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Success Story: Sound Management band Triple Seven headlines Nadine's Wild Weekend on Thursday (May 30) at the Usual.

Licensed to Sell

Sound Management bands do more than rock--they roll in the dough

By Todd Inoue

EVERY SUCCESSFUL band has a story about how it first got its foot in the music-industry door. Robert Hayes, manager of San Jose's most successful band, Smash Mouth, and owner of artist management company Sound Management, says bands don't have to resort to unique acts of desperation. Just try the handle.

"My door is always open," says Hayes, sitting in the lounge of his Sound Management office. "I don't care if you're the premier band in San Jose or if you're three kids in high school writing music, I'll listen to it. If it's good, I'll send it out, get some feedback, sign the band, whatever."

Sound Management opened in 1985 and has 11 bands on its roster, ranging from country to metal to teen pop. Smash Mouth is clearly the head enchilada. Its tokens of fame--platinum records, pictures of the band members mugging with famous folk--are plastered on the walls. Two Sound Management bands, Triple Seven and Fighting Jacks, headline a San Jose showcase May 30 at the Usual.

Hayes was one of the first people to explore openly the link between marketing and music. He helped Smash Mouth's "All Star" become inescapable by licensing it to movies, Gatorade commercials, TV shows, awards shows and sporting events. He licensed "Then the Morning Comes" to Nissan for $1.5 million.

"I've had 'All Star' do a tie-in with Mystery Men, and [a snippet of 'All Star'] was played before every Star Wars: Episode I, which is millions of people seeing Star Wars," boasts Hayes. "More people watch TV than listen to the radio. Every night, you're watching a show, then it's 'Jesus Christ, there's that fucking Smash Mouth song again.'"

Repeated exposure breeds familiarity, which equals radio-playlist adds and record sales. It can also breed contempt. Some bands have a problem with their songs being featured in commercials, yet, Hayes argues, they don't have a problem spending the $20,000 they'd get for a 20-second clip of their song used to sell Depends.

"Twenty grand for an unsigned artist is pretty good cash," says Hayes. "It helps them advance their careers. They might have something against commercialism--'I don't want that song in that movie; I don't want my song in a Starburst commercial'--but it goes a long way to advance their career."

When choosing what bands to work with, Hayes plays by two rules: He has to like the songs, and he doesn't sign bands that are too cool for the radio. "I want to work with bands that want to write hit songs and want to be heard," he explains. "The goal for bands is to be heard by as many people as possible. There are a lot of bands that have a lot of attitude--like 'I make music for me and me alone.' For a manager, you can't do anything about a band like that. It doesn't benefit me or them."

Hence, his feeling on the local scene is positive, if slightly cynical. The talent is here, he says, but there isn't the support system of a similar-sized town like Seattle or Austin. He's also disappointed that the city government hasn't reached out to Smash Mouth to partner on projects. Most of all, he feels the lack of unity is what keeps the San Jose music scene down the most.

"I think that managers, producers, bands, magazines, publicists, newspapers should all come together and build a community and strengthen music so there is a focus and people pay attention," he says. "If we can unite it, the industry will pay attention to us. If we keep things segregated and have attitude, no one's going to pay attention to us."

In the meantime, Hayes continues to manage Smash Mouth, looking after the stable of talent and searching for the next breakthrough artist. If bands think they have what it takes, Sound Management is located at 1525 S. Winchester Blvd. The door is always open.

Triple Seven, Fighting Jacks, OAZ, Autopunch and Miggs perform for Nadine's Wild Weekend at 8:30pm on Thursday (May 30) at the Usual, 400 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $8.

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From the May 30-June 5, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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