Jeff Moseley, BA ’82, and Scott Brickell, BBA ’91, sometimes pause to wonder about their paths that have taken them through such an amazing journey. The two have much in common beyond their Baylor and platinum-recognized Christian music connections. Both are Nashville-based music executives—Moseley is founder and CEO of Fair Trade Services, the largest independent record label in Christian music. Brickell is founder and CEO of BrickHouse Entertainment, one of the longest-tenured and prolific management companies in the industry.
Both have worked with a litany of top Christian artists, including the chart-topping MercyMe. The band signed its first contracts with Brickell and Moseley in 2000 and has stuck with them ever since. Given the fast-paced nature of the music industry, it is rare for any artist or group to remain with its original record label and manager for almost two decades.
“I think that’s a testament to some of the things we learned at Baylor about how to handle relationships, about how to do business correctly: those things have helped us all along the way,” Moseley says.
And the two Baylor graduates both have children on campus. Moseley’s son Mike is a Baylor junior, and his daughter Brette, BBA ’15, works for Warner Music. Brickell’s son Jake is a Baylor freshman. (Brickell’s Baylor lineage includes his parents Jay Henry Brickell, BS ’64, and the late Ruth Ann Brickell, BA ’63.)
“I love Scott,” Moseley says. “He’s one of the best managers in Christian Music, and I’ve worked with him a long time. We talk at least four or five times per week because we both work with some of the same artists. As we do business, Scott and I talk about best practices, best ideas for our kids. We both tend to think in terms of the big picture.”
Brickell says he enjoys discussing the latest Baylor happenings with Moseley, who Brickell says has made a positive impact on countless people in the music industry.
“Jeff has created a company that is more willing to look at the situation than the contract,” Brickell says. “He truly cares about his artists and his staff.”
Moseley considered entering the ministry as a youth attending a Baptist church in Oklahoma City. As a student at Baylor he discerned preaching was not in his future.
“I’ve always wanted to be missional in my vocation,” Moseley says. “I realized that I was much more comfortable and could help influence more people by being the one behind the curtain than the one on stage.”
He worked at local radio stations before interning at Waco’s Word Records as a sophomore in 1980.
“I have been involved full-time in Christian music ever since, and I would not have started in the music business at all if it wasn’t for that required Baylor internship,” he says.
Moseley worked with Word from 1980 to 1986 when he moved to Nashville to help run Reunion Records. He ran Starsong Records from 1989 to 1997 and Benson Records until 1999.
Brickell’s initiation into the music business began at church camp while he was a high school junior in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. While musician and acquaintance Brian Becker visited with the crowd after the concert, Brickell looked around for some way to help. He took the initiative to pack the stage equipment, load the van and sell more than $300
“I walked back up to him and handed him his van keys and the money,” Brickell says.
That moment was the beginning of four years of weekends, spring breaks and summers during which he toured with Becker. This experience began while Brickell attended Missouri’s Three Rivers Community College, where he was a member of the school’s highly successful basketball team. After transferring to Baylor, he picked up windsurfing and competed at collegiate nationals as a senior.
“I hadn’t planned on pursuing music as a career at all,” Brickell says. “That church camp experience led to my first real job in an industry I probably would have never known existed.”
Years in the industry equipped Brickell and Moseley with abundant experience; independently, they decided to start their businesses in the late ’90s.
Following college, Brickell moved to Nashville and worked for music management companies for seven years. Around the time his wife Stacy was expecting their first child, Brickell felt he had topped out in his job with True Artist Management. He began contemplating whether he should “get a real job.”
However, Audio Adrenaline, the popular band Brickell managed for 15 years, said they would stay with him if he decided to start his own management company. With that commitment, Brickell founded BrickHouse Entertainment in 1998.
Meanwhile, Moseley sought to create a record label model that combined the best components of an independent label (love of the music and zeal) with the best components of a major label (funding, organization and professional skill). That model, what he calls a “third way,” was hatched through INO (now called Fair Trade Services).
“I discovered that what I like best is partnering with people,” Moseley says. “I like putting the truth on the table, shining a light on it, and then making well-informed decisions.”
BrickHouse helps its artists navigate the music business, including record label relationships, music publishing, live shows, merchandise, book and movie deals, publicity, booking agents and promoters, sponsor relationships, ministry partners, endorsements, strategic partnerships and contracts.
