When popular artists like Detroit rapper Eminem, Dutch deejay Tiesto, and dance-music boss Derek "Pretty Lights" Smith talk to their fans online or sell them gear, the software applications, customer service, even the clothing orders are routed through five suites in a converted townhouse row in Society Hill near the end of South Street.
That's home to Fame House, a 26-person firm bought last month by the publicly traded electronic-music events manager SFX Entertainment of New York - it runs the Mysteryland festival and the Beatport music-download store, among other live and virtual music portals - to serve as a "digital hub" for the ways music makers reach and sell to their fans.
In an e-mailed statement, Eminem's manager, Paul Rosenberg, called Fame House a "nimble, cutting-edge company to support our online marketing, social media, and merchandising endeavors."
"We're digital services for hire," says Fame House founder Mike Fiebach. "There's a proliferation of tools and things you can do to promote yourselves directly to consumers online."
Because digital music has taken much of the profit out of recording, artists are more dependent on merchandising, live performances, and digital fan links. So there's an office full of hairy software developers, and a downstairs fulfillment center with $200 Eminem Cold Winter Packs for sale - a Zippo lighter, hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants. The shelves are lined with thousands of units of Eminem- branded merchandise.
Fiebach, a Society Hill native - his father's law firm, Cozen O'Connor, represented Fame House in its SFX deal - founded the music business while a student at Chestnut Hill Academy, managing a rap act for friends.
Enrolling at San Francisco State University, he answered a Craigslist ad and took a job running a Web store for the electronic hip-hop pioneer DJ Shadow. He made friends in the Bay Area music scene, including Hisham Dahud, a writer for hypebot.com who later followed Fiebach back to Philadelphia as Fame House's digital-strategy director. Another Californian, Matt Lee, formerly of Digital Media Management, has joined as Web development director.
Back here after six years, Fiebach married a woman from his old synagogue, took his law boards, and enrolled part time at Temple Law (he's still at least a couple of semesters short of graduation). With $10,000 in savings, plus a cash boost from bond-trader brother Jon of Main Point Advisors, he started Fame House as an East Coast variation on the shops he'd seen and worked for.
The youthful staff has nearly tripled since last year; their resumés tell a lot about how music- business careers are built now.
Early hires include Eric Hahn, a Warren County, N.J., native who spent a semester at elite Berklee College of Music but who told me he quickly decided he "didn't want to go a quarter of a million dollars in debt just to be awesome on the saxophone." He switched to Drexel's music-industry program and the internships that brought him to Fame House, where Drexel grads are nearly a third of the total headcount.
Eminem and Rosenberg "trust us for anything online," including personal social-media accounts, Hahn says. "That requires a lot of nuance. A lot of trust. We have to offer best-in- class services. What's right now could be wrong tomorrow. We have to be in daily contact."
Jason Judy, chief operations officer, was a digital-project manager for the Dave Matthews Band. Katonah Coster, marketing director, is a University of Pennsylvania grad who worked for indie-artists manager Emily White. Sam Huntington, business development director, is another Penn grad who attended the Philadelphia School with Fiebach.
They've come together, Fiebach says, "between the intersection of music and technology. At the center of festivals, artists, labels, brands. Record labels can outsource to us."
As part of SFX, they have new contracts for more and bigger jobs in "the next-generation model for the industry."