Long before SKAM Artist became one of the foremost booking and management agencies in Las Vegas nightlife, it began with a bet.
As a 16-year-old party kid and hip-hop fan in Fullerton, California, SKAM founder/owner Sujit Kundu once boasted to friends that he could fill a local club with flagging attendance. His friends laughed, and made a bet he’d fail. By the end of the summer, Kundu was offered a job to run the venue.
His knack for promoting eventually led him to LA in the early ’00s, when hip-hop reigned supreme in clubs and dance music was a second-tier warm-up. His work as a promoter for clubs and record labels looking to expose new artists established Kundu’s reputation as a conduit between the two worlds. Soon, DJs like Vice and AM began approaching him for management.
“It was just friends helping friends. In the beginning it was almost fraternity-style—the first DJ helped me find the second DJ, who helped me find the third DJ,” Kundu says, explaining that the crew required a unanimous vote to add new members. “It kind of evolved into a business. AM was really the first DJ in that open-format world to really start to make money. He opened doors for Vice, and we just kind of ran with it.”
That was 10 years ago. Today, SKAM—short for Sujit Kundu Artist Management—boasts a roster of more than 60 artists, ranging from Swizz Beatz to Cassie to DJ Sid Vicious, and has piqued the purchasing interest of the likes of Jay Z. The label celebrates its 10th birthday at Marquee March 31, with the bulk of its roster in attendance and on the decks.
Based in LA, SKAM’s presence has weighed heavily on Strip nightclubs through branded nights at Tryst, Tao Beach and 1 Oak, among others; more than 10 SKAM artists hold Vegas residencies. “After the first [of our guys] got million-dollar deals [in Vegas], we were like, ‘This can’t last forever,” Kundu says. “And it sort of has.”
While SKAM’s current roster spans club genres, the agency first carved a niche for itself as a credible source for open-format and hip-hop DJs. As artists took up gigs at early nightlife staples like Baby’s, Body English and Pure, SKAM helped bridge the gap between the emergent club scene and DJs looking for a way to break out of ultralounges and underground parties. LA-based artist DJ Echo says SKAM helped broaden his reach by providing opportunities to travel. “Back then, it was very, very rare to travel as a DJ. You basically would just work in the city that you were based in,” Echo says. “One thing Sujit is really good at is leveraging his connections in other cities. [He] brought us to Vegas, then to New York, Miami and eventually all over the world.”
SKAM also put down roots locally, providing Vegas DJs like OB-one a platform to ascend the ranks of the club scene. The 20-year veteran says his relationship with SKAM has been instrumental to his career. “What SKAM brings to the table is that you’re looked at as more legitimate. They know that Sujit doesn’t just bring on anybody.”
Though SKAM has outgrown its early voting system, the sense of community between the agency and its clients remains strong. Wynn Nightlife Executive Director Ronn Nicolli estimates his clubs have booked around 90 percent of SKAM’s roster.
He calls the SKAM label an “indirect marketing tool” and says people who see the brand attached to an event will go even if they don’t know the artist, “because it’s SKAM and they realize who SKAM has.”
SKAM has evolved into a nightlife brand unto itself, to the benefit of its artists, the clubs they play and the agency. “It’s not just booking DJs,” says Tao Group/Strategic Group co-owner/founder Jason Strauss, a SKAM client for nearly nine years. “We’ve collaborated to build a brand name and experience with Vice that we’ve both benefitted from dramatically. [SKAM has] planted themselves in a very prominent situation in Vegas.”
SKAM Artist 10-Year Anniversary March 31, doors at 10 p.m.; $30 men, $20 women, locals free. Marquee, 333-9000.