Writing Sparkland’s Playbook, One Song at a Time

Pop artist BAYEM is having a moment. His EP “Afterglow” topped 1 million plays on Spotify last year, and his single “Pressure” was featured in a pivotal scene in the season finale of The Kardashians. 

As co-owners of Absorb., the boutique music label behind BAYEM, the early success makes Owen Thomas and Jared Sparkman proud. But what satisfies them even more is knowing their young artist’s career is getting a healthy start. The reason: Owen and Jared prioritize the health of their artists above all else. So there’s a low-pressure creative environment at Absorb., and BAYEM’s deal with the label gives him significant control over the songs they produce. Even more, Owen and Jared spend as much time talking to BAYEM about life as they do working on his music.

“We’re of the mind that the best thing an artist can do is focus as much of their time as they possibly can on their core product, which is their songs and their identity,” explained Owen. “So anything we can do to enable them to not think about all of the peripheral parts of the music business, that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Absorb.’s principled approach to creation makes the label a perfect partner for Sparkland, where we prioritize the wellbeing of our founders and creators, just as Owen and Jared do with their artists. So much so that our founder, Lauren, formed a partnership with Absorb. years before Sparkland was even a gleam in her eye. The ethos around their relationship even helped us develop some of the fundamentals around Sparkland.

Want to hear about how it all works from the Absorb. partners themselves? We did too, so we asked Owen and Jared a few questions. 

Q: One of the promises we make to all of our creators and founders is that we’ll protect their sparks of inspiration. How do we do that for Absorb.?

A: As a partner, Sparkland trusts our vision. The trust keeps us from having to compromise with outside interests and allows us to guide a project through–from beginning to end–using that vision. It inspires us to give our best and put our whole hearts into our work.

Q: Working with Absorb. helped us realize how I’m important it is for us to try to remove barriers to success for our partners. How has that benefitted your business?

A: Sparkland put a long enough runway in front of us that we could start executing on our complete vision. It means the world to us. It’ll mean the world to other creatives, too. 

Q: Speaking of executing on your vision, what can we expect from Absorb. in the next year?

A: We’ll put out more music than ever before. We’re also focusing on having our three label artists collaborate with other young creatives who work in the visual and design space. We want them all to see the value of collaboration and how it’ll affect their individual visions. 

Q: The ability to create so much new work takes time. How are you making it happen? 

A: In the past, we spent a lot of our energy on the agency side of the business. There, we’re mainly hired to execute someone else’s creative vision. 

Beginning this year, we scaled back on our time-for-hire work so we could put a lot of effort into working with our label artists on our own collective vision. So if one of our artists’ songs explodes and goes to a billion streams, we share in the success of that on both personal and commercial levels. It gives us back-end equity on the work we do and it’s a lot more satisfying.

Q: What makes Absorb. different from other music labels? 

A: We prioritize the long-term career success of our artists, something most labels don’t have the time or luxury to do. We’re really good at ascertaining who these young artists are and what success looks like to them. Then, we do everything we can do to maximize their most authentic and excellent presentations to the world. 

Q: You’re both uniquely positioned to do that because of your industry experience. What are the key parts of your previous work experiences that guide your label?

A: Owen was in the rock band The Elms for more than a decade and, in addition to making music, he learned to handle the aesthetics surrounding his band. Meanwhile, Jared, who began making films and videos when he was young, attended film school to further his craft. In 2012, we joined forces and Absorb. was born. We’re proud to say we just celebrated our 10-year anniversary, which means we have a lot of album art, videos, ads, performances, and studio recording work under our belts. 

Q: That begs the question: Are we ever going to see new music from Owen Thomas The Musician?

A: I really do love working on music with our young artists. I write with them all of the time and I produce with them. But, yes, I’ll do it eventually.

Q: What do you consider your biggest success so far?

A: We’ve built a Grammy-winning campaign, worked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, directed the most recent iteration of the Fountain Square Music Festival, and built an exciting customized performance environment, better known as “The Cube.” Those are all great for our resume but, truly, the best part of it is the relationships—the relationships we’ve formed with our artists and our deep friendship with each other are our biggest successes.

Q: What’s on the  long-term plan for Absorb.?

A: Create a really vibrant catalog of music, film, and design. Right now we’re primarily focused on music, but in a decade or two we would like to be a really diverse and exciting media enterprise! 

Q: What do you love about your work? 

A: There’s a lot to love. But one of the most special parts is that moment when you’ve seen a project through to completion—from the first vision or concept all the way to the end, when it comes together. It’s just enormously gratifying.

Owen and Jared grew up together in Seymour, Indiana and have been friends for most of their lives. Their agency and label, Absorb., operates out of historic Fountain Square in Indianapolis, Ind. If you’d like more information about Absorb. and its label artists, please visit their website absorbme.com or Instagram, @absorb_me.