Imagine this. You’re sitting with one of your best friends, discussing the future of your career over some cheap Mexican food in a college town, and both come to a sudden realisation that the dream job you’re currently going to school for doesn’t exist. We met Crowd Surf co-founder Cassie Petrey who bootstrapped the company alongside co-founder Jade Driver.
At that moment they didn’t realise it, but they actually always had this in them. Since they were children, they’ve always known how to come up with resourceful ways to reach their goals. Cassie and Jade grew up in different cities and eventually crossed paths in college, but each of them had unknowingly established their own path which leads them into the music industry.
As teens, they were running various street teams and fan sites for the artists that they loved, simply because they loved the artists and wanted to do everything they could to thank them for the amazing music they were making. There were no boundaries or limitations when it came to supporting the artists they loved.
This insane, passionate, crazy love for helping artists build the foundation of Crowd Surf and different bricks have been slowly added over time. This process has led to the development of a truly unique full-service marketing firm that is constantly changing for the better.
When the company was founded in 2007, daily tasks consisted of accepting MySpace friends, trying to figure out how to leverage Facebook when it was a closed college network with no public figures, and setting up a Twitter accounts for superstars like Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton.
Fast forward to 2017.
The company now has a 45 person team, four offices, and a collective social footprint of approximately 1 billion followers amongst all of the accounts the company oversees. Co-Founder, Cassie Petrey, was recognised as one of the top 30 Under 30 leaders in music by Forbes in 2016 and by Billboard in 2011. Needless to say, these guys learned how to roll with the punches, evolve their services as the music industry’s landscape has changed, and have turned into a full-blown marketing services agency. These guys do it all, providing catered and specialised marketing services to a roster of massive stars such as Guns N Roses, Backstreet Boys, LL Cool J, Steven Tyler, Fifth Harmony, Britney Spears, Noah Cyrus, on top of managing Max & Harvey, the #1 Musical.ly stars in the UK with 4.5M million followers.
So what’s the future for this company made up of digital czars? Well, there’s clearly no playbook laying out what’s to come, which is why Crowd Surf is going to continue doing what they do best helping artists and paving new paths in the digital music age.
Just don’t call it a record label, a management firm or a marketing agency.
It’s Crowd Surf.
Hey, Cassie can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
At heart, and I can say this for Jade and myself, we are fangirls. As teenagers, we both loved the Backstreet Boys. (We still do, this is something that will never change.) Neither one of us has family members that worked in the music industry prior to us. I was born and raised in Kentucky, and only really got out of the state to go see concerts in different cities. I ran my own little eBay business as a teenager selling concert photos to fund my trips, as my family said they would only take me if I paid my way there. They probably established this rule thinking that this was a way out of having to take me to this shows in cities that were 8-hours away and were dumbfounded that I kept coming up with the money to pay for it all. When I turned 16, they were so over it that they just let me drive myself anywhere I wanted to go to see a show!
You were both established in your own paths prior to the music industry before discovering each other, can you tell us more?
I wouldn’t say that we were completely “established” – but had started taking a few steps down that trail. Jade and I both met in our first year of college at Middle Tennessee State University. We went there to study their music business program. We both had some light level street team and entrepreneurial experience going into college, and we both completed our girl big girl music jobs at Warner Music Nashville while we were studying. That was the beginning of us going down this path together as business partners.
What’s a typical day like at Crowd Surf?
This is a question we get a lot when a potential employee is interviewing with us for a role. I will say, there is absolutely not one typical day at Crowd Surf. There is always basic tasks that everyone has to fulfill on a daily basis, but from there it wildly shifts. Sometimes we’re in the office getting work done and taking meetings, and other days we’re on the set of a music video or on tour running meet & greets. We’re extremely grateful that there is not a typical day for us. That’s how we wanted it to be from day one, and that’s why we haven’t gotten bored in 10 years.
Whats the best piece of advice you have both ever been given?
About six months into starting on our business, we had our first inquiry about getting acquired. That obviously didn’t go through, but the potential buyer on the phone pointed out that we were trying to do too many things at once regarding our services. He said to focus on doing one thing really well for several years, and then diversify your services once you have your footing in a particular role. This was one of the smartest things I’ve ever been told, and I really think it applies to many different career paths.
Now you both have a team 45 strong and 4 offices, how do you scale up?
I would say that the answer a lot of people immediately go to here is “getting more capital” – but we have actually never received any funding from an outside source. We’ve always locked in enough projects to pay a new person before we’ve hired them, and that’s how we’ve scaled. I wouldn’t say that we’ve ever dreamed of hiring more and more people, but that’s just how the company has organically grown over time.
Like most entrepreneurs, you created something that you felt the market needed that you couldn’t find, how did the concept initially come about?
When Jade and I were working at Warner, that was the beginning of social media. We actually ran the first major label artist MySpace accounts, which is a pretty awesome accolade. We both worked there for several years, and at that time, there weren’t bigger roles in the company that was centered around social media. We were acting as general “New Media” department assistants, and any higher role at the label would have taken us away from social media. Fortunately, we loved what we were doing and really believed in the future of it. We left and started to consult because we loved what we did, but wanted to create a ladder that we could both climb. We were the only company out there really specializing in what we did at that time. It’s awesome to see how that’s changed and grown over time.
Lastly, what 3 tips can you give to help women have a more empowered life?
1. When you’re dreaming up your career path, don’t let sexism control your dream. Let your mind wander where it needs to wander, and don’t let the state of the outside world keep you from realising what will really make you happy.
2.Always sit at the table. This is one of my favourite concepts discussed in Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” – is that as women, we deserve to sit at the hypothetical or real life conference table as much as men. However, women often overthink it and talk themselves out of it while men are less likely to do that. Women having a more empowered life is a 50/50 thing – not just men having to change their views. Women have to change how they feel about themselves in order to make progress. Everyone has got to “lean in” on this to make a change.
3.Speak up and make a fuss. When you don’t get credit for something you deserve, and somebody else does point out that you should have as well. If you’re thinking it, your gut is probably right. You deserved to acknowledge there.
Twitter: @crowdsurf | Instagram: @crowdsurf