While Jonathan Lazar attended UM, he studied music business and drummed with Lauryn Hill. He had his own band called Caterpillar Silk which had a devoted following of friends and students. After graduating in 2005, Lazar toured up and down the East Coast with a metal group and traveled as far as South Africa with the band Karma.
After getting back from the tours though, Lazar realized he really wanted to be on the business side of the music industry. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger,” he said. After meeting business partner Zach Urband at BMI in New York City nearly four years ago, the two moved to Los Angeles, opened a music publishing company and started signing artists, thanks in part to Lazar’s connections from the road.
“Now I feel like I’m playing with 80 artists instead of playing with one, helping develop them in the ever-changing music environment,” Lazar said. “This is where my calling is.”
Their company, called Urband and Lazar, has two components — the publishing aspect and the label. On the publishing side, they work with 85 artists, facilitating music placements that associating their artists’ songs with big-name products. They’ve done advertisements with Ford, Bud Lite and Burger King. They’ve had songs in television shows like The Hills, Greek and Scrubs. Their music has been in films such as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. They’ve even worked with video games, organizing Guitar Hero download packs with artists like Slightly Stoopid and the Expendables.
On their label, U&L Records, they also have an impressive roster.
“I like to think I’m very tapped in with different scenes,” Lazar said. “Plus, each band has its own network and group of musical friends.”
He noted that this explains how the company has contacts everywhere from Asheville, N.C., to Australia. Lazar said that even though they do not record artists in house, Urband and Lazar link musicians with established producers, allowing them to “focus on actual songs and how to market those songs.”
One of their most exciting up-and-coming acts is a Swedish duo called Marching Band, for whom Urband and Lazar have organized 30 placements in film and television, including spots in 90210 and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The gentle, indie-folk-pop duo — comprised of Erik Sunbring and Jacob Lind — met five years ago at Linköping University. Sunbring, who plays guitar live, mentioned that they met Lazar while on tour in South Africa.
“When we met them we didn’t have a record label or booking agent even in Sweden, so our career owes a lot to U&L,” Sunbring said in an e-mail interview. “Their enthusiasm and the knowledge that our music will reach an audience has given us the confidence and energy to evolve as artists.”
As for Lazar and the company, they want to keep it cool, but keep it growing.
“The model that we created is a new way of thinking in the music industry,” Lazar said. “We’re trying to do things independently of the major record labels and stay indie.”