At the age of 14, it turns out Marcus Butler was already a music curator in the making. “I used to be the kid that would do everyone’s iPods at school,” he says. Friends revered his taste so highly that they’d pay him 5 pounds, and he’d install his favorite songs on their devices. “I was always known as, like, the guy with the music. I’ve always been passionate about it.”
As his online status blossomed, music came to play an important part in his career. On a former blog, Butler regularly shared his favorite songs with a recurring feature dubbed Music Monday. Today, he has a similar series on his second channel, as well as more than 28,500 followers on Spotify.
And now at the age of 24, Butler is taking this passion to the next level with the launch of Stripped Bear Entertainment — a music management company that will seek to discover and develop young artists and help to break their careers on social media. Butler co-founded the company with his manager, Dom Smales, who helms UK digital talent management goliath Gleam Futures. The two have also brought onboard music manager Bobby Havens as their first hire from Rocket Music — Elton John’s management company.
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The name Stripped Bear denotes that “it’s back to basics,” says Smales. “We want to find people at the ground floor of their careers — we’re looking for grassroots talent.”
Stripped Bear has been three years in the making, Butler says, and, in that timeframe, has signed just two artists — reflecting the bespoke nature of the operation. While the company has yet to announce its roster, Butler says he is drawn to well-rounded artists of all genres that also play instruments and write their own songs. While he’s not anti-pop, he says, Butler likes sharing songs that his friends and followers likely haven’t heard before.
As a management company, Stripped Bear will aim to reimagine the norms of the music industry — which has traditionally been governed by airtight contracts and executive gatekeepers — for a newly democratized media landscape. This, after all, is the same space where Butler’s star emerged. “The idea is to try and manage new music talent like we manage social talent,” says Smales.
It is still being determined exactly how Butler plans to work to promote Stripped Bear’s artists, though he says that each artist will require a uniquely catered strategy, as well as an organic touch. “The two artists we’ve signed, I speak to and hang out with,” he says. “It’s not just like I’m going to put them out to my following. It’s going to have a family feeling.”
“Some of my friends who are musicians are tied into record deals that they hate, and everyone’s being screwed over by record labels,” Butler says. “So this is really about putting the talent first and getting the best possible career for them.”