Ambition, hustle, and the world is yours. The mentality of every successful individual in the music business. Some people have the ear, some people have the eye, and some people like New Jersey-native Mark “Spratfool” Spratley are the plug. Through years of interning, dabbling in various positions, and studying by trial and error, Spratley has groomed himself into the go-to guy that can not only break new artist but establish them as superstars early on in their career. Labels are flacking to the newly relocated to Los Angeles move maker with their roster to transform into the new acts you listen to today in music.
In an exclusive interview with Rapfest’s own Boom, we discover the man behind so many new wave artists in Hip-Hop and what he has in-store for the rest of 2018.
“A manager in 2018 really takes on more than what a manager did years back I believe. With so much going on and so much to stay up on you often see managers providing more for artists than what a basic managerial role really is. You have managers now being the A&R, PR, agents and so much more for these artists. That relationship is vital…”
Rapfest: Let’s get started. Who is Mark Spratley?
Spratfool: Starting Five, Loud Pack Legion. Someone bringing back authenticity into this game, Sprat.
An empire in the making. An independent label where artists can feel at home and do their thing. S5 is the prime destination for an artist with the right sound to be broken as Starting Five covers all. You’ll get a better gist of everything the company is going to be and what the future holds in due time. With the new year I refreshed the entire roster, you’re going to see many new faces and stars.
The current roster of Starting Five?
Some things you have to just keep under wraps, I don’t always need people all up in my business, a lot of people hate [laughs]. The roster I’m finalizing up right now is pretty damn crazy, just handling all the final pieces and we’re good to go. If you see me pushing an artist heavily they most likely are with Starting Five.
How did you get your start in the music business?
Fresh Moss gave me an opportunity and I made shit click from there, LVLYSL (Salute to Neako as well).
How much has the music business changed since you’ve been apart of it?
I’ve only been in this for about 4 1/2 years. In that span of time the industry has changed drastically and it seems to be changing more than ever right now.
You’ve developed an extensive resume of validity in the music business in four years?
My resume is DEEP, but I’m never satisfied, I’m always looking to make the next move. I’m launching SpratFool.com shortly and that will certainly showcase a whole lot that I’ve done to-date. My work speaks for itself, I’ve worked with many of your favorite artists/platforms/brands and have helped pop off a handful of artists to date. Now it’s time to do it under the Starting Five name.
“…Your network is key. Be humble and acceptive. You’re not going to be use to most of the BS that goes on in the industry, learn to adapt…
When did you decide to go into business for yourself with your various endeavors?
Since the beginning it’s been dolo. I’ve really only been at this for almost 4 1/2 years now like I said earlier. I obviously came into it learning, doing a lot of free work, getting fucked over plenty of times. I’m here though and have never took an L on any situation, just learned. I’m doing well and better than ever each year I just kept expanding, kicking doors down and creating new waves. My life came together for the better with this music, I’m forever grateful and don’t plan on stopping just because I’ve got my feet in. I’ve never felt the need to go to a label or a major station to create my own power, everything has been done myself and with the people around me and thats what means the most to me. No Hot 97, No Revolt TV. No Atlantic Records company name helping my growth or connections, in fact, I partner with many of these companies rather than work FOR them.
Tell us about your first client? What were the results of the partnership and what you learned from the experience?
Fresh Moss and Neako (LVLYSL). Everything I’ve ever done has been a learning experience whether good or bad. Fresh gave me an opportunity when he didn’t necessarily need to. I was just a kid with musical knowledge, an ear, hustle and drive. While in college, but not really doing college, if you get the gist (East Carolina). It turned out to be a pretty powerful move.
Breakdown the various type of deals you can offer an act and what it entitles?
At this point in my career I’m in a position where I can really offer an artist whatever. Obviously Starting Five is the label but I have the ability to bring an artist through nearly any door these days (platform, label, distribution, publishing). I have the ability to grow any artist from the ground up with my network, reach and abilities. The crazy thing is that it’s only growing stronger and stronger by the day.
How do you feel about today’s music?
Everyone is an artist now a days, with that you’ve got so much talent but a lot of trash to. I think there was always a lot of trash out there but the internet just makes it a bit more visible for all to be seen. We also live in a day of memes and IG videos, even the goofiest things can be seen by the masses today and become “popular”.
