“Only People Count”, With JJ Ford of Calitone
“ONLY PEOPLE COUNT, this was the theme at a summer camp I went to as a kid. Basically when it all comes down to it, we are a human community built on people. we need to be kind and help each other. often times when im at a checkout line or talking to a waiter, I genuinely ask them how there day is going. A lot of times they light up and smile because someone cared to ask. It doesn’t take much to encourage someone.”
I had the pleasure to interview Jason “JJ” Ford. Jason is the co founder of Calitone, a music management and brokering company. Jason has worked with some of country musics biggest stars such as Blake Shelton, Tracy Byrd, Montgomery Gentry. JJ has studied contract law, data science and Music Business and is a sought after consultant. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his daughter.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path in the music business?
On both sides of my family were singer/songwriter/musicians, I love music, I did the performer thing but it didn’t give me any rush. The hustle and game of the music business was what really got me going. From the first time I went out as a road manager and doing merch, I was hooked. I am great at being the guy behind the guy.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was working with some teenage kids, a newly signed major label rock band who shall remain nameless, lol, but we were doing a west coast mini tour and we showed up to a venue in a small town in Central California and it was basically a kids after school program. It was like 25 kids and some teachers. we had no idea what the mixup was or what to do, but the guys were great and did like a stripped down acoustic show. I think I went to Target to get some stuff for the road. LOL
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
You don’t have enough time to hear about all of my mistakes…LOL… here’s one. We were at a show in orange county and we had just gotten this new merch booth with a tv in it playing videos and this incredible product display. The venue had separate entrance and exit locations. So we setup in this perfect spot in a large hallway tunnel so when everybody exited they had to pass us. The problem was that the guy at venue that told us where to setup, he had put us in the service entrance. So when show was over, the fans all exited across the room from us. Lesson I learned was be careful who you get your info from. lol…this business is about being ok with making mistakes, but make sure you learn from them.
Are you working on any exciting ventures now? How do you think that will help people?
I am primarily a partner in a talent management company, but Our new company is called UMI- Upload Music Institute, and its basically an online music business school. It is designed for anyone, whether your an artist or band member wanting to get more gigs and social media followers or you wanna be a music industry manager or booking agent or whatever. Trying to make a living in the music artist space is tough, we just want people to have the tools to be successful. And its online and affordable so anyone can do it.
We noticed that there was really nothing like what we were offering as far as a program that was taught hands on by artists who had DONE IT. The guy I cofounded UMI with, Jeff, has sold over 10 million records and had hit songs and sold out tours, nobody knows the highs and lows more than him. He knows what to do and what to watch out for. I like to focus on the details of how the new digital world of music actually operates and how we can help artists win in it.
What tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Probably to be educated in whatever field you wanna do. i dont mean education like go to a 4 year college, I mean keep up and read up on whats going on in the industry and pop culture. Digital technology, social media and information changes fast. I’d say that in the music industry you need to learn how to ride the high highs and the low lows, ride the cycles but dont take it personal. the music biz is a fickle mistress. you gotta have thick skin to survive.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m gonna say its the guys im in business with. I am lucky to work create and grow the music business with some great guys. Jeff is a pop music celebrity who is a smart humble guy who is focused on being a great husband and dad, he is such a positive guy to be around. Gregor is an amazing country music songwriter/artist. he is my cowboy partner in crime, we both grew up near each other in small farm towns in central California. we share the same culture. you wont find a more loyal, kind intelligent cowboy…lol….its easy to succeed when you surround yourself with great people.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I was raised in a great family, we have always given back, but i think now we have a bigger platform to get more done. whether its feeding homeless, doing clothing drive or just helping to do work projects, what i have found is that there are so many big hearted celebrities that don’t hesitate to help by giving time or money to help others. it encourages me.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
ONLY PEOPLE COUNT, this was the theme at a summer camp I went to as a kid. Basically when it all comes down to it, we are a human community built on people. we need to be kind and help each other. often times when im at a checkout line or talking to a waiter, I genuinely ask them how there day is going. A lot of times they light up and smile because someone cared to ask. It doesn't take much to encourage someone.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company”?
1) You can only spend a dollar once, spend it wisely. I think before I spend, but that means I have to be clear on what we are doing and how we are getting there. must be specific.
2) Success is a marathon, not a sprint. True long term success is not a large amount of people buying into a momentary fad, but a smaller group buying into something of substance. that only comes by time, trust and consistency.
3) Don’t confuse company stability with cashflow. Every good thing comes in cycles, be prepared for the highs and lows and remember its coming back around. Whether its bathing suits for summer, your favorite musical artist or Christmas decorations. It’s all cycles. Prepare your cashflow accordingly.
4) Get it in writing. I cant emphasis this enough. it doesnt always have to be a contract, but correspondence that states what the agreements are. emails, texts etc can be pieced together to create viable timelines to protect you.
5) Study the gamechangers and leaders in your industry, not just success stories. Early on I studied guys like Lee Iacoca and Sam Walton. I was inspired but didnt really understand how to apply their stories to mine. Now I constantly study guys like Scooter Braun, Irv Gotti and Iyor Cohen. These guys are changing the game constantly, I always come away with new ideas and approaches.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
FEED ONE, a mentoring and food program where people adopt a homeless person or someone down on their luck. nobody should be hungry, its a horrible feeling. I realize not everyone wants to be helped, but so many just need someone to invest a few meals and some guidance into them. small acts of kindness can go far to encourage people.