At the top of 2022, music industry veteran Charly Salvatore launched his very own Underscore Works, an entertainment company that aims to redefine the path for new artists to gain digital success through artist management, development, and marketing.
With experience in many facets of the music industry, including radio, PROs, publishing, label, merchandise, tour management, and artist management, Salvatore’s Nashville career began in BMI’s Copyright Works department in 2004. He also worked the doors at the historic Bluebird Cafe, which Salvatore refers to as his first music career highlight.
“I really knew nothing about the town but I was working the door at the Bluebird. I was starting to get this master’s degree in songwriting and falling in love with songwriting,” he explains to MusicRow. “I started looking at who was playing and Googling everybody so that I knew what publishers were walking through the door. Through that job, I got to know the town, who was who, and who the players were.”
While at the Bluebird, Salvatore teamed up with a waitress to dive into the world of independent song plugging, eventually quitting his job at BMI. Through this new endeavor, he discovered Logan Mize, who would become the first addition to his personal management roster in 2009. Along the way, he was also picking up internships at companies such as AEG.
“I was doing all these side things at the same time and my stint with the song plugging was coming to an end. Someone had asked me if I wanted to go out on the road to sell merchandise for Little Big Town. I didn’t even know that side of the world existed at the time, so I found my way over to the road,” Salvatore recalls. “It was there where it hit me that artist management seemed like the key. They have the ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ kind of mentality, and I really felt like that fit my skill set.”
Salvatore continued to sell merchandise on the road with acts such as Eric Church, and eventually nabbed a spot tour managing for LeAnn Rimes, all the while managing Mize. He soon left the touring lifestyle, though, knowing that Mize was on the brink of signing at Sony Music Nashville.
“I’d gone around and met with a couple different companies and I ended up at Dennis Entertainment. I worked there for a little bit with Russell Dickerson and Billy Currington.” He sums, “From there, I just decided to start my own company. That was really my only daily management experience at another company.”
With a roster that already boasts a handful of rising country heavy-hitters, such as Priscilla Block, Warren Zeiders, Dalton Dover and Mize, Salvatore currently serves as the Founder and CEO of Underscore Works. Through his work with the new company, his main goal is to bridge the gap between the growing list of artists gaining attention and success in the digital space and bring it into the mainstream.
“There’s this gap right now where some people are looking at artists as ‘TikTok artists,’ and it almost has a negative connotation. It’s just another form of stereotyping and it’s just so misinformed. They’re trying to put them in a box when they’re just using a tool to the best of their ability,” he shares. “What I really wanted to focus on with this company is helping these digital artists that leverage the platform not be put in that box and help them grow out of that box to become ‘real artists.’ It’s really that intersection where I hope to stand out.”
He continues, “I feel like I’ve always had an eye for doing it differently. When I see and hear the artists on my roster, I just think they’re superstars—superstar personalities, voices, everything. For me, I think the artists that I work for are a cut above just because they’re great. It’s all subjective, but if I think they have that kind of potential, an amazing voice and a unique twist on everything, that’s what I’ve always been looking to work with.”
Alongside his four signings and with only a little time under his belt, Salvatore and Underscore Works have already celebrated much success.
Among his most impressive success stories is that of Zeiders’ 2021 release “Ride The Lightning,” which achieved Gold status within six months of its release. The product of a co-write set up by Salvatore with Eric Paslay and Rob Crosby, the track marks the first song Zeiders’ had ever written with other people, and only his second song ever.
“He had come to Nashville for the first time and it was supposed to be an in-person co-write with Eric Paslay and Rob Crosby, but it was during COVID and someone had to quarantine so he wrote that song in my guest bedroom over Zoom,” Salvatore shares. “He was back on another trip a couple months later and we had recorded it. He produced it with just his guitar and recorded it. We were just going to do these really lo-fi recordings because we wanted this era to feel like a mixtape.”
The 22-year-old singer-songwriter, who signed with Warner Records earlier this year, now boasts over 72 million streams and released his debut EP, 717 Tapes, last fall.
Similarly, Block, who released her debut album Welcome to the Block Party in February 2022, has already seen a nomination for New Female Artist of the Year at the 2022 ACM Awards, as well as a nod for Breakthrough Video of the Year at the upcoming CMT Music Awards for her debut, Gold-certified single “Just About Over You.” She was also named MusicRow‘s Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2022 CountryBreakout Awards.
With much of his success revolving around TikTok, it’s clear that Salvatore has found a special niche as he helps artists learn how to utilize the newest component of the modern day artist’s toolkit.
“It’s not a social media platform, it’s an entertainment platform and it’s fast consumption. I can’t find anything else right now that can move the needle as fast as TikTok. You have to have a strategy,” Salvatore explains. “Someone asked me a couple of months ago if I thought an artist like Nirvana would be able to survive in today’s climate—someone that seems really unwilling to do ‘self promotion.’ I told them that I want to find artists that don’t want to fully self promote and help them really craft the content to use.”
He expands, “TikTok is just like a living, in your hand version of MTV when it first came onto the scene. It’s a place to put music but with a creative aspect to it. Plus, it’s curated to the users’ experiences and likes, so it’s always going to deliver. MTV had a limited amount of slots, but there’s an infinite amount of slots on TikTok. It is a global audience and it’s consumed very quickly. You’re not going to tell your artist’s story on TikTok, but you can significantly expose their music. You just need to have a plan.”
As far as future plans go for Underscore Works, Salvatore looks ahead to eventually growing into a diverse company with a variety of avenues, including a label component, publishing and content creation, among others.
“I don’t want to be known as the company that can help break artists but can’t see it the whole way through. I want to go all the way. It’s about the long [game] for my artists that are on my roster right now,” he puts simply. “I want to be a robust boutique company that stays independent, God-willing, as long as it can.”
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