Dream Scheme: LaRussell Reveals How He Forged His Indie Financial Path
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LaRussell Thomas PHOTO BY WILLIAM "BGIGGZ" COOPER AND JASON HAYES
Vallejo-based artist LaRussell is forging a new frontier at the intersection of music, tech and business. Since his 2018 debut project, The Field Effect, LaRussell has put out over 20 albums and EPs, with many of them utilizing a direct-to-consumer approach that lets fans offer to pay for what they want to purchase. He’s also proving to be as prolific in his social media content output as he is in his music, posting at least three to four posts a day that vary between interviews, fan Q&As, freestyles and concert clips. His base foundation is The Pergola, his version of Disneyland. He often performs at this home concert venue, providing fans with a concert experience and the opportunity to hang out with him and his team. In speaking with LaRussell about his approach, it’s clear he’s focused on helping usher in a new model for a more equitable music industry.
One of the things I’m curious about is where your perception of how you value things comes from.
I think my pops; I’ve just always witnessed him go above and beyond, but never really place a value or a price on what he did. And there wasn’t a way to describe what those things took or what they meant. I’ve just witnessed and experienced that through all my life. Some people do something for you where it’s life-changing, and no amount could represent that.
With the pay-what-you-want model and allowing fans to earn royalties from your music, you want everyone involved in the success of your career to reap benefits as well. Where does that approach come from?
That’s another thing that stems from what I’ve seen my pops do. I’ve always seen him put other people in positions to win so they didn’t have to rely on him. It’s a necessity. They say you’re supposed to gauge your success by how many people next to you are successful, not how successful you are. If you’re the only boss, then something is going wrong.
I know you’re very active on the Even app. Is this an app that you found through trial and error, or is this something that you’ve helped develop?
Yeah, I got linked in with the owner of Even early. My launch was the first launch they did, and we worked together and did six figures on that project. I helped them to develop a base and build the brand. I got a bit of equity in the company. It’s not something I use super actively, but I think it’s a great idea for artists who don’t have their infrastructure but still want to go directly to the consumer.
I wasn’t sure if you consciously or subconsciously were utilizing the vertical integration model that Disney built. Was that something that you intentionally did or subconsciously? Because the parallels are there.
It started as a subconscious approach, but now it’s very conscious. I took a trip for the first time to Disneyland. I took my daughter last year for the first time, and it sparked that within me, like, ‘Oh, they’re doing it right.’ When you go to Disneyland, everything you need exists in Disneyland: the car service, the buses, the charter, the lodging, the transportation, the food, everything. I just think that it’s an incredible thing to build a self-sustaining ecosystem. Disneyland is a city. I thought that was incredible, and it just lived in my subconscious. As I create, it’s something that I think about.
You have Good Compenny, which is an artist-led company. For the tech and business side, do you have advisors?
Most of everything we’ve done, most of the back end, is done internally by myself or Tietta. We’re always building things, creating spreadsheets, creating forms and creating links to make things possible. But we got to the point where we were building platforms that were a bit bigger than our skill level. I needed tech support because, prior, we were doing offer-based shows through a spreadsheet. You had to email us, and then we had to check the Excel sheet and go back and forth. It was just a lot of man-hours managing that, so we had to get the tech built. But everything is in-house until it’s beyond our capability, then we outsource.
Are there any struggles you face with being an indie artist?
I was just telling the homies that there’s a certain point where they don’t care about how much money you have or what you’ve accomplished: It’s all about the relationship. That is the final barrier to independence; you don’t have the same connections. But other than that, I don’t foresee any roadblocks.
Where do you see Good Compenny in the next five years regarding intersecting music, tech and business?
It depends on how we feel and wherever we take it. I know that we’ll have a gigantic footprint. We have a bunch of incredible artists we’re helping to build, and we’re just laying the blueprint, so when you see the interviews and how artists are talking and doing their content and marketing, that will all be a product of us.