Imagine a place where you can go midweek to unwind, socialize and reset. Imagine a creative space where unsigned artists gather to perform and showcase their talents in front of a crowd of music lovers. Imagine a network so strong that you find yourself immersed among the music industry’s top execs, A&R reps, publicists, managers, writers, producers and songwriters.
Founded by A&R executive Ericka Coulter and her Instor3 management company, the goal of TheBasement is to create a setting for up-and-coming talent to gain exposure to an audience that otherwise may not have heard of them.
Sitting down with Coulter on a Saturday afternoon in downtown L.A. proved to be just as hectic as a Monday for her. She's crazy busy but, for starters, she clarifies what sets her event apart from others.
“TheBasement is ... I don't like to use the word showcase,” Coulter says. “But it's a space for people to network, discover and vibe. And the whole point of that is for artists to be invited into this room of the who's who. From labels, to publications, to brands — just anything cool for the opportunity to help them. And for executives and other people to come into an environment where they didn't have to feel corporate. Like, this is not somewhere you dress up. You would actually stand out and look crazy. This is for you to wear your sneakers, your sweats, and just have a good time on a Wednesday. And be able to go home at a timely manner and feel like, 'Yo, not only did I get to connect with the person I've been trying to get to, I saw some new talent, and I had a good time!'”
TheBasement premiered on Aug. 30 last year and usually takes place on a Wednesday (although this month it's moving to Thursday because of the threat of rain).
“OK, so this is my theory,” Coulter says. “I feel like on Monday I'm still recovering from the weekend, trying to get back into my groove. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday and in L.A., it's like a real thing. So I don’t want to compete with that. Wednesday, you're like, 'You know what, I can go out tonight. But I don't need to be out too late ’cause I still got shit to do.' And then Thursday and Friday is when it's on and poppin'.”
As a Kansas City native living in Los Angeles, Coulter knew she could not do this on her own. Her Instor3 team consists of Eric Coulter, Steven Hooks, Zoey Moses, Zoey Davis and Brandon Thomas. She also has a sound guy named Uncle Reggie, and recently recruited new host Terrence Green.
“I started off in A&R at Interscope Records," Coulter says. "I left in 2013 and wasn't really sure if I wanted to work at a label anymore. I got a client by the name of Harmony Samuels, who's an incredible music producer (Ariana Grande, Maroon 5). Harmony did a lot of stuff with Chris Brown. I started managing him, and we started to build relationships with brands. So my whole thing was, what are the two things that the world will never go without? It’s music and fashion.”
With her organic and whole-hearted approach, there’s no doubt in Coulter’s mind this is the beginning of something greater. It’s not just about an unknown artist proving she can sing. It’s about performing in a room full of people who have the ability and resources to change someone’s life.
“My end goal for TheBasement is for it to become a hub — and it is going to be,” she says. “In Atlanta, in New York, in the U.K., in Toronto, in Miami. Like, I'm from Kansas City, and there's a lot of talent out there. I give you the opportunity not only to get a record deal but also to go through artist development. Because sometimes you may think you’re ready, and you’re not ready. The goal is for it to not only become a showcase, artist development type of function but to also possibly be a label. And really be able to change the game.”
Having been a singer herself, Coulter knows exactly what it’s like to want to be heard and seen. One thing about this event, you won’t know the lineup until the night of — until that moment the artist hits the stage.
“OK, so, it's a secret,” she says. “Just because again, I want people to be able to discover things that they didn’t know about. But the way that we go about, it's either they’re an artist that I've been checking out that I'm not sure yet are ready to be signed, or I've never seen them perform, so now I’m giving them the opportunity to perform.
"There’s an artist whose name is Maeta and she actually performed at our second event. Her manager sent me a video of her, and she's incredible. She actually flew from Indiana to come perform at TheBasement. So instead of me talking about the artists that are performing, I talk about the ones that have in the past. Maeta is one of them. There’s another guy called All Day Long that’s signed to RCA Records. He's a hidden gem. But when he comes out, it's about to be a problem. There’s a kid that performed at the last one named Darnell Williams who just put out this 'Fuck Hollywood' video that's crazy. And I think that he's definitely next up."
Coulter is keen to point out that this event is about loving music and/or fashion, but there is judgment on those who just want to show up and chill in their work clothes.
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“This is not only the cool kids in the music industry but these are just the cool kids that love music," she says. "I don’t wanna say backpack kids. You can be heavy into fashion, or you could just like music. This is that room. But this is also people that like to talk and network and chill and be themselves. Like I said, I want you to come comfortable. So you shouldn’t come in high heels.”
One thing to note: All this didn’t just fall into Coulter’s lap. She is a walking testimony of the “hard work pays off” mantra — especially as a female in a male-dominated field.
“I'm still learning that part,” she says. “I have to be honest because it's a day-by-day situation. Like you can wake up every morning and say, ‘I'ma have a great day’ and there's something that can get in the way of that. ... So my advice for women that are wanting to get into this is, know that you always — no matter what field — you are going to always work 10 times harder. ... Don't surround yourself with people that make you feel little or that you're the smartest one in the room. Really surround yourself with people that motivate you to go somewhere else. I just try not to ever think about it because I'm a woman. I just try to work hard. And then be like, ‘Well, I didn't get it because it wasn’t meant [for me]. It had nothing to do with me being a woman.”
The next installment of TheBasement takes place on Thursday, March 22. Details available by RSVP-ing to firstname.lastname@example.org.