Founded by platinum rapper, Tech N9ne, and C.E.O. and entrepreneur Travis O’Guin, Strange Music rose up from the heart of the Midwest to emerge as “the most successful independent rap record label in the industry.” Since 2000, the company has quietly and independently made history on a regular basis.
Consisting of 60-plus employees, its Lee’s Summit facilities occupy 160,000 square feet and growing. The space spans Strange Headquarters (C.E.O, Accounting, Administration, Social Media, and Touring), Strange Land (Recording Studios, Video Production, Editing, and Sound Stage), Strange World (Merchandise Manufacturing, Screen Printing, Shipping, and Fulfillment), Strange Works (Construction Company), The Wash (Vehicle Washing Facility).
Maintaining a D.I.Y. philosophy, owning the fringe of the industry, and keeping creativity, production, and business in-house, Strange Music boldly evolved in 2019 with the introduction of a full-fledged distribution arm.
“We try to be a launching pad for all of the things we believe in,” explains O’Guin. “It goes beyond our artists. We’re expanding that capability even further with distribution. We love what we do, and we try to do it in a very righteous and positive way no matter what. It’s worked out quite well,” he smiles.
As the story goes, O’Guin first met Tech in 1997. A consummate businessman, he owned Furniture Works, which comprised 32 locations in 18 states. At the time, he had begun investing in everything from residential and commercial real estate to apparel.
One of his investments would be the Paradise Originals clothing line. At the time, he enlisted Tech to perform at a fashion show and serve as a local Kansas City brand ambassador. Blown away by the rapping, vibe, presentation, and spirit, O’Guin and Tech discussed collaborating together.
Following a series of candid conversations, they united to formally launch Strange Music in 2000 as partners. O’Guin arranged distribution for the seminal Anghellic in 2001 followed by Absolute Power a year later. 2006’s Everready (The Religion) would be the first release under the company’s longstanding relationship with Fontana Distribution (now Ingrooves)—where it remained the distributors “most successful label” for over a decade. Along the way, Tech albums All 6’s and 7’s , Something Else , and Special Effects  each crashed the Top 5 of the Billboard Top 200 at #4. Meanwhile, 2018’s Planet cemented the label’s place in the history books as its 10th Top 10 album on the Rap Album Chart.
In terms of approach, Travis, the C.E.O., streamlined operations and utilized best business practices, a sound mindset, and a sharply organized structure.
“We applied a different style of business to music,” he goes on. “We really emphasize a high level of organization. For us, it wasn’t about reprogramming a major label mentality; it was about simply implementing a sound business mentality from the beginning and focusing on hard work above all. We knew we couldn’t fail or stop if we clung to that and trafficked in our own lane.”
Additionally, It Goes Up Entertainment (Distribution) widened the label’s scope and magnified its influence yet again, empowering acts across all genres for the first time.
“Our music is therapy for so many listeners,” O’Guin leaves off. “That’s the biggest accomplishment for Strange Music. If we can change somebody’s negative thoughts and give them joy, there’s nothing better than that. A verse or chorus can make you think differently and change your mood. Songs and albums are so powerful. We have the ability to share these things. Music is more of a special responsibility for us than anything.”
O’Guin is scheduled to headline the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council’s June 5th Speaker’s Series. Click here to register for the event. Registration is due by May 30th.