Mark Spratley, known as Spratfool, is a face in the hip-hop industry that you should get familiar with. In almost eight years in the industry, he has accomplished enough work that would take others almost two decades to do. Mark Spratley works in public relations and marketing for artists and the SXSW Festival. He worked with artists such as Lud Foe, DDG, DaBaby, Smooky Margielaa, Albee Al, Sicko Mobb, and more. Mark did play a great role in squashing any of the old "baby" beef rumors between DaBaby and Lil Baby and helped them work on music together such as the Today Remix.
Spratfool is far from a fool in the business side of the music industry. He is a pivotal figure in the history of the SXSW festival curating and coordinating events such as the LVL UP Mansion Parties, Legally Loud, and 40 Oz Bounce. His early start in the industry came from writing for blogs and expanded to many different avenues fueled by his passion for the business and the culture. His initiative to make things happen pushed his ability to execute without waiting for a middle man.
He started his label Starting Five based out in California which has an outreach in nearly every music city hub you can think of. Simply put, Mark is the perfect example of the saying "it's what you know and who you know" when it comes to being successful in the business. Mark doesn't have a college degree. He clocked in ten thousand hours to learn marketing strategies, crisis management, event planning, and maneuvering in the business side of music so he can put artists on. Now that this year's SXSW festival recently ended, we here at TheMSQShop were able to get some words with Spratfool about his experiences in the industry.
Jay: I would want to talk about your work with a couple of artists first. How did your relationship with artist Lud Foe begin?
Mark: Yaya White. My guy was taken way too early and will never be forgotten. Yaya was trying to put me on Lud Foe for a little bit. He sent over some videos and records for a few months. One video he sent me, I messed with heavily and it just clicked to me. We started talking, and from there we got to work. We created the wave for a moment in time. Everyone was messing with Lud Foe. These kids grew up on Lud Foe. We did that.
Jay: You were involved in the success of DDG's Moonwalking In Calabasas featuring Blueface. It went double platinum at the time of your interview on allhiphop.com. The involvement was through the marketing and rollout behind the entire record and remix. What do you see Blueface doing next?
Mark: I wanted a plaque man, I should have had some more already so this one for Moonwalking In Calabasas means a lot to me especially to have played such a pivotal role in it going platinum and charting. I'm going to remember this one. On top of that, it happened with some of my good peoples. Plenty more to come from DDG alone, Elon Musk is building up right now as well and going crazy.
DDG and Blueface kick it and work often. Don't be surprised if you see more from them.
Blueface is doing his thing though, everyone thought he couldn't rap but he actually slides on some of these new records. The marketing plan of "Blueface rapping on beat" seems to have carried on to his marketing team or label as well.
Jay: In your prior interviews, you speak about how confident you are with what you do. How did you build up that confidence to become a very successful PR manager and writer without a college degree? What was the catalyst for your current successes?
Mark: Humbly speaking, I've been confident my whole life. From sports to whatever you could think of. I came in with my ear, built up my abilities and network, now we're here. You've got to be built to survive this industry, there's a lot of BS and a lot to learn.
I was always a smart kid, whether I got a degree or not doesn't take away from that. You can be a dummy with a degree. I just had a different vision and plans for me and my life. I was never the type to be able to sit behind a desk or take orders from another man. I left ECU about two years in and never looked back, at some point if you want something you have to focus on it 24/7 and that's just what I did.
Spratfool with Sonny Digital at an event in Atlanta, Georgia
Now, when was my start? I would say stuff really started kicking off when I had Nikko Lafre and was blowing his career up. We came out of nowhere and he was headed towards greatness. Before that, I had success with another group, parted ways from them as they weren't really on shit, started having my own artists, and paved the way from there. From Nikko Lafre to Lud Foe, Smooky Margielaa, Albee Al, Sicko Mobb, DaBaby, DDG, and many more, I was a key catalyst behind a lot of artists' careers.
Beyond having success with artists, I was blogging at a handful of powerful sites, doing marketing and PR for many while also having success in the event lane. All of that compiled together is why I am where I am at today and why I am only going up from here. What makes me great? My ear and my abilities, you can't box me in or label me, if I want to do something I'm going to do it and succeed at it too.
Jay: What are some common mistakes to avoid in public relations?
