In an industry rife with middlemen, Jamie Kent ’09 sees blockchain as a unique way to “weed out that complexity,” circumvent the go-betweens, and connect artists directly with fans and their dollars.
Kent, a singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur, highlighted this need for blockchain in the music industry at an arts and business panel he led with the Richard W. Sorenson Center for the Arts as part of his recent three-day residency at Babson.
Balancing Arts and Business
Kent has forged a unique path for himself, melding together music and entrepreneurship and calling it “artrepreneurship.”
He has been called an “artist you need to know” by Rolling Stone magazine and a “must watch artist” by the Huffington Post. His songs have been heard on major national television programs like “The Today Show,” and his 2016 album, All American Mutt, debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart.
And he’s done all this with no major label, no management, and no PR team. When asked how he got on the charts without a label behind him, he replies: “A lot of hard work.”
Kent has taken an entrepreneurial approach, building the necessary partnerships and the community of fans from scratch. As early as 2009, when crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe were only nascent ideas, Kent launched The Collective, a platform letting him connect directly to his fans, engender enthusiasm for his music and career, and—important for an independent artist—raise funds. With the funds raised in the early days of The Collective, he was able to move forward with touring and bootstrap the rest.
Like any good entrepreneur, Kent has iterated. After he received some impactful advice—“You’re doing some great things. Go home and write a hundred more songs.”—he resolved to double down on songwriting, going from 20 songs a year to 150. It was at the end of three years of songwriting that his songs began landing placements across major television networks.
Bringing Artrepreneurship to Babson
To explore how entrepreneurship and art can intersect, Kent hosted stART up!, a new, creative-based pitch competition, co-hosted with the Sorenson Center for the Arts and The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship.
Four student entrepreneurs—Ernie Valladares ’20, founder of The Lucrative Youth LLC; Gaurav Khemka MBA’20, co-founder of On That Note; Kyla Christie ’22, co-founder of Call Time; and Jason Shatsky ’21, founder of tickr—pitched their ventures for the chance at a $500 cash prize and a bundle of in-kind marketing and legal services donated by Babson alumni.
Kent, joined by Kerry O’Neil M’79, founding member of O’Neil Hagaman, LLC, and co-founder of Big Yellow Dog Music, and Allison Clifford, marketing specialist for the Bose Live Music team, selected Call Time, a smart platform for the creative user, as the winner, applauding Christie for ideating a solution to a real problem in the performing arts.
For Kent, entrepreneurship has provided a new way of thinking about and acting in an industry that is “steeped in 100 year old architecture and laws” and identifying opportunity. He doesn’t worry about illegal downloading or streaming; he critically views his music as a commodity to be leveraged.
Music drives awareness and ultimately opens the door for opportunity in the form of live shows, licensing, and brand partnerships. Kent’s challenge now is to find his ideal balance of these three channels. Recently, he has pulled back on touring to 75 days a year in order to pursue brand partnerships.
As Kent continues to create his “most sustainable life and brand,” he will no doubt stand out from the pack. After all, he never fails to connect the dots between startup and song: “It comes down to that product, that idea.”