In 2010, J. Cole, Big Sean, and Wiz Khalifa were months away from their first major label debuts when Austin-based ScoreMore shows tapped each of them for different shows across Texas. Within a year, they would go from up and coming hip-hop artists to mainstream acts with massive followings.
It had only been a year since Claire Bogle and Sascha Stone Guttfreund founded the promotion company as University of Texas sophomores, but they were already gaining a reputation for spotting promising acts.
Since then, they’ve booked sold out shows, produced El Paso’s Neon Desert Music F
estival and, this May, put on the fifth annual JMBLYA hip-hop festival. In Austin, they’ve dominated the hip-hop market, becoming tastemakers who introduce fans of the genre to their new favorite acts each year.
“We started working with J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar in 2010,” Guttfreund said. “Since then we’ve worked with Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Chance The Rapper and many more…We just got there before others did.”
But Guttfreund says there isn’t a secret to their ability to find hip-hop’s next greatest thing — they’re just big fans of the genre.
“We didn’t develop a scene — we just provided the curation that we loved and other people loved it too,” Guttfreund said. “JMBLYA started at Austin Music Hall with 2,000 attendees. We had over 25,000 last year. That’s solely the byproduct of the people appreciating what we do.”
This year, the biggest acts on JMBLYA’s billing are J. Cole, Cardi B and Migos. Both J. Cole and Migos are no strangers to ScoreMore, but the addition of rapper and breakout hitmaker Cardi B is a move that will push excitement for the fest over the top. The three-day festival is also taking a different approach by stopping in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, with tickets starting at $40 each.
Guttfreund said these are huge factors in why the festival is such a hit. Compared to larger festivals like ACL, tickets are just a fraction of the price, making it accessible to more fans.
“We also choose to do large festival events in markets that haven’t had them previously, like El Paso or San Antonio,” Guttfreund said.
Another crucial part of ScoreMore’s success? Their tight-knit collaborative working environment, which hasn’t changed since the promotion company was run out of a shared apartment. This is especially evident for ScoreMore’s marketing manager Edward Castillo, who’s been with the team since 2011 when he worked as a street team member.
After starting out selling tickets and putting up flyers, Castillo became the company’s first full-time employee. A lifelong hip-hop fan, Castillo said he watched as Austin’s music scene changed when ScoreMore came onto it.
“I grew up in Austin and I was already going to shows my whole life, but I started to realize this group of people were bringing rap shows where the rappers actually showed up,” Castillo said.
Since joining the team, Castillo said he’s seen the entire scene evolve. Even outside of ScoreMore events, acts that they’ve previously booked are becoming headliners at other festivals. From his days listening to Houston’s Screwed Up Click to now, he said he’s seen hip-hop become more and more of a respected genre.
“I think ScoreMore has provided a voice for the youth,” Castillo said. “When I came here, people weren’t booking as much rap or hip hop because it wasn’t seen that way. But all of a sudden you had kids booking these shows and hundreds of people were showing up and people had to start taking notice. I don’t know if we’re responsible, but I think we helped play a big role in showing people that it could be successful.”
Update: Young Thug will be joining the lineup to replace Cardi B, who is pregnant and will be on leave for a few months.