Industry Spotlight: Jesea Lee (Tragic Hero Records)

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Jesea Lee is the kind of music industry professional I love to highlight on our blog. So many aspiring entertainment pros believe they have to relocate to one of the coasts in order to be successful, but Jesea is one of many who prove that is no longer the case in 2014. As long as you work hard, stay motivated, and continuously put the needs of others before yourself there is no telling how far you can advance in any endeavor you choose to pursue. That’s what Jesea has done with his love of music, and today he shares his journey with us.

If you would like to learn more about Jesea, as well as his efforts at Tragic Hero, be sure to follow the label on Twitter. Additional questions and comment should be left at the end of this post.

H: Hello! Before we dive in, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to our readers:

J: Hey there, hi there, ho there! My name is Jesea Lee and I’m the publicist for Tragic Hero Music Group.

H: It’s great to have you with us, Jesea. I feel like I’ve known about Tragic Hero for a long time, but I’ve never had a chance to look ‘behind the curtain’ so to say. How is your day going?

J: Not bad! I hope yours is going well. I’m currently working on a bunch of tour press at the moment.

H: Let’s begin we a little bit of your personal history. If you had to pinpoint a specific moment or experience, when would you see you initially fell in love with music?

J: When I was 12 years old I used to skateboard and that was my biggest passion. I would think about skateboading all day. One day at school I was daydreaming about playing guitar and couldn’t wait to get home and learn some new songs. Some friends asked if I wanted to go skate after school and I remember just thinking that I’d rather go home and play guitar. That’s when I realized music was my new passion and nothing has replaced it since. It’s a silly story, but that’s honestly the moment I realized how much I liked music because I chose it over what I believed to be my biggest passion at the time

H: Do you remember the first album you purchased with your own money? How about the format?

J: It was a Blues Traveler CD. I bought it specifically for a certain song, but didn’t know the name of it. My parents didn’t have the internet, so I couldn’t just google the lyrics to find the title. I took a guess and bought “Save His Soul”…and it ended up being the wrong one. I ended up loving that album, though.

H: First concert? Bonus points if you share an early story of fandom.

J: Cold and Evanescence. Completely random because I’m not a fan of either band, ha. My first fandom moment would probably be seeing Senses Fail in Cleveland. I met Buddy Nielsen (vocalist) outside after the show and totally “fangirled.”

H: Most people do not immediately connect their passion for music to the idea of working on the business side of the industry. Did you ever try your hand at being a musician? Did you chase the rockstar dream before turning your eyes toward business?

J: I sure did. I’ve been in bands since I first picked up a guitar when I was 12. I’ve toured, put out records, and have been lucky enough to do a lot of things that most musicians won’t get to do. I think all those experiences makes it easier for me to empathize with the artists I work with.

H: I mentioned Tragic Hero early on, but you’ve had a few roles in music up to this point and I want to cover everything I am able. From what I found, you studied Music Business at Cuyahoga Community College. Is that a program you would recommend to others seeking a little more guidance on the music business?

J: I’m not sure how much I really retained and use from that program because I felt like it wasn’t as in depth as it could have been. Also, I felt like it may have been a little outdated. I still think any extra education is great, though.

H: Do you think college/higher education is something all aspiring industry professionals should seek out?

J: I don’t really endorse getting a really expensive degree that you have to spend the majority of your life to pay back just because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do, but I do think if it’s financially reasonable and it’s actually something that you’re gonna use then why the hell not? To that end, I would say I’ve learned waaaaay more about the music business from real life experience.

H: Around this time you also landed your position with Tragic Hero Records, which as many know is owned by Tommy Lacombe. Can you tell us a bit about how you learned of the position and shed some light on the interview process?

J: I spent the time after college pretending to be a rock star basically, ha. In 2010, I met the Business manager of Tragic Hero through a mutual friend and it wasn’t until 2013 that I approached him about a job with the company. It took about six months of talking and interviewing before I secured the position.

H: Once you secured the gigs you have no, your free time had to be pretty limited. How do you keep everything balanced while still making time to relax?

J: Work-life balance is almost virtually impossible in our generation. Your bosses and clients can reach you any time, day and night. One of the things I like to do is leave my phone in the locker when I’m working out. Nothing can mess up a good set more than an email from a writer rejecting your pitch. Things like that can wait until after I get my pump on, ha.

H: With that in mind, would you please walk us through a typical day of work for you?

J: I usually spend the first hour catching up on emails that came in while I was sleeping. That also involves sending links of new coverage to artists/management. Then I make a schedule for the remainder of my day. For example, 10-11 “X BAND” tour press, 11-12 “Y BAND” tour press, 12-1 “Z BAND” album press, etc. It almost NEVER goes according to schedule, though. There’s always something that pops up that need to be taken care right then and there, but the schedule is definitely a nice starting point.

H: What is the greatest lesson about publicity/A&R that you have learned in the two years since your professional journey began to take off?

J: Persistence and follow-up is key. It seems like every time I think “I hope this second follow-up email doesn’t annoy this person” that’s the one that they respond to.

H: If you could offer one piece of advice to people reading this who may be considering the pursuit of a career in entertainment, what would you say?

J: Network, network, network. That’s really the sole reason I am where I am right now …..that and my good looks ;). The entertainment business is really tough to break into and you won’t often see a craigslist saying “Record Label Seeks Publicist,” so you need to get out there and create opportunities.

H: Piracy is something we fight on a daily basis here at Haulix, but there are many young people who do not grasp how leaks can impact labels and the artists on them. Can you shed some light on your anti-piracy efforts at Tragic Hero, and how unwanted distribution of your copyrighted materials hurts the music business?

J: At the risk of sounding like I’m pandering, I use Haulix everyday. That’s the absolute best platform out there right now for protecting music. Leaking an album early and can really destroy any momentum that a label/artist is trying to build up. Leaking music is exceptionally annoying to me because most of the time these people who are leaking albums aren’t doing it because they love the band, they just want to be the ones that leaked it first. It’s like a game to them and their ignorance can have an adverse effect on people’s lives.

H: If you had to guess, where is Jesea Lee in five years?

J: Going down a giant slide made of Laffy Taffy into a pool of money! Honestly though, I love being a publicist and working in the music business, so that’s where I see myself in five years.

H: What are your current career goals, and more importantly – what hurdles are preventing you from reaching them?

J: My current career goals are pretty simple. To get as much press and exposure for my artists as possible. The only thing preventing me from reaching them would be writers not responding, ha!

H: Okay, I think that is all I have for right now. Before I let you go, are there any final thoughts or observations that you would like to share with our readers?

J: Dream big, live bigger.

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.