Welcome to Out of the Vault, where we ask industry executives to reveal insider information that can only be learned from years in the field in an attempt to help creators be smarter about their business.
In our first installment of the series, founder of Ghostly International and co-founder of Drip, Sam Valenti IV discusses how he finds new talent, the importance of a creator’s sense of self, and what he looks for in partnerships.
Sam Valenti IV is the product of his environment. Firsthand witness to Detroit’s transition from Motown to Techno, Valenti was a student of the scene at age 15, spinning under the name DJ Spaceghost. Detroit defined Techno’s funk-laden, futuristic sound and gave way to new subgenres such as Synthpop, Electro and House Music. As Techno itself grew out of its own defining characteristics, Valenti began envisioning an organization that transcended genres at age 19 in 1999.
Today, Valenti’s passion has grown ten-fold into Ghostly International (home to artists like Phantogram, Tycho, and Gold Panda) and Drip, a platform utilized by the likes of Mad Decent and Fool’s Gold Records that is disrupting fan clubs as we know them.
“Ghostly has acted as a central hub of our interests, and a way to make things from a place of passion,” says Valenti, “That leads us to interesting places in music, technology, art, and product. We rely on so many places to find new talent, but often it’s organic via friends and artists.”
As a result of their emphasis on creating beyond the walls of genres, Valenti and his team are drawn to talent that intend to show the world a piece of themselves through creative expression. This is encompassed by the “humanity” or an artist’s work, and anchors Ghostly’s values in the idea that the artists on their roster, and the brands the label partners with, should have a strong sense of self.
“A lot of the music and art we focus on doesn’t have lyrics or a face so to speak, so finding creators with a strong sense of what they want to do is important, and that it really shows through in their art. It should always feel like a human endeavor,” says Valenti. “We want to partner with projects and people that have a lot of soul and can stand behind what they do in a meaningful way.”
Meaningful is a word that remains at the forefront of the thought process when considering Valenti and his endeavors, which in the past year include a design collaboration with Warby Parker and a vinyl challenge with 3D-printing pioneer MakerBot. Connections made by Valenti always keep brand strength and audience experience in mind, putting his businesses at a unique advantage to have an appeal to both artists and fans.
Solidifying this all-encompassing appeal is Drip, Valenti’s latest venture that is reinventing fan clubs and direct-to-fan interaction. The platform fosters highly-engaged micro communities where creators can release exclusive content in new, unique ways.
“There was something missing from the creator landscape. A place to create meaningful connections between artists and fans that was open to some new thinking. We had fans asking us for an omakase type service where we would just send them things automatically,” remembers Valenti.
“Our enthusiasm grew as we brought on more partners, starting with Dirtybird and Stones Throw, to the platform. Skrillex dropped an exclusive EP early on via OWSLA which crashed the site, AKA the most perfect wake up call there is.”
While Drip is a place for creators to engage with fans, it’s not limited to only music; the platform boasts a roster of musicians, visual artists, record labels, and notably, non-profits. By opening up Drip to various artists and organization, Valenti is providing a platform where all types of creators can have a voice.
For up-and-coming content creators, Valenti’s message is that a risk, if it encapsulates how you truly feel something should be, yields the best reward:
“We believe one can make a living as an artist if one remains active, collaborative, and down to take risks. We are optimistic on the future of this space, that there has never been a better time to make creative work.”
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