The music industry is a lot more than just rowdy bands playing their hearts out and swilling cheap beer at their local music venues. Despite the glamour associated with the “live fast, go to work hungover tomorrow” attitude of many in the underground, many people are behind the scenes making sure there are events to play and audiences to play for. A lot of these movers and shakers have just as much enthusiasm for working with bands as bands have for playing music. In today’s interview, we caught up with Patrick “The Rooster” McElravy to discuss what it’s like running an underground label. Patrick is the head of the Ellwood City based company Brutal Business Entertainment, which was originally started by the rapper Skippy Ickum and signed over to Patrick in 2020. Since taking over the label, Patrick has kept production at an all time high throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is continuing to expand its horizons at a break neck speed.
FAM: BBE has been pretty busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’d say probably more so than last year when you were doing shows. What is your secret to working around this pandemic?
Patrick: Here’s the thing, a big piece of that information has to go with the fact that there was a changeover in management. Now, that’s only a small piece of the puzzle because obviously Garret had a vision and had a way of doing things and then you bring in a fresh set of eyes, like with anything, you know there’s going to be a new vision there’s going to be a new direction and whatnot. A big thing is when that switchover happened because it happened and then shows were taken away from us. A lot of what we offered as a label came to a screeching halt and it was like, “OK what do we have? What can we do?” We learned that our web online game was weak to say the least, so we realized we had to step that up and we’re still working on that and continuing to work on that but writing and recording was all everybody had to do, essentially. I guess that’s what most musicians were left with so that’s pretty much what everybody did. I can’t take all of the credit for that because everybody busted their ass this year putting out content and making sure that stuff sounded good. It was a really good year. Some of the strongest content, in my opinion, that this label’s ever seen came out in 2020 amidst all the chaos that was handed to us. We had COVID, we had Black Lives Matter protests and we had the management switch over. Its all been crazy and the guys have all been plowing through and have just kept writing and putting out material. It’s the same for the models. The models still managed to get together and put out probably, again in my opinion, some of the best content for the modeling division that it’s ever seen. While the game streaming team is still fairly new we had our biggest streaming events this year as well. Collectively between the two events we had we raised over $1,800 for the Children’s Miracle Network. In general its been a big year with a lot hustle towards bigger and better things.
FAM: So, with running a label what makes a band “pop” to you? Like what do you look for in a band?
Patrick: I brought a lot of new people on in 2020 amongst all this COVID stuff. A thing that really popped to me when I was looking at was their hustle and work ethic. You know? Obviously, I wanted them to have a good product, but their drive to do stuff without me holding their hand and leading the way was a big factor. Can they record good tunes? Can they have a decent amount of content to push? Are they active on social media? Are they open to trying new things? How would they work in the dynamic of a team? Those are big things to me.
FAM: The work ethic and ability to be part of a team will make or break you in any business.
Patrick: Yes, exactly.
FAM: So, let’s say a band is approaching you. What’s a turn off? What would you tell a band not to do when trying to get the attention of a label?
Patrick: That’s a good question. I think that my biggest pet peeve is just dropping a link in my inbox, or just messaging me “hey” and leaving a video in my inbox. Here’s the thing; I’m a lot nicer than most people. That’s my biggest pet peeve in the world, but nine times out of ten I will still listen to it. If I choose to engage with them, which most times I don’t, that’s on me. A lot of times I’ll tell them, “Hey this is good, but if you ever do this again, I’ll black ball you from the label.” People forget that, at the end of the day, I have something they want, but I’m still human too. Treat me with a little respect. That’s my biggest thing. You can’t just do that. At least have nice presentation and a reason why I should check you out.
FAM: So, what should a band do to approach you?
Patrick: In my opinion; if they’re approaching me and trying to engage in a business aspect like trying to sign on to the label; Have a nice well written message about who they are, what they’re about and why they feel they’d be a good fit and have all their proper links where I can check them out easily available (using linktree or just having them pasted into that message). Just something that’s easy to read and friendly, but business. Ya know? That’s really all they have to do. A lot of times something as simple as that doesn’t happen. It amazes me how people are nowadays. That’s something that’s seriously lost – the business talk.
FAM: Do you think that has something to do with the fact a lot of bands are self-managing and there aren’t a lot of band managers these days?
Patrick: Yes I will definitely say that. It kind of goes with the generation gap too. I noticed a lot of guys in their thirties to forties approach me differently than the younger demographic a lot of times. It seems like in many ways, shapes and forms the younger demographics of bands out there (talented as they may be) just don’t have that business talk or mentality.
FAM: That wheeler, dealer mentality.
Patrick: Exactly, Exactly.
