Music maven and alum Josh Grabelle talks entrepreneurship in the metal realm

The founder of record label and publishing company Bullet Tooth returned to campus to speak on his experience working with heavy music artists in the industry.

When Josh Grabelle attended Syracuse University in the mid-1990s, he knew nothing about the music business. He had grown up seeing New Jersey punk and hardcore shows and had even hosted one in his parents' basement, but the industry itself was a distant fog.

By the early 2000s, however, the record label he'd begun only years prior signed with Sony Music Entertainment. A career helping bands in the metal and hardcore realms achieve noteriety was born.

Grabelle, who founded the Bullet Tooth label and publishing company, spoke on campus Thursday night as part of the Setnor School of Music's Bandier Program Soyars Lecture Series. During his talk, he focused on the winding road that led him to that current position.

After graduation, Grabelle's friends reached out to him with music-related opportunities that could benefit the primitive label he'd created called Trustkill. He kept saying yes - hosting shows, putting out records and even touring with some bands to sell their records on the road. But a career in music seemed murky, Grabelle said, and at the prodding of his parents, he headed back to SU for law school.

Three years later, the law jobs came calling. Grabelle opted for music instead. Sony began financially backing his label, allowing Grabelle the means to finally provide his bands with a stable infrastructure.

"That was pretty exciting for me to give bands a real shot in the business," Grabelle said.

As exciting as the industry may be, its fickle nature eventually prevailed. Trustkill left Sony when Universal Music Group made a better deal, but soon found it less than hospitable.

"You think you have a family. You think you have a team, but the turnover rate is so high. That's the story you're going to hear with major labels," Grabelle said.

That's when Bullet Tooth, which currently boasts 10 heavy music artists, was born. Grabelle said he intentionally keeps the roster lean in order to help each individual band build its own career. One of those bands is Cleveland-based Affiance, who have built a reputation on intense live performances and viral music videos.

In one clip, the band members actually light themselves on fire. That's how important getting noticed in the web community is in today's music industry, Grabelle said. The stunt may very well land the band's next record high on the charts — at least, that's the current prediction.

Throughout his talk, Grabelle commented on the uniqueness of the Bandier Program, which helps train music-minded undergraduates in marketing, business basics and entrepreneurial skills.

"We didn't have anything like that when I went here. You guys are really lucky," Grabelle said.

I'm a very proud parent

I'm a very proud parent

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