“A manager’s job is to be the go-between between the artists and everyone who interacts with the artist, including the record label,” Brickell says. “We have all the conversations about where the band is, what the current plans are. We work backward on the details from the date we want to release a record. You’ve got to be in the studio. Before that, you’ve got to have songs picked. Before that, you have to be writing them. Then, we plan the artist’s schedule around touring.”
Current BrickHouse artists include MercyMe, Phil Wickham, Micah Tyler, JJ Weeks Band and Travis Ryan. Past artists include Switchfoot, Rend Collective,
Sidewalk Prophets, Fee, Addison Road, Matthew West and T-Bone.
“We are constantly distributing the information to everybody to make sure that the show goes off without a hitch, making everything as efficient as possible,” Brickell says. “Nothing gets put on the artist’s schedule unless it’s cleared through my office. We try to be good at protecting the artist in every way.”
Evidence that BrickHouse Entertainment is succeeding is longevity. Few management companies make it past five to 10 years; but, 19 years after Brickell started the company, BrickHouse eclipsed 5,000 concerts in September 2017 while managing two to seven artists concurrently. That’s an average of 263 concerts per year.
Brickell believes the number of management companies still running that have handled 5,000 live shows could fit on one hand.
“The situation is not that I want to sign more artists because I want to get my number of shows up,” he says. “I feel like what God’s called me to do is find artists and manage them either for a period or long-term.”
Moseley’s Fair Trade Services consists of a record company, a publishing company and investments in faith-based films.
“Essentially, what we do is we discover and develop talent, help them produce records, then design implementable marketing plans to promote those records,” Moseley says.
“We utilize physical and digital distribution along with audio and video streaming to garner attention and monetize the music, and that’s what we do on a daily basis. At the end of the day, we are stewards of an artist’s calling and art. Our job is to handle those things well and consistently with the artist’s goals. Hopefully, there’s enough money
left that we can then turn around and
share that wealth with our artists and with the company.”
“What Baylor did was opened up a sense of a possibility that if others can accomplish this, I can, too.”
Moseley says Fair Trade Services aims to help artists achieve artistic excellence, cultural relevance and spiritual significance.
“That’s really key for us,” he says. “I appropriated a quote, that our music should ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’ All of our artists are diverse in their expressions of faith and artistry while being best in class, and I love that.”
Current Fair Trade artists include MercyMe, Newsboys, Phil Wickham, Sara Groves, The Afters and more, with dozens of former artists such as The Jonas Brothers, The Fray, Chris Rice, CeCe Winans, Skillet, Caedmon’s Call and Sandi Patty.
Along with monitoring the company’s finances, Moseley’s daily tasks include meeting with prospective artists and songwriters, critiquing songs, matching producers with artists, responding to the mixing stage of a record, and developing marketing strategies for records. He and Brickell stay connected because of their commitment to their common artists MercyMe, Phil Wickham and Micah Tyler.
“As a president of a label, your job is to create a path, set a vision, and help oversee that,” Moseley says. “I’ve had a chance to work with some pretty amazing artists, and I feel very, very fortunate. We believe we should partner with our artists, and it’s more than just a statement. I realized it was a lot better if we worked together, that we deferred our weaknesses to other people’s strengths, and we truly partnered, not only in word but in deed, and in our contracts.”
Brickell says students may not grasp all that Baylor is doing for them when they’re going to school.
“You come out of Baylor thinking, ‘OK, I have a degree, and that’s really what I care about most,’” Brickell says. “I find myself really going back to those days in Waco and leaning very heavily on the lessons I learned being out on my own, learning to be responsible, being in business classrooms. At the end of the day, I underpaid for what I received from Baylor.”
Now with a son at Baylor, Brickell knows the value of his son learning from people other than his parents—professors, roommates, residence assistants, etc.—with similar faith and values.
“He’s going to glean from that 30 years from now, and I might not be here,” Brickell says. “Baylor is giving him an amazing education as well as a nice life, a firm foundation for him to stand on for the rest of his life.”
Brickell says he learned a lot from his courses in cost accounting, marketing and entrepreneurship. But it was his business ethics class that he found most valuable early in his career. The setting was a concert in Waco Hall during a tour with four shows over a weekend. Brickell, then 24, was in charge of accounting for the tour. A mainstream music promoter approached Brickell about how they were going to divvy up some of the revenue for themselves.
