Finding his place in this world has been quite an adventure for Lee’s Summit native Johnathan Harper.
The 27-year-old community college dropout and Lee’s Summit High School graduate has traveled the country as a tour manager for an independent rock band, lived off the fat of the dry desert land in Las Vegas, and just recently has procured the talents of an up-and-coming Lawrence, Kan.-based rapper to serve as the artist’s A&R rep and de facto business manager.
Harper isn’t the first young man to live out his dream of chasing stars, but his behind the scenes work may have had a hand in Chase Compton – the hip-hop artist from Lawrence – landing as an act on the main stage at the upcoming Dancefestopia Music Festival Sept. 13-14 in downtown Kansas City.
Compton will share the same stage as big name headliners Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa, among others.
“As far as Chase is concerned, I run his business,” Harper said as he nursed a broken leg back to health from a bedroom at his parent’s house in southwest Lee’s Summit. “I have my side jobs, but we started a production company (Compton-Made Entertainment) for him so that he can get digital distribution so we can start showing paper trails that we’re making money. I run everything – marketing, booker, I help him pick out clothes whenever he has photo shoots; I kind of have to be everything right now.”
For Compton, an artist whose artistic style and grind-first mentality first caught the attention of Harper via the internet, Harper has been a huge part in the rapper’s development over the last year.
“Harp, he’s just been right there the whole time and he’s been always positive and working toward the next big thing,” Compton said of Harper via telephone from Lawrence. “Just like we all have, and just staying focus, and just being here for really all of it.”
Harper, a self-admitted behind the scenes sort of guy, said working in artist development and management is his calling.
“I want to maximize (Compton’s) exposure and build his brand,” he said. “That’s all I want to do; be an A&R.”
Helping Compton – who has a Youtube channel and a quality-produced video for his single “Acknowledge” – achieve at the next level of success and successfully brand his image is the ultimate goal for Harper, as well as gaining national exposure. A main stage gig at Dancefestopia is just a small part of that.
“It’s getting to point where – I told Chase, we don’t have to do shows to get a record deal,” Harper said. “We don’t; and it’s the truth. There are people that I watch on a daily basis that has not played a show but yet there are signing to (major record labels) off of a video, off of a download, off of an iTunes single.
“I’m trying to cut out those challenges and trying to cut out those things that deter certain artists because they don’t understand there is a whole other side of the game that you can play. Being able to put out your own music now, you can really do what you want.”
Producing and distributing his own music or not, an appearance at the annual music festival at Berkley Riverfront Park in downtown Kansas City is a big deal to Compton.
“It’s great being a part of Dancefestopia,” he said. “It’s great.”
To which Harper, the soul-searching, aspiring music-mogul, said: “If it wasn’t for Chase and the folks before him, I would be sacking groceries somewhere.”