Mark: Spamming, lazy errors, lack of creativity, sense of entitlement. Know what you are selling and/or who you are pitching to.
Jay: Let’s talk about your “New Day, New Wave” Spotify Playlist. It was a huge thing as it made the billboards on Times Square. What inspired you to come up with that platform and how can indie artists get involved?
Mark: Everyone was doing a playlist, I wanted to take the playlist to a new level. With that being said I brought it to some giant Times Square billboards in NYC. The energy from that was dope when it first dropped. Pop Smoke and everyone showed love to it. To be real, that playlist is what I listen to frequently, it's my current playlist. Granted I still listen to plenty more on any given day, but that list is what I am messing with every day.
It's exactly what it says, NEW DAY NEW WAVE. New artists and new songs that deserve to be in rotation. New Day, New Wave was a platform I was going to launch with Zias. Although we never found the time to really launch it, I didn't let that hold me back from providing a wave with the playlist idea.
Jay: How has the Starting Five label been doing since the headquarters opened up in Downtown Los Angeles? Did you initially think of having it located in other cities or was the city of angels the perfect spot to have it in?
Mark: The plan was downtown, I ended up turning that location into a rental property. That rental money was looking good so I decided to leave it as a rental and partner up with a compound in Glendale just recently. That is my new office, studio space, headquarters and all. I'm about to go crazy over there for sure, everything's coming together and the energy is up. The new spot is crazy though. It has two studios, content space, lounges, and more. A lot is about to go down in that building.
I still have locations in other states, but I wanted my headquarters in Los Angeles. Starting Five is more powerful than ever though. The roster I am putting together right now is insane, I'm about to have a STARTING FIVE plus more. The roster is looking sturdy. Everything that is going down right now is going to shape the future.
Jay: If there was an SXSW Hall of Fame, you would be a first-ballot candidate. Your Legally Loud, LVLUP Mansion Party, and the 40oz Bounce events at SXSW are the stuff of legends. In those events, you brought out a wide variety of artists such as Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, Mike Will Made It, Lil Durk, GloGang, Quando Rondo, K Camp, and more. What did it take to plan out such grand events and make them all cohesive with the SXSW festival?
Mark: Man, I appreciate that, that's real. I actually enjoy planning and piecing everything together. It's honestly easy for me at this point. I'm on to music and artists early so to tell me to go bring out whoever you want and stack some lineups out with the hottest new acts or future stars, that's easy to me. I had a wave coming into the event scene, was it what it is now? Nah, but I made it work!
The fact that I’m crazy with PR and marketing only allows me to amplify my events even more.
As far as the events, Legally Loud is my staple show, I've had that before there were any other Louds. Stacking lineups and more. Post Malone says that’s where it all started and I’ve brought countless stars out on that stage since.
Bringing the 40oz Bounce to SXSW three years in a row was the stuff of legends. We created moments at those bounces that people will never forget. That's insane. People remind me of those events very often. We literally took over SXSW and paved the way for many. LVLUP is what I take the most pride in. The mansion party vibe is me. I don't mess with the clubs too much. I wanted everyone to come to one place, feel like a boss, pop a bottle, enjoy themselves, turn up and be around other bosses and celebrities. I created a unique vibe and it spread.
We've had over two thousand five hundred people in one mansion or lake house. I think it's time to bring the LVLUP mansion party on tour now that COVID is relaxing. I'm thinking of seven major cities to start.
Jay: What are some differences in the planning for an event like SXSW versus a regular club venue event or a local show?
Mark: No difference other than instead of planning just one event I'm planning six events or possibly more to all go down within three days. I've always been one to work well under pressure or in the clutch, so challenging myself like that always brings out the best in me. The mansions definitely require some more moving pieces than a show-based event, but not much is different.
Jay: What was the best no you have ever received and why?
Mark: Every single no pushed me harder. All the doubt when I first started doing this from literally everyone pushed me harder. It was from my own people so that just drove me to go get it even more for real.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?
Mark: Shoutout to Jersey and every artist coming up right now and putting on. Shoutout to Starting Five and this squad that I am piecing together. You all will see it unfold soon. Shoutout to every artist with their own sound going hard.
Mark can be found on all social media @SpratFool and visit his website spratfool.com to learn more about him.
Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.
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