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Jake Skolnick: Musician, Label Owner, Talent Buyer

Published on 10/12/2017

Photo: Stephanie Nesbitt for TheIndieSD.com

What is your life’s purpose?
To have fun and support my friends and family with ethical business practices in the music industry.

How are you living your purpose?
Every day I work with artists I respect and admire to further their careers. Mannequin Vanity Records is a full-service indie record label that helps artists plan and execute successful releases, promotions, and touring campaigns in an ever-changing music industry.

I balance my time mainly between the label, my bands, and my work as a full-time talent buyer for five music venues in San Diego. Also, I play over 150 concert dates a year, so every day is a 12+hour workday—but I love what I do.

How did you find your purpose?
I’ve wanted to be a professional musician as long as I can remember. I think first I wanted to be a garbage man, then maybe a dog-walker, and somewhere around the age of six I got it into my head that I could be bigger than Michael Jackson—so I’ve been on some version of that delusional quest ever since. It started with me seeing a video special of “Man in the Mirror” in my kindergarten class and evolved as my dad started teaching me guitar. When I learned all I could from him, I took private lessons and then started playing bands in middle and high school.

Although many of my peers were signed right out of high school and opted to go right into the biz at 18, I recognized that I was not quite good enough to get my big break yet so I opted for college at San Diego State University and learned how to promote my first shows (from parties to bars) and then eventually DIY tours. At the end of college, I was hooked on music as my chosen profession but not quite sure how to make any money with it so I went on to graduate school at NYU for an MA in Music Business. There, I learned the tools to bring my bands, label, and booking career to the next level, but that was only the beginning.

Middle School

What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
NOTHING WORTH HAVING EVER COMES EASY. Kevin Hart says in one of his standups, “Ever’body wants to be famous, ain’t no one wanna put in the work.”  This has always resonated with me as I can confidently say that if you wanna make it in the arts, you need to be prepared to grind. Long work days and MANY MANY MANY rejections—and if you can’t handle that, you should just give up and save yourself the struggle.

If you truly have “the sickness”—an industry term for those afflicted with a lifetime of working in the arts regardless of the rewards, where you will most likely do your art for free even if you end up putting your life savings into it and losing everything you have—then your heart is in the right place and you can at least enjoy the ride. Because 99.9% of everyone doesn’t make it huge. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy the process.

I digressed a bit from the main point but I think the general idea is that I found my purpose because of love and raw desire/addiction to the music industry. If you find something that you love and doesn’t feel like work when you are doing it, I’d recommend that you grab onto that fucker and ride it until the wheels fall off. But if you’d rather make huge sums of $ and live a life of material comforts, I’d suggest something outside of the arts.

What resources do you recommend?
For music in general, the best intro book is All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman.

Connect with Jake Skolnick:
Email: mannequinvanityrecords@gmail.com

For More info on Mannequin Vanity Records:

Also here’s a free Compilation Album with downloads from all our artists.

Jake Skolnick was born in Glendale California in 1985. He grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles; first Topanga Canyon during elementary school and then Oak Park for middle school and high school. He learned guitar early on from his dad, and later studied privately. Finishing Oak Park High School in 2003, he went to San Diego State, graduating with a major in Philosophy and minor in Electronic music composition. There, he played in his first touring bands (The Waking Moment, and later, The Plastic Revolution or TPR). In 2007, he moved to New York to attend NYU for a master’s program in music business. He continued to tour with TPR on school breaks, flying back to Southern California during winter/summer months. It was in New York that Jake first launched Mannequin Vanity Records (although his first release can be traced back to The Waking Moment “Plastics” in 2005). In 2017, Mannequin Vanity Records celebrated their 10-year anniversary, now boasting an international roster of seven artists (samples of which can be found on this free downloadable or stream-able album).

In the early years, the label was mostly the artists that Jake recorded at NYU, and later in San Diego when he moved back there in 2009. It later became a “folk/punk” oriented label—a reflection of his personal musical tastes. Currently, the roster boasts French Folk group BandàpArt, Cult Country rockers Clint Westwood Band, World Punkers QUEL BORDEL!, Canadian Acoustic/Punk duo Steve & Ginie Jackson, as well as solo acts BJ Jezbera & Christine Sako.

During the time Jake lived in New York, he also learned how to book tours/shows nationwide and found a love for working on that side of the business. That was the beginning of MVR Entertainment, a booking service that has organized several festivals, including SD Gypsyfest and the Seven Sea’s Festival at Sea World. MVR Entertainment also books exclusively for five venues in San Diego including The Holding Company (Ocean Beach), The Tipsy Crow & The Field (Downtown San Diego), Sandbox Pizza (Pacific Beach) as well as sub-promoting shows at other venues. During his tenure at The Holding Company, the venue has had many national touring artists including Coolio, Warren G, Afroman, Crazytown, Mickey Avalon, Dirt Nasty, The Rocket Summer, Alien Ant Farm, The Ataris, Hello Goodbye, etc. Currently, Jake divides his time between his bands, his label, and his booking.


HeleneTStelian Musing
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1 Comment

  1. Paula Kiger

    Very cool – I so agree re: finding something you love!


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