feel a college degree is an absolute necessity for professionals today? If so, what should people study? Do you think so-called ‘music business’ programs know what they claim to teach?

JD: I would never discourage somebody from attending a university or having any kind of formal music business training, but from my experience it is absolutely not a necessity. College is a great tool for networking and making connections if somebody wants to break into the business; you will meet other hopeful executives or artists you can collaborate with. For recording artists, a performance degree is not going to set you apart or truly benefit you in the industry. The size of your fan base and the quality of your songs are far more important. Communications, marketing, and general business courses are what I would recommend. You will really only learn the music business in its current climate by working in it, not by reading a textbook.

H: Let’s talk about your first job in the industry. From what I understand, you initially got your professional start as a songwriter. Is that true? Please tell us a little bit about that time in your life, and what it was like to make a job out of your creativity.

JD: I wrote a song I was very proud of and recorded a demo tape when I lived in New York. Months later, I received a call from Grant Cunningham, the Vice President of A&R at Sparrow Records in Nashville saying my tape ended up on his desk and he wanted it for one of their artists. Soon afterwards, my song was #1 on Christian radio and I won an ASCAP award for it. As soon as this happened, I knew that I was going to pursue music professionally. It was a really exciting time in my life.

H: Did this position reaffirm your interest in making the music business your life’s work?

JD: The door was opened for me to work professionally in this business and I decided to take a chance on my dream. Winning an ASCAP award and being played all over the radio showed me that it was absolutely possible to achieve whatever I put my mind to. I was always passionate about music and I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry for the rest of my life.

H: You eventually transitioned from songwriting into the world of publishing. What spurred this change, and have you continued to write songs in the meantime?

JD: I realized what my strengths were. I was more skilled as a businessman and salesman than I was a songwriter. I continued to write songs and I had a few more cuts with major artists after that time. Ultimately I was more passionate about discovering and developing talent and walking artists into record labels than I was about writing songs.

H: From 1998 through 2006, you ran a publishing / management company working with all walks of talent. In the years since you’ve focused far more heavily on music in all aspects of your career. Why?

JD: Throughout my fifteen year career so far, the focus has always been music. Along the way I have developed relationships with some actors and models who I have worked with and consulted as well. What I did fifteen years ago looks very similar to what I do today, I just do everything with a lot more wisdom and heart for others.

H: In 2011 you changed the name of your media company, and suddenly Fahrenheit Media morphed into One One 7 Media. What was the reason behind the change, and what is the meaning behind the new name?

JD: The name of the company changed along with many things in my life once I found the Lord. One One 7 Media stands for 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” It was the first scripture ever spoken to me in over 30 years of being alive and I wanted my company and my work to reflect my beliefs and values.

H: Your company’s focus expanded once the name change took effect, including the addition of One One 7 TV. What can you tell us about this project and the role it plays in your professional future?

JD: One One 7 TV is the only network in existence that covers all of the biggest contemporary Christian artists around the world. We have been on the red carpet at the Dove Awards and we were also behind the scenes shooting exclusive content for the 2014 K-LOVE Fan Awards. We feature interviews and acoustic sessions with major CCM artists and we are responsible for breaking some huge artists on our channel as well. One One 7 TV is a network unlike anything out there in the Christian music industry and I foresee it playing a major role in the future of our company.

H: You’ve also written a book, which recounts your journey in music up to this point. When did you begin working on this creation, and how did you know the time had come to share your adventures with the world?

JD: Over the last five years, people always encouraged me to write a memoir and share my story with the world, but I never had the means to do so. I ended up eventually meeting the right team and they helped me write the book over the course of one year (2013).

H: Do you feel like you will continue to write books in the future? Do you have any desires to foray into the world of fiction?

JD: Actually, I’m working on a couple of books right now. I don’t see myself ever writing fiction, but I hope to continue collaborating with others on writing books, mainly to publish faith-based content through One One 7.

H: Without going too in-depth, please walk us through a typical day of work for you:

JD: A typical day for me includes spending time discussing projects with various A&R people from record labels and major publishers, guiding our songwriter and producer roster through projects, discussing vision and goals with the various executives of our company like One one 7 TV or our licensing division, discussing new ideas with our executive consulting team, and we also do company prayer calls once a week. Generally my days consist of a lot of communication, listening to ideas, and vision casting for our company or individuals we represent.

H: Looking forward, what are the biggest challenges One One 7 faces in terms of growth, and how do plan to combat them?

JD: The challenges One One 7 faces are the same challenges the rest of the industry face. It’s imperative that we constantly grow and adapt with changes in technology and social media. We also have to keep our roster of talent updated with the hottest songwriters and producers year to year. Our consulting team spends time building industry relationships and researching the latest trends in music so that we can best serve our artists.

H: A lot of people seem to believe music piracy is not really an issue, or at least not one worth making as much fuss over as people have in recent years. As someone who has worked directly with artist impacted by the illegal sharing of copyrighted works, where do you stand on this topic?

JD: In 2014, exposure is the name of the game. Word of mouth and sharing of an artist’s song is ultimately going to lead to bigger opportunities for that artist. For that reason, I don’t think piracy is an issue. The major labels are really the ones losing out. Our goal as a company is to get our artists out there and create a buzz, so whether someone is streaming a song or illegally downloading it, we still see that as an opportunity for our artists to be building their fan base.

H: Do you think we will ever reach a point when piracy is no longer an issue?

JD: As long as the Internet exists, piracy will always be an issue. I do believe that people will always buy their favorite albums, but the days of buying an album before you hear it first are long gone.

H: I’d like to turn to your knowledge of this industry for a moment. What advice would you offer someone who may be reading this and dreaming of working full time in the industry one day?

JD: Network everywhere you go. Educate yourself on the business by speaking to people that already work in the business: managers, promoters, booking agents, A&Rs, whoever you have access to. Eventually you will network with the right person and if you have spent time educating yourself on how this business works, you will find an opportunity to be mentored or intern for somebody who believes in you. Work as hard as you can and put yourself out there.

H: We also welcome a lot of up and coming artists on a daily basis. Do you have any words of guidance to help them stand out from the competition and/or take their career to the next level?

JD: Partner with the right producer and songwriters. Your music is the only thing that will help you stand out in this ocean full of talented artists. If your song is well written and well produced, you will be noticed. You also need to have the right team around you. It’s extremely difficult to navigate this business alone so any artist looking to take their career to the next level, in addition to playing out often and writing with great songwriters, needs to have a team who is as passionate about the project as they are.

H: You have accomplished a lot in your lifetime. I’m curious, what goals do you have now – both professional and personal?

JD: I ultimately want to please God with everything I do. I also want to passionately fight and deliver the best for the clients that God sends who put their trust in me.

H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

JD: Radio is no longer a tool used to break artists because it has become completely nationalized. You hear the same programming no matter where you are. I would like to see the industry rely on radio to break more new artists again.

H: Where do you see yourself, Jason Davis, and the rest of the One One 7 team five years from today?

JD: I believe One One 7 is going to grow in many directions. We will always focus on artist development but we have other divisions that are going to continue to expand our company even further internationally. In five years from today, I see us still working as hard as we do right now for every single client, but ultimately having more international resources and giving these artists even more opportunities to be successful in this industry.

H: That covers everything. Before I let you go, are there any final thoughts or comments that you wish to share?

JD: Thank you for having me!

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.