Kenneth Cox and Eric White talked about starting their own business for 10 years. Over time, Mostly Paper Productions — which got its start in an office operating out of a walk-in closet and a fold-out desk — grew and evolved along with the duo’s friendship to become a successful, sustainable music production company.
Since registering as an LLC in January, the company has already met its goal for the year in signing five record deals with what Cox and White call “some of the most promising young hip-hop artists in our region.”
That immediate success stemmed from individual, invaluable strengths Cox and White brought to the table. Cox, a business analyst, operates as the company’s CFO and head of technology and client services. White serves as CEO, creative director and head of production.
“We were both at good points in our lives, and Eric had been building the business for years,” Cox said. “I put a lot of energy into it and started designing T-shirts. We started pushing content as much as possible and reached 40,000 people last month — basically for free.”
Pushing content and merchandise — such as clothing and accessories with artists’ logos — keeps the buzz going, White said. He also argued that the “shock factor” is what really keeps people incentivized.
“Once you become consistent, you’re an afterthought,” he said. “So we wanted to shock people and put stuff out back-to-back-to-back. That’s why a lot of artists that aren’t super talented are so famous, because they’re able to shock the market.”
White also learned firsthand that less was more when it came to inventory. After making an album, he ordered 100 copies to sell, calling everything he put out “limited edition.”
“It’s a marketing scheme that’s worked for me for eight years,” he said. “Now that we’re moving away from CDs, you have to push your merchandise.”
Each artist that signs with Mostly Paper Productions gets some combination of a merchandise deal, a record deal and a talent agreement. Mostly Paper and the artist collaborate to produce a 10-15 track album and one or two music videos during that one-year term, with an option to sign for a second year when the term ends.
“With the royalty rates being so low on streaming, we actually plan to lose money on every album we make,” Cox said. “An artist has to get around 441,000 streams for us to break even on what it costs us to produce an album, and we pay for everything.”
Cox said the company then splits the publishing royalties with the artist 70/30, adding that Mostly Paper was able to sign people so quickly because their contracts insulate them from losing money on production content.
“And then we make up the difference by focusing our energy on shows and merch sales,” he said.
The pair said they look for a number of things when signing artists. While talent, potential and an online following are important, they also find value in personal relationships.
“I’m looking for engagement, people who are very approachable and close to their fans,” White said.
As for the future, the pair have slightly different ideas about what they hope to accomplish with Mostly Paper Productions. In line with their personalities, Cox is taking a more methodical approach, while White thinks and dreams big.
“Eric is the dreamer,” Cox said. “He brings the ‘what we want to do’ to it, and I bring the ‘what can we do.’ The goal isn’t to make these people famous. We’ll be self-sustaining with or without that.”
As an artist himself, White said he envisioned a future with Mostly Paper Productions being the platform he pushes at the Grammy Awards.
“I envision us being a multi-million dollar conglomerate,” he said. “I want to do this full-time.”
With record deals at capacity for the year, the company’s focus is shifting from signing artists to booking shows for the months of May and June, because “everything is opening back up,” Cox said. “We can go wherever, if the price is right.”
Those interested in booking talent agreements with Mostly Paper Productions can check out the company’s online booking tool.