Nestled in a quietly cool Nashville neighborhood is the cozy brick house that Stephen Glicken calls home. The decor is comfortably stylish with a stash of toddler toys in the corner, and the vibe is one of serene, modern domesticity. It’s not the vibe you’d expect to get from someone working at the intersection of tech startup culture and the music industry, and that’s exactly how Stephen likes it.
“I moved to Nashville in 2012 to make babies, which we’ve done successfully,” laughs Stephen, gesturing toward the toys. “I never wanted to raise a family in New York City, so I moved here to open our office.”
That office belongs to Songkick, an online service focused on concert listings and ticket sales, where Stephen is the Head of Business Development. It’s a role that he seems perfectly suited for, as it utilizes both his natural business instincts as well as his decade-plus of experiencing the music industry in a wide variety of positions.
One of those positions: “Spidey.”
“I have a Wu-Tang name,” laughs Stephen. “All the Wu-Tang Clan guys call me Spidey.”
For two and a half years, Stephen was under the exclusive employ of Ghostface Killah and the Wu-Tang Clan, working on the recording, mixing, and production of The Pretty Toney Album as well as other projects, earning himself the “Spidey” nickname, “because I have glasses and I would just do stuff before [Ghostface] would even begin, so he’d be like ‘Yo, your spidey sense is tingling.'”
Believe it or not, “earning a Wu-Tang name” is somehow not the best story Stephen can tell about his career experiences. After graduating from Full Sail’s Recording Arts program in 2000, he submitted his resume to Circle House Studios in Miami .After about a year learning the ropes and making a name for himself at the studio, Stephen was there when Circle House got a pretty notable booking.
“Puffy came down and rented the whole place for two months and did five records from conception to mastering in two months. Nobody slept. I didn’t go home for like two months. Everybody quit the studio after that,” he says, laughing. “Except for me. I was the last man standing, and then I essentially was like the main, head engineer there. I worked on everything that came through for the next two years. Because of Puffy coming down, it became this very high profile studio, and for the next two years, I worked with everybody from Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, and Nas to a Cash Money Millionaires records, Neptunes, TLC, No Doubt, and a bunch of other people.”
Eventually, Stephen himself got burnt out on the studio’s pace, and left to go freelance, ultimately landing the aforementioned gig with Ghostface. While working with Wu-Tang in New York, Stephen met the woman who would become his wife. He also connected with a business partner who wanted him to work on some records in Puerto Rico.
“I thought I was going to be there for two months … I ended up living there for two and a half years,” laughs Stephen.
During that time, he produced and engineered some records, started up a 3000-capacity venue on the site of an old country club, put on concerts by merengue, reggaeton, and techno artists, built a couple of recording studios, started a record label, co-managed popular merengue duo Zion & Lennox, started up a film studio, and basically ran on all cylinders for 30 months. However, despite the success of most of the ventures he was involved in at the time, the work wasn’t satisfying for Stephen.
He relocated back to New York and “wanted to do something positive,” so he focused his talents on the then-nascent sustainability movement. He met up with Ben Bronfman (the son of Edgar Bronfman, Jr, who was then CEO of Warner Music Group), who was wrapping up his time as guitarist in the Exit and similarly looking to focus his talents on green initiatives. Soon after, Green Owl Records was born.
“Basically the first time we met, we conceived of starting the first sustainably minded record label. The first thing we put out was Live Earth with Tom Whalley and Warner Bros. Then we put out a benefit compilation where I specifically went for artists at the time you would never associate with environmentalism or sustainability. I cleared, pretty much by myself, 28 exclusive gratis tracks from Feist, Muse, Bloc Party, Deerhoof, of Montreal, Pete Yorn, all these dudes. I got Feist to sign a week before she did her iPod commercial, which was awesome.”
While Green Owl certainly was more in line with Stephen’s philosophical and professional ideology than some of his earlier projects, the process of running a label, managing artists, signing new artists, putting on infamous SXSW parties like the one documented in this New York Times article, and ensuring that the entire operation stayed faithful to its sustainability ethos utlimately proved exhausting.
“I didn’t sleep for five years. It was hectic. But along the way, I connected with Matt Jones, who started [ticketing company] Crowdsurge. I met him when he was a young promoter in London who helped put on some of Adele’s first shows and Ellie Goulding and Mumford. He [started Crowdsurge] … because he saw that there was a big problem in ticketing. Towards the end of 2010 I called him and I was like, ‘Dude I can’t run a label anymore. Are you ready to come to the US?’ He wasn’t, but he said ‘You should call my friend Ian Hogarth, who is starting Songkick.’
Instead, he ended up joining Matt at Crowdsurge. “We grew Crowdsurge to about 100 people, meanwhile, Songkick” – which, at the time, was focused primarily on concert discovery – “had grown to about 40 people. And so we ended up bringing the two companies together in June of last year.
“Both companies were attacking a similar problem from different sides, the demand side (Songkick) and the supply side (CrowdSurge). We’re now the largest direct-to-consumer artist ticketing company in the world. We are the second-largest concert destination platform in the world after Ticketmaster. We did all of Adele’s presales for her global tour at the end of last year. We have offices in London, New York, Nashville, L.A.
“I’m the head of business development so I head our artist business and I head our artist strategy,” explains Stephen. “Business development for us is relationships. We know a lot of people and the goal in what we’re doing is to be a partner. We’re not trying to be a third party that gets wedged into an opportunity and we’re not taking opportunistic business. We want to be a partner to the artist and to the management team. When we’re doing our job right, we’re sitting at the table with them to help craft the entire launch around the tour.”