How Indie Hip-Hop Promoter ScoreMore Shows Landed Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Chance The Rapper

The growth of rap and hip-hop over the last 20 years – back when now-cultural icons like Snoop Dogg and The Roots were fighting to prove themselves on the road to hip-hop now being the most listened-to genre in North America – has primed the pump for newcomers like Sascha Stone Guttfreund, an indie promoter who started putting on hip-hop shows while still in college at the University of Texas. 

ScoreMore Shows

Kendrick Lamar, Ibrahim. Hamad, Sascha Stone Guttfreund, J. Cole, and Claire Bogle.

It wasn’t that long ago, but he still had trouble finding a venue for an Afroman concert, which became his first major show. 

“We went around looking for venues, and when we said we were doing hip-hop music, no one wanted to have us. Nobody,” Guttfreund told Pollstar. “We went door to door and everyone said, ‘Yeah the rent is $5,000’ – just something that financially would never work.

“So finally this one venue was willing to get us Mother’s Day.  His attitude was like, well if people show up, great, and if nobody does, well it’s Mother’s Day and we weren’t going to make money anyway.

“We sold between 400 and 500 tickets,” Guttfreund said. “The person who owned the venue was like, ‘Holy shit! Whoa!’ and asked me to be the talent buyer. I said, ‘Look I don’t know what that means.’” And he offered a big payday – 300 bucks a week.

“I’m talking rich, right? So my big piece in the negotiation was, ‘OK I’ll do it but only if I’m a bartender,’” said Guttfreund, who was 19 at the time, describing himself as a “knucklehead.”

Guttfreund, from the Los Angeles area, ended up in Austin because of the rich sports history of the University of Texas Longhorns: “I always wanted to be Jerry Maguire,” he said, referencing Tom Cruise’s famous sports agent portrayal.

By taking the philosophy of booking acts they believed in and were fans of themselves, Guttfreund got in early on superstar rap artists like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.

Now, Guttfreund’s ScoreMore Shows promotes major concerts and events such as the Mala Luna Music Festival in San Antonio, which this year has headliners Future, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Migos Oct. 28-29.  

“Our style was different. We took really good care of the artists,” he said of his company’s growth. “It was all about hospitality and we made sure they had a great experience. The artists also appreciated we were really passionate about the music.

“I just loved the music so much, we just got after it. one thing led to another and we started JMBLYA, and before that we started this thing called Sunday Swagger, which had Chiddy BangSteve AokiBun B, and then the smaller writing under the poster was Big Sean, Kendrick, Schoolboy, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were like the last name on the poster,” Guttfreund said, laughing. “And it was crazy, I think we sold like 600 tickets. It was not great.

“But we had this idea of kind of combining the hip-hop and dance space, and then we kind of stuck with that with JMBLYA, and it started in venues, and we slowly moved it outside and now it’s our biggest festival property.” JMBLYA this year featured Grammy Award winner Chance The Rapper as well as Gucci ManeMigos, and Lil Uzi Vert in Dallas May 5 and Austin May 6.

J. Cole was ScoreMore Shows’ first regional tour. He’s since blown up into yet another hip-hop arena headliner, but remembers who helped him in the earlier days.

Claire Bogle

Kendrick Lamar (L) Sascha Stone Guttfreund and J. Cole.

“J. Cole wanted to do an underplay tour and do 13 tertiary markets,” Guttfreund said of this summer’s 4 Your Eyez Only tour. “We produced the whole underplay tour, and that’s strictly loyalty from him.” 

Pollstar has box office reports from the tour with sellouts or near sellouts including The NorVa in Virginia June 17 (1,450 tickets, $50,750 gross), Mercury Ballroom in Louisville June 15 (925, $32,625), The Pagaent in Saint Louis June 13 (2,000, $74,335), and The Moon in Tallahassee June 3, which sold 1,961 tickets grossing $68,635.

Guttfreund manages Tory Lanez, a Canadian rapper who is a perfect example of the new school of rap touring.

“We did Missoula, Montana, for $500. We went and did everything,” Guttfreund said emphatically. “We put out an 86-city tour, just in North America.” Guttfreund, with co-manager  Troy Dubrowsky, has also taken on management for Trill Sammy, a Houston rapper who has millions of YouTube hits without even a proper release yet.

Pollstar data from Tory Lanez headline appearances include 2,480 tickets sold at House of Blues in Boston Dec. 7, which grossed $64,395, 2,480 tickets sold at Olympia de Montreal Dec. 3, grossing $76,331, and two shows at The Fonda in Los Angeles Dec. 22-23, which moved 2,284 tickets and grossed $73,088.

“We got in at the right time in the hip hop and R&B space, and we’ve been so fortunate to work with so many incredible artists, and great agents,” Guttfreund said, mentioning people like WME’s Brent Smith, Peter Schwartz, Kevin Shivers, and Marc Geiger, as well as ICM Partners’ Zach Iser, Caroline Yim, Rob Gibbs and Paradigm’s Erin Larsen.

“As an indie, a lot of the agents would sell us shows, and then when artists got to a certain level it would just go to Live Nation and AEG, which I have nothing but respect for, but when you’re trying to pay bills it’s tough and there’s only a certain amount of inventory,” he said, adding that he considers Austin-based C3 Presents heroes of his.

“They really embraced us. And there’s been a small group of agents and those guys really went hard for us, and said, ‘These guys are indies, we want indies in the marketplace, it’s good for everyone. Let’s support these guys.’

“We’ve been super lucky and fortunate, and it’s a tough business but we’re really proud of the people that we have here and the events that we do. And we love it.”

Up next for ScoreMore Shows, including the Mala Luna Festival this weekend, are dates with Snow Tha Product,

The ScoreMore Shows team includes partner and strategist Ryan Jansen, who was part of WME’s Festival Department and worked at the agency for eight years, Katie Conder, director of marketing and communications who oversaw tour marketing for Janet Jackson, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, Tyler the Creator and others, and talent buying manager Lucas Conder, who at WME was former assistant to Joel Zimmerman and Brad Goodman.  The company was co-founded by Claire Bogle. 

Sascha Stone Guttfreund
– Sascha Stone Guttfreund

Troy Dubrowsky, former executive assistant to WME’s CEO Patrick Whitesell, was brought in to support the executive ScoreMore team, including focusing on ScoreMore MGMT’s roster.

Stay tuned for future Pollstar hip-hop feature series with Maverick / Live Nation Urban’s Shawn Gee, WME’s Brent Smith and Peter Schwartz, rapper Tech N9ne, Paradigm’s Erin Larsen and more.