With a client list that includes Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer alongside Lorde and Sia, Crush Music has in the past decade become one of the industry’s top management firms. But back in 2002, when it first took a chance on Fall Out Boy — then a Chicago punk band that couldn’t afford a van — co-founders Jonathan Daniel and Bob McLynn had little more to go on than a sense that bassist Pete Wentz was a kindred spirit.
“However good or bad my bands were, I felt that [as a bassist], I managed them better than the managers,” says Daniel. (He and McLynn both once played the instrument in touring bands.) When Napster and file-sharing upended the industry’s foundations, he saw opportunity: “I started looking for artists that were self-starters.”
Crush negotiated an upstream deal that called for Island Records to help fund Fall Out Boy’s 2003 debut, Take This to Your Grave, in return for an option on the band’s sophomore album from independent Fueled by Ramen. That album, 2005’s From Under the Cork Tree, had two top 10 hits and shot Fall Out Boy to stardom; the same year, the explosion of Panic! at the Disco (which Wentz discovered online and brought to Crush) vaulted the firm to powerhouse status within the emo-punk scene. “Pete brought us Gym Class Heroes and The Academy Is…,” says Daniel. “These kids hit him up on LiveJournal, and he wanted to sign them, sight unseen.”
When Fall Out Boy announced its 2009 hiatus and the genre boom subsided, some savvy moves pushed Crush beyond the Warped Tour clique and into the wider pop world. Daniel and McLynn pulled Train out of a three-year break, helping the onetime pop radio staple earn its biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit yet with 2009’s “Hey, Soul Sister.” Sia joined up a year later, then Lorde in 2016.
“Sia was the first female artist we managed,” says Daniel. “She already had made a bunch of records, and she had very specific thoughts about what she did and didn’t like about the business.” In her time with Crush, the singer and star songwriter has scored four solo top 10 hits, including the No. 1 “Cheap Thrills” with Sean Paul. In 2016, Crush signed Weezer, and the company introduced its label arm (a joint venture with Warner Music) to release the band’s Grammy-nominated White Album.
Today, Crush handles PR, TV/film productions and brand partnerships for most of its acts in-house. And even as it preps Green Day’s and Weezer’s new albums (along with Lorde’s eventual follow-up to 2017’s Melodrama), Daniel and McLynn remain focused on what’s next. “[Crush] is about moving the ball ahead,” says Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. “The business changes every three months. Crush always has been ahead of the curve.”
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 14 issue of Billboard.