In your opinion, what is the most beneficial strategies for a new artist to break in 2018?
It’s been the same for years, your network is key. Be humble and acceptive. You’re not going to be use to most of the BS that goes on in the industry, learn to adapt. Having a great team behind you is a machine many are lacking, creating that foundation is key. Ask yourself, do you want to be here for 2-3 years or 15?
With streaming breaking the new wave of artists. Do artists still need music website exposure for the success of their career?
All exposure helps and as long as branding is important you can bet the internet will always be a key component. Websites still serve a purpose and some still continue to put you onto new music like a few years back, obviously it’s a bit limited these days. Many have grown with the times though, they have developed playlists, strong socials, youtube channels, podcasts and much more to continue their name and platforms.
“…You cannot put a price on good marketing. With good marketing or people talking, anything can blow up or sell whether its a product, artist, or service…”
Explain your idea of an artist/manager’s relationship and how a lot of today’s artists damaging their careers with their current manager(s)?
A manager in 2018 really takes on more than what a manager did years back I believe. With so much going on and so much to stay up on you often see managers providing more for artists than what a basic managerial role really is. You have managers now being the A&R, PR, agents and so much more for these artists. That relationship is vital, having a go to is HUGE. That manager/artist relationship is going to have it’s up and downs even with very successful artists, most of the time your manager is going to be the one at your side through everything though whether you agree on situations or not.
A managers contract is always up in the air, many artists unfortunately take advantage of that, as they get larger ego comes into play and many believe they can keep it going without the one who rode with them and opened the doors. You’ve seen this story countless times…
When developing a team, what do you look for in an individual to build your team around?
Loyalty, Grind & Devotion. That’s all you need, the rest can be taught. Everyone wants to make it but no one wants to work for shit no more in 2017. I should never have to hit you up more than you hit me if we’re trying to get to this bag, time is priceless. Don’t always think about the quick bag.
In 2018, who is an artist the world should know about that is the next breakout sensation?
Smooky Margielaa is one. Juice WRLD is fire. I’m going to provide a few more to this list I just can’t be announcing too much quite yet. I got my New Day, New Wave weekly playlist that you got to tune into on Spotify and Audiomack if you want the wave.
Why take on so much responsibility running your own shop when the business has so many similar brands and easier for one to join an already established team and still make a positive contribution to the industry?
It’s needed. I don’t really like how many are operating, I don’t really see too many people doing what I do and at the level I do it at when it comes down to it. Instead I see many following suit so why wouldn’t I choose to do me. I’m just staying patient. Too many people calling themselves the plug (where they do that at?), too many labels with no power just that legendary CEO, too many fake A&Rs, “influencers” and “tastemakers” that are following trends. I have the ability to create my own lane and brand, why wouldn’t I choose to do that if I can do it consistently on higher levels?
“…It’s about that time this new generation takes over and torches are passed or many are going to be left behind…”
I’ve never wanted to leach off of someone’s entity or use someone else’s power to create my own wave, I always viewed that as some lame shit. Like hey I’m Sprat from Hot 97, NOOOOO!, I want to introduce myself as Sprat and people know what I’ve done and who I am, I believe I’m doing just that. I’m always open to discussion if the right opportunities presents itself, but I’ve always been one to do it on my own, whether its with a team or not, I’m going to make sure it’s handled and done well.
I’m not going to say I wouldn’t take the right A&R gig if a particular label made the fit make sense, we can get to some bags. 9/10 I’m familiar, talking to or connected w/ many of these artists before these A&Rs hound them with phone calls anyway. I’d be the perfect connector between the two for any label. Starting Five needs a bubble.
To you, what does the music business need right now?
I think it’s in a great position. I do believe authenticity, development of acts, more focus on powerful artists and less gimmick is key. It’s about that time this new generation takes over and torches are passed or many are going to be left behind.
In your opinion, what are recording artists still overlooking financially in the music entertainment business?
Marketing… You cannot put a price on good marketing. With good marketing or people talking, anything can blow up or sell whether its a product, artist, or service.
After years of grinding in this business. Knowing what you know now and experiencing what you’ve experienced. Given a second chance, would you still go down this same path?