If you ask Nick Gross, trying new things isn’t always as daunting as it seems.
Beginning his working life as a drummer, he has ventured into philanthropy and owning his own boutique music label. It all started when Gross appeared, along with his band Half the Animal, on the MTV show Laguna Beach. From there, he was approached with opportunities to branch out into other projects. He bought his own studio in Los Angeles and spends his days there propelling the careers of young artists, as well as his own.
Find Your Grind spoke to Gross about Half the Animal, working late nights in his LA studio and what record labels are looking for in this music climate.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m an entertainer, entrepreneur, a drummer and a philanthropist. As a teenager, I looked up to several different drummers, like Travis Parker and Carter Beauford, and all these really cool outlandish personalities behind the drum kit.
There was a show on MTV called Laguna Beach that featured our hometown. My band suddenly had this national platform that was able to expose our music to millions of people, which was awesome. I think the definition of luck is when preparation and opportunity meet. We were highly prepared — I practiced drums all the time, rehearsed with the band all the time — and we had this opportunity to be on the show. So those things that created this luck threw me into the whole music business.
Me being a drummer opened up another 20 different ventures in my life that I am now able to pursue. Starting in my first band and getting that first record deaI enabled me to start a songwriting team to write songs for other artists. This allowed me to open up the studio and next thing you know, we turned this into more of a studio business where other management companies, labels and publishers wanted to come through here to use our space. Writing songs for other artists allowed me to start a small, boutique label here, so I started to sign upcoming talent as well.
How would you describe a day in your life?
A large part of the day is just people cranking out music here. Often times people come here between 2 to 3 in the afternoon and can stay until midnight or 2 a.m., sometimes 5 in the morning. So hours really fluctuate here. It’s not as though people have to show up at 8 a.m. and work until 5 and clock out; it’s a very free-flowing business, which is really exciting.
In the afternoon, sometimes we’ll have Find Your Grind events, where we’ll bring in kids from the surrounding areas to come experience what it’s like to have a studio and to learn from some of our producers and songwriters. We’ll also have day-to-day meetings on different digital media and technology platforms that we potentially want to invest in or be a part of.
In addition, I rehearse here Half the Animal. Whether it’s for upcoming shows or tours, we have this facility to practice and go through our songs and ideas. We also have a creative and consumer product agency, so we’re developing a lot of forward-facing brands and products that go into stores.
What surprised you about your job?
One thing I didn’t know about my job when I started was how many hours I would be putting in every day. The music world is one thing, but then creating all these consumer products is a completely different side to the branding world, which is of course super exciting. Being able to bring in individuals and young kids to the studio here in Los Angeles has been another side of it too. I think all those things in combination require nearly 15- or 16-hour days. Personally I love it, but I didn’t think that I’d be spending this much time on everything.
How important is interning?
I interned at Interscope Records when I was 17 years old, so I think any kind of internship you can get within the music industry is useful. There are different things you can learn from so many parts of the music industry, including the touring side and the agency side. I recommend interning at studios to understand the artist’s process for songwriting and how people work in a studio environment. A lot of the work is done in studios, all the way down from the producer, to the engineer, to the assistant engineer, to the interns that are helping the studio run. Internship opportunities open up windows to create relationships, network, and to immerse yourself into that whole world. There are so many parts of it that have to happen for an artist to find success.
Do you have any advice for people starting out in the music business?
Constantly focusing on getting a “record deal” and getting signed to a label probably shouldn’t be your focus starting out. Many people think that’s the bread and butter of being an artist, but honestly, labels are really great once you have created a buzz and foundation for yourself as an artist.
These days, a lot of labels are looking for how all the platforms function together. For example, the Spotify streams can’t lie. That’s real data and real information that can’t be faked or bought. YouTube views are also extremely important, as well as being able to sell tickets. I think it’s important to study the people and the professions that you want to dive into. Find a mentor, even if it’s not a person you can talk to every single day. Pick up the phone and talk to them when you can.
As a high school student, it’s important to explore as many different things as you can. Try new things, even if it’s not the perfect dream scenario, or you don’t know exactly what it is you want to pursue. The future isn’t going to be about having one job the rest of our lives. Other things that I’ve found to be important are time management, never giving up, being extremely confident, and having an authenticity to you.