FAM: What would you say is the best way to approach you as a label head? Do prefer the Facebook message? Do you prefer the email, or is it all the same to you so long as it’s done properly?
Patrick: To me it’s all the same. So many companies are different. I’m a musician myself and hit up PR companies all the time. Sometimes you can email them, and they won’t reply, but if you send them a Facebook message them, they’ll catch you there. I find it best, from a professional perspective, hit the email first and then send the Facebook message. For me personally, you’re easier just to go ahead and hit me on messenger. I like to try and cover all my bases.
FAM: In a recent interview you were talking about all the new elements you’ve been integrating into the label. You said you wanted to set up a one stop shop for your artists (Photographers, video editing, graphic design and other things). Do you think that’s something you offer that not a lot of other labels are offering right now?
Patrick: Yes and no. I don’t really know that many, I know a handful, and there’s some that do have a lot of stuff in house and some who don’t have that. We have people who are entry level and some who have been around awhile who have a lot of connections. We have some outside people who help, but a lot of that stuffs in house. If I can help those guys eat and gain on their other things outside of their chosen niche in the label, that’s all the more the merrier to me. It makes us look good, helps them out and it helps the inhouse guys to have a better product without having to go looking for outside help.
FAM: So, what is the role of your label to an artist in 2020, in an era where the big record deal fantasy is extinct?
Patrick: To me, the role of BBE is to be a stepping-stone and a backing. The big thing prior to COVID, for us, was shows. We threw our own shows and helped our artists get on bigger shows, but with that gone we were left with online promotion. We already did a lot of that, but it made us push even harder and a big thing going into this is helping our guys get out to more PR companies to get their shit reviewed and seen by other eyes and ears outside of the Pittsburgh demographic. That’s my main goal at the end of the day; to get people beyond the tri-state area and to get people to notice these guys. Spotify is a big thing these days and Spotify playlisting is something we’re looking into helping the artists with. Like I said, reviews. That’s something you know all about from working with First Angel Media. Media coverage for these guys and just in general having a rather eclectic team with connections and stuff goes a long way too.
FAM: You’re also doing some kind of varied stuff away from music. For instance, you have the stream team. Streaming in general has become its own market with platforms like Twitch. There’s definitely been a rise, especially with COVID, of musical artists taking to streaming, or things like Patreon. Do you think that’s a smart move for artists on a smaller level right now?
Patrick: My thing about that is, if you wanted to get on big label like Roadrunner, or Summarian (not dismissing what I’m doing) you’re music has to be good, but it’s no longer just about the music. Before they will consider investing a dime into you, they want to see that you can pull those numbers in on your social media platforms and that you can do it all on your own. That’s a big thing nowadays. So, yes it’s absolutely smart for all these musicians to be trying to take on all this stuff. There’s an endless amount of opportunity with things like Twitch and Discord and all this other stuff it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get people to pay attention and show why they should invest their time into you.
FAM: Do you have anything big coming in 2021? You’ve signed on some great artists in 2020 such as MadClock, Feast on the Fallen and Endbringer to name a few. Do you have any other big surprises coming up?
Patrick: We do have some more artists coming to the roster. Right now we’re trying to build our foundation and really become a force to be reckoned with. With all these platforms and streams and whatnot, that’s what we’re all left with. We are all very, very tiny fish in a very big pond and it’s a matter of figuring out how to make that splash instead of a ripple. We have some projects in the works that are coming (I don’t want to say too much on that yet) We’re pretty much trying to take it to the next level and build that wow factor.
FAM: Is he going to be collaborating with any of your artists?
Patrick: Oh, dude Gus has become a major part of Brutal Business. I brought Gus in for multiple reasons and the first was (I’ll be real) quality control. If my guys wanted a producer, they could have a bomb ass producer for a decent price. It gets Gus money and work to add to his portfolio and another thing too is if the guys want, they can get custom beats made by Gus. A lot of the music that’s going to be coming to light soon from BBE will be Gus Walner’s music. He’s been a great player and part of the team. He’s done a lot in a very little amount of time.
FAM: Anyone reading this who is aware of Gus knows that he puts out an insane amount of music.
Patrick: The amount of content he puts out and how fast his turn around times are is insane. I don’t know he does it while working a nine to five and being a family man on top of that, but the man’s an animal. He’s definitely what I’d call a hidden gem in the underground.
You heard it from the boss himself, 2021 is going forward with lots of plans to forge beyond the known and make a splash for all of the current and upcoming members of BBE. If you’re looking for representation, or new bands, Brutal Business Entertainment is making sure to bring you some of the best! Check them out online on their website, Facebook page, or Bandcamp, where you can find the latest compilation project from their current roster – Plague 2020!