In the past few years, Evan Reynolds’ life has taken, well, a twist. The native of Hermon, Maine, and former Wharton student who was on an entrepreneurship and management track, took a leave of absence from college in 2011 to manage the Philadelphia, Pa., teen hip-hop duo OCD: Moosh and Twist. Reynolds, 20, is learning the ins and outs of the music biz “on the go,” a mission that can be both a blessing and a curse in a character-filled industry that preys on weakness. Still, Reynolds has brought his business skills to the game, helping to build the group’s presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – Moosh and Twist’s biggest rap hit “City Kids” has had more than 800,000 views on YouTube – and booking regular concerts. Reynolds spoke to Knowledge@Wharton High School editor Diana Drake about his decision to leave school to manage a rap duo and why the music industry is like junior high all over again.
Knowledge@Wharton High School: Tell me how you got hooked up with Moosh and Twist.
Evan Reynolds: I get this question all the time. My best friend at Penn [has a] younger brother who is best friends with Twist. So he introduced me to their music — we met freshman year and he showed me [their] YouTube video, “Possibilities.” I saw that [and] fell in love with it. I met the guys, and the thing that I take the most pride in is the fact that it happened naturally. It was totally grass roots — there was no intention. There was never a point where I asked, “Can I be your manager?” Or they said, “Will you be our manager?” It just kind of happened.
KWHS: Did you have a background in this type of thing? Or even a history of listening to hip-hop music?
Reynolds: I’ve always been a huge hip-hop fan, a big music fan in general. But no, no experience in this specific industry, which I’ve found has its pros and cons. A pro is that right now the music industry is probably the most changing industry. With the emergence of online music, technology has really changed the way people obtain music, the way people hear music [and] the way it’s distributed. So I like the fact that I’m new. I like the fact that I get to learn on the go. I get to see opportunities that otherwise somebody who is more seasoned and has been in this monster that is the music industry [might not see]. I’m not stuck in any old ways or old routines.
KWHS: With that fresh perspective, why did you decide to put college on hold to manage these guys? What did you see about them that really motivated you?
Reynolds: I take pride in saying that I’m the biggest OCD fan in the world. That was kind of easy because they are two of the most talented kids I’ve ever met on a whole lot of levels. So that — the idea of where this could be — I’ve seen since day one, ever since I met them. [The energy that they bring] is unmatched. That has an appeal to a lot of people. I like their message, I like what they stand for [and] I like what they represent. The idea of putting school off was okay because I knew they were good people [and] I knew that I was doing something that I believed in.
The actual process of doing it and making the final decision was tough. I worked very, very hard to get into Wharton and took a lot of pride in it. But it just reached the point where I couldn’t juggle the two, nor did I want to. [It’s important to be] actively involved in their career while it’s in its most early stages. This is when any little thing can make things crumble to the ground in a heartbeat. So all my attention needed to be focused [on] this. I couldn’t have the distraction of any classes. Penn’s been very helpful in seeing that through. My parents are fully supportive; everybody’s seen it grow from day one. And they’ve seen how passionate I am behind it. My parents would support me for anything, but especially this when they’ve seen the numbers of fans that we’re getting [and] they’ve seen the places that we’re able to travel. They recognize that it’s an excellent opportunity, and I’m the happiest kid in the world right now. That’s something that I don’t think anybody will want to change.
KWHS: Tell us what a manager of a hip-hop duo does. What are your responsibilities?
Reynolds: A lot. It’s really adaptive. If I were to write it down as a job description, my job is to be the intermediary between all the people who want to talk to the guys. My job exists so they can focus on music. They don’t always focus on music because they care so much about what they do. They get very side tracked, [and] that makes the job a little more difficult. But my job is meant to be there so they can go in the studio, record hassle-free and make the music that they love to make. [I deal] with actually [booking] the shows, talking to our agent, talking to our lawyers, talking to labels that are interested, that’s all redirected to me. If not, the guys wouldn’t have a single minute [of] their own to be creative. One day I can be on the road with the guys — whether that’s setting up, making sure all the tech gear is fine, making sure our hospitality is okay — all the way to traveling to New York to meet with our lawyers and a label representative, as well as their lawyers and negotiating. It’s just a hodge-podge of different things. And like I said, it’s definitely learn-on-the-go. But I’m learning very fast, and I’ve built a very solid network of good colleagues who I can rely on and who are helping me through the whole process.
KWHS: What skills do you think you need to be successful at this type of job? Are you drawing on your business education and your business acumen?
