When Brent Faiyaz was working at a Harris Teeter deli in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2014, he had no idea Ty Baisden would help change his life. Eight years, many untold struggles, and several world-renowned victories later, Baisden has seen everything the F**k The World singer has overcome, including Faiyaz’s own expectations.
“He’s very hesitant with his live show because he knows he doesn’t want to mess up. He knows how much work he has to put into preparing for the live show, from the rehearsals to the vocal lessons and all the different things that are not fun when you enjoy creating music and writing songs in the studio,” said Baisden.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Brent Faiyaz’s longtime manager explains why touring is still important in the age of TikTok, how Faiyaz leveraged his catalog to go on his first tour, and what indie artists can learn about live shows from his “The Colture Playbook.”
You first discovered Brent Faiyaz in North Carolina in 2014. What was the first show of his you remember seeing?
I found him on SoundCloud. I never saw a live show before that.
What did you work on to develop his live show before he hit the stage?
Now, with all the voodoo done to artists’ voices in the studio, when it’s time to translate it live, it’s tough for artists if they don’t already have that natural voice. What we did was when the Sonder band started, Brent was dropping his solo music. So, we understood that we would use Sonder as an incubator to prepare Brent for his solo shows. It was kind of like a safety blanket and a developmental process for Brent.
In 2018, Faiyaz toured Sonder Son for the first time. How did you put that tour together as an independent label?
First, we had to figure out if we could sell the tickets. He went on the road with Sonder, got off the road at the end of October 2017, and we dropped the Sonder Son album probably two weeks later. Then, we announced the tour. Once the tour sold out, we were trying to figure out how we would get to these cities. We had all this money waiting for us because it’s sold out, but you don’t get the check until the day of the show. We connected to this company called Sound Royalties, and we could pull down an advance by leveraging our back catalog for $70,000. We also switched up our performance rights organization from ASCAP to BMI, and BMI cut us a check for $100,000 in January 2018. We went into January with a $170,000 budget. [Goldlink’s] “Crew” was doing so well that we could use that as leverage to get a deal with BMI, even though BMI didn’t make any money from the song. They believed in the Sonder Son album and everything afterward. We made $60,000 in the first month of that album being out. In December 2017, we got the first check from all the money made in October.
Artists’ first tours aren’t the most glamorous. What were those humble beginnings like on the road?
One of the reasons why Brent may feel like an industry plant is because we spent so much money that we shouldn’t have probably spent because we weren’t advised properly (laughs). Right? When we did the Sonder tour with the band before Brent’s tour for Sonder Son, it took us 30 days to do 11 cities. We drove two vans, a cargo van, and a 15-passenger van from L.A. to El Paso and then from El Paso to Dallas [for] the first show. Then from Dallas, we went to Houston to do the Houston show. From Houston, we went to Atlanta. The Atlanta show got postponed because it was a tornado, hurricane, or something that came up in Georgia and shut everybody down. So, we postponed Atlanta and went from Atlanta to D.C. to do the D.C. show. Then, from D.C., we went to New York and Boston. Then after Boston, we had a break in New York. Then we went to Chicago. After Chicago, we drove back to Atlanta to finish the rescheduled show. Then from Atlanta, we drove to Seattle. We did Priceline express deals (laughs). I had a cot in the back of the van, so there was always an extra bed in these rooms. The first Sonder tour was a struggle tour. We had a tour bus when we got to Brent’s first solo tour. We weren’t supposed to have a tour bus while doing 250-cap rooms. We barely had places to park that bus in every city (laughs). We didn’t know it because we didn’t know any better. We weren’t getting advised by any experienced tour person.
You released “The Colture Playbook” with one of my favorite writers, Travis “Yoh” Phillips. What gems about live shows and touring can people find in this book?
The live show aspect of the book will be about managing your overhead. There isn’t a specific chapter about live touring; that will be in volume two. But, this book talks about baseline managing your overhead. Once you manage your overhead, you’re able to invest properly. If you can invest properly, you can get through touring. So, on that first tour, you have to be very frugal and know that the cities you’re going to go to are cities where you have a fan base. If you go into the wrong city and nobody shows up, you just lost money. You have to be very patient and follow the data and information. There’s a lot in “The Colture Playbook” that gives you hints on what to do — like a touring checklist. But touring is a very complex subject matter.
What’s a lesson you impart on indie artists in the book?
Delayed gratification. That was the underlying thought process when I was writing the book. Yoh sent me an outline of the chapters and all these different things. Then, he sent me a bunch of transcripts of us talking. When I was writing it in Jamaica, I was also reading “The Jewish Phenomenon.” As I was reading that, I saw a lot about delayed gratification in the book because they were building through education, community, talent, unionized and shared resources, and things of that nature. If us Black people could build the same level of power and be in lockstep the way the Jewish community was, even if we did it in entertainment, we would be much more powerful. Our kids would be a lot more well-off. Throughout the book, there was a lot about delayed gratification and managing your resources.
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What was the first show Brent did where you felt like you had something special?
By far, Sonder’s first show in L.A. at The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which holds about 350 people. We did 362 tickets. I think that was April 19, 2017. That’s when I knew we had something. I already knew we had something by the time we did Brent’s solo shows. The crowd knew all of the words.
How dedicated is Brent to his live show?
He’s very hesitant with his live show because he knows he doesn’t want to mess up. He knows how much work he has to put into preparing for the live show, from the rehearsals to the vocal lessons and all the different things that are not fun when you enjoy creating music and writing songs in the studio. His lack of touring comes from the anxiety and mental lift it takes for him to get prepared for a tour. He’s not on autotune. He doesn’t have that type of support (laughs).
What are his “tour hits”?
“Missing Out” is one of them. “Burn One” is one of them. “L.A.” is one of them. “Poison,” “Lovely,” and “Insecure,” too. The fans know a lot of his music. What’s crazy is he hasn’t toured Lost, F**k The World, or Wasteland.
What’s on Brent’s rider?
His rider now is tea, Throat Coat, honey, lemons, candy, water, fruit, pack of t-shirts. It used to be Hennessy, but now it’s probably Casamigos. There’s also chicken. There’s some fruit. He likes candles and flowers, too.
On tour is where you bond with your crew. What did you all do together on the road?
When we were in Australia, we bet the tour manager that he wouldn’t get on this crazy ride. In New Zealand, they just have random amusement park rides in the middle of the city. Everybody would always find lounges and go hang out.
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How important is the live show for an artist in the age of TikTok and streaming?
The live show will always be the most important thing outside of putting music out. It’s the only thing that cannot be pirated. It’s the only thing that can’t be stripped away from the artists. It’s the only thing that’s going to show their artistry in a real way. All the viral and digital things are cool, and they help you grow your digital profile, but without touring, your career doesn’t have a real true heartbeat.
What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Brent’s going on a global fashion run in London, Milan, Paris, and New York. I’m promoting the book and finishing up recording “F**k You Money” with Yoh. Yoh will be recording the book, doing panels and stuff around the book. Then, we’ll be getting ready to start preparing for performances that we’re doing next year.
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