“Everybody’s busy watching the show, and this promoter rep kind of cornered me in the production office. It was just the two of us,” Brickell says. “He shuts the door, sits down, squares up on me and says, ‘So, how are we doing this?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll take the receipts, and I’ll put them all in. I’ve got a program.’ He said, ‘No, son, how are we doing this?” And he did the finger pointing back and forth.”
Brickell admits to thinking at the moment about having a girlfriend and how a little extra money could help his plans for an engagement ring. But he could see the business school building through the window over the promoter rep’s shoulder.
“I think the Lord was protecting me,” Brickell says. “I had been to plenty of events in Waco Hall where they talked about doing the right thing for the right reasons. Business Ethics was the one course that I was frustrated with when I took it because I was like, ‘Who needs ethics? We all know what to do in life and we’re never going to be in a compromising situation.’”
“Both the film and the book are the same true story: the film is the charcoal sketch of Bart’s life, and the book is the polaroid picture.”
Brickell remembers thanking the Lord for the order of shows with Waco coming early in the tour.
“Who knows what I would have done in another place first,” he says. “It was one of those early moments where it was clear that maybe Baylor knew more about what I needed than I did.”
Moseley says Baylor opened doors and nurtured a “can do” spirit in him that he also has observed shaping his kids.
“At Baylor I was exposed to students and professors that had a sense of ‘what if’ and a sense of possibilities,” he says. “What Baylor did was opened up a sense of a possibility that if others can accomplish this, I can, too. There’s a bigger world out there, and there are many opportunities and many paths to choose from.”
Moseley says inspiring that “I can” sense is something that is often overlooked in the college experience, but he left Baylor with exactly that feeling. He now sees Baylor as an ideal university for a son or daughter to attend.
“My children have developed that sense of: I can do this, I can apply myself to make this happen,” he says. “Those are things that I want as a parent. I want an environment that allows individual expression for my children, that challenges them academically, socially and spiritually. Baylor does that. It doesn’t hold their hands too tightly. Maybe you won’t see the fingerprints of Baylor in terms of individual behavior, but I think you’ll see some of the DNA of Baylor in their thinking.”
Fair Trade Services signed MercyMe in early 2000. The first album, Almost There (2001), is certified triple platinum (3 million units sold) and contains the band’s biggest hit single, “I Can Only Imagine,” which still receives frequent airplay.
MercyMe has produced 57 No. 1 songs and 9 million units in cumulative sales, and they have earned American Music Awards, Dove awards and Grammy nominations. Billboard magazine named Almost There the fourth-best Christian Album of the Decade (2000-2009) and selected the band’s “Word of God Speak” as the decade’s best Christian song.
Moseley and a business associate pitched the idea of bringing the compelling backstory of “I Can Only Imagine,” written by lead singer Bart Millard, to the silver screen. The potential project languished for several years, but Brickell continued to champion the cause. The film eventually was picked up.
The movie, directed by brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, was released March 16. Country music star Trace Adkins plays the role of Brickell. In order to create a cleaner storyline, Adkins’ onscreen role merges the real-life manager (Brickell) and record label representative (Moseley) roles.
The film pre-screened more than 100 times across the country before the premiere, including multiple Waco showings in February. I Can Only Imagine, which has garnered positive reviews, also stars Dennis Quaid, J. Michael Finley and Cloris Leachman. Brickell is an executive producer for the movie.
An opportunity also arose for Millard to write a memoir with the same title (I Can Only Imagine: Thomas Nelson, 208 pages), which was released Feb. 13. Brickell negotiated the deal with W Publishing.
“Both the film and the book are the same true story. The film is the charcoal sketch of Bart’s life, and the book is the Polaroid picture,” Moseley says.
The book details that Millard received a scholarship offer from Baylor. He arrived on campus to enroll. When his father’s health took a turn for the worse, Millard returned home to Greenville, Texas, so he could care for his dad.
Both Brickell and Moseley are in the book, including the detail about Moseley taking out a second mortgage on his home to fund MercyMe, and one anecdote that reveals Brickell and Millard crossed paths much earlier than they realized—when a junior high-aged Millard won a contest to sing prior to a concert by Brickell-managed Brian Becker.
“Some artists at times can be difficult,” Moseley says. “But working with Scott and with MercyMe, obviously our largest artist in terms of sales, they’re one of the best groups to work with. It’s been a great partnership.”
Moseley calls it a joy to work with successful artists who have remained normal people.
“The do what they say they’re going to do, keep their word and are always looking to take it to another level,” he says. “It’s been a great journey.”