Reynolds: Confidence is the biggest thing that I’ve realized you have to have. In this industry, you’ll get swallowed up if you don’t have it. There are very, very extreme personalities. It’s a character-[driven] field. I’ve met some of the craziest [characters] — every end of the spectrum. Even if you [don’t] necessarily know everything there is to know about the situation you’re getting into, you have to act like you do. Because if they realize one little [weakness] about it, they’ll jump on it, exploit it and things will go down. Everything feeds back into confidence and everything stems from that – whether it’s negotiating or something else. I deal with a lot of people who would otherwise turn people off and scare people away.
KWHS: Do you also handle marketing? I know Facebook is one way you reach out to fans. What are some of the marketing strategies that you’ve used to gather interest?
Reynolds: We’ve really utilized social media. Social networking has been everything. YouTube from day one has gotten us to this point, honestly. With regards to actual marketing, it’s funny because the thing with music is [that] it speaks for itself. If it’s a product people like, people are going to like it. But we’ve really been going by word of mouth, which has been going incredibly well. [We don’t have the capital right now] to have billboards all over the world like we’d like to. But the music has just spoken for itself. So I’ve been handling more incoming [demand] than anything and facilitating that. Other than that, my job [is to make sure] they’re actively speaking to the fans on Facebook, they’re actively [on Twitter]. It’s incredibly important for maintaining the buzz. I say, “You know, guys, I really need you to tweet about this show” — or something like that. Marketing in a nutshell has been social media and social networking from day one, and the numbers have gone up very, very well.
KWHS: So what career path were you on before that fateful day that you met Moosh and Twist? What were you planning to do with your life?
Reynolds: I was planning to find what I wanted to do with my life. That’s exactly where I was, honestly. I’ve always wanted to go the entrepreneurial route since I was eight years old — I knew I wanted to be my own boss. As opposed to climbing the corporate ladder, I wanted to start my own [business] and build it from scratch. Luckily, I met two of my best friends, Moosh and Twist, and we’re building that ladder slowly together. So really, it was like a dream come true. It was like the skies cleared.
KWHS: Everything clicked.
Reynolds: Everything — I love talking, I love being around people. My entire skill set came together. It was very obvious that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
KWHS: You mentioned a little bit about this already. But what have you learned about the music industry? You said it’s a character-filled place. What else have you learned? What are some of the things about the business side of it that you really didn’t know?
Reynolds: [It’s] very much like junior high school all over again. You hear the music industry and think, [there are] so many people involved because it’s everywhere, but it’s very, very small. The players are the players. Once you recognize who makes the calls — the companies that can really make things happen — that’s a very, very small group, which is something I didn’t know from the outside perspective. The business is focused around a small core of companies that hold a lot of sway in the way everything goes – [for instance], what you hear on the radio. I had no idea how tough it is to actually get on the radio, how much money is actually behind getting on the radio. It’s a whole different monster than what people think. People think you can make a great song and it can be planted and rated just because people like it. [That’s] not the way things work. Overall, I’ve learned that [there are] 20 more steps than what I thought there would be on any endeavor in the music industry. It’s very drawn out. [There are] a lot of hoops to jump through.
KWHS: But it sounds like you’ve been gaining legitimacy among your peers in the music industry in that people are starting to listen and people are starting to make good decisions on behalf of your group. Is that true?
Reynolds: Oh, without a doubt, without a doubt. One thing that’s been difficult for me is fighting the stereotype of my age. I’m 20 years old and [while] I’m in a young industry, 20 is still considered on the very young spectrum. It’s been difficult convincing people that I’m capable. I’ve already spoken to the pros of being new to the industry. But that’s been an uphill fight, trying to show people that [youth] sometimes is a blessing.
KWHS: What is your favorite hip-hop song and why?
Reynolds: “Take Me Back” by OCD — I know that’s the cheesiest answer in the world. But I have to say, that’s the God’s honest truth. And both of the guys are going to joke with me for saying this.
KWHS: Tell me why [it’s your favorite].
Reynolds: It makes me feel very, very happy. I know that sounds ridiculous.
KWHS: This is obviously a Moosh and Twist song.
Reynolds: Exactly. As a listener, [it] just takes me back to the days — it brings me back. Sometimes music has that weird power over you, and it gives you literal images in your head of certain memories that are totally not the guys’ intentions. They didn’t make the song to say, “This is what I want you to think of when you hear it.” But a good artist naturally inspires people. That song makes me feel good. I genuinely love showing it to people. I love bringing it up on YouTube, showing my family, showing all my friends and my fraternity. So yeah, I’m an OCD super fan, one could say.
What are your thoughts about Evan Reynolds' decision to leave Wharton and manage OCD full-time? What are the pros and cons of this kind of life-changing move? Take a moment to update yourself on Evan's path since 2011. Is he still a hip-hop manager?
What are your biggest takeaways from this interview with Evan?