October 14, 2023
SHERIDAN — In the course of a single day — even a single hour — Shawn Day wears many hats and fills many roles.
He’s a doting father to his young daughters; a Sheridan city councilor taking the time to debate and discuss issues impacting his friends and neighbors; program director for Wyoming Public Media’s “Wyoming Sounds”; and a bass player for Tris Munsick and the Innocents.
So why add “entrepreneur” and “Start-Up Challenge Competitor” to his list of titles and duties? For Day, the motivation behind his new business Big Horn Records is simple: He loves local music, and he wants to give back to a scene that has benefitted him as a performer for decades.
“Wyoming as a state just doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to support artists,” Day said. “That’s why I see value in what we’re doing. Musicians have a lot of responsibilities these days — not just being content curators, but also being marketing gurus and self-promoters and graphic designers. Sometimes those other tasks take precedence over the music and performing, so when is there time for them to actually write a song, you know? That’s the goal behind Big Horn Records: to help artists to get back to doing what they’re good at and what they love.”
Big Horn Records is a record label company set up to represent and promote emerging and established “Wyoming-grown” music arts, Day said. Day said he is one of a select few record companies in the state including Asthmatic Kitty based out of Lander and NoFace Records based out of Casper.
Prior to starting Big Horn Records, Day has had a long musical career — his first band opened for Bob Dylan and Lynyrd Skynyrd while a later band had a charting hit in the United Kingdom in the mid 2000s.
Having previously contracted with Columbia Records and Sony/ATV Publishing, Day noted a pattern of exploitative contacts that heavily favored management companies and left musicians as a disadvantage. When crafting his company’s first deal — a partnership with Tris Munsick, finalized in April of this year — he wanted to do something different.
“Our deal with Tris is definitely nontraditional in a way,” Day said. “It’s rare to find deals that are equitable for both the artist and the label. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Day said he first had the idea for the label roughly 18 months ago. Since then, the idea has continually been evolving based on conversations he’s had with local artists, Day said.
“Our goal is to provide many products and services, from artistic management to booking, marketing, promotion and distribution,” Day said. “We’re starting to get into consulting, which is not something I had even considered when we started. There are a lot of places we can go with this idea.”
Day’s creative background is invaluable to the company, said Scot Rendall, Sheridan director of IMPACT 307. And while Day still has a lot to learn about the business aspects of the company, that’s where IMPACT 307 comes in.
“Shawn is very committed and really all in on making this happen, which is great,” Rendall said. “He’s more of a creative person than a business person, but we can help him with the business planning, and help provide a structure around his creative passion. That’s definitely what we hope to do.”
For his part, Day said his company had really benefited from the mentorship and guidance of Rendall and IMPACT 307.
“Scot is constantly running you through the hard questions, and that accountability is incredibly useful,” Day said. “I think his mentorship has made all the difference for me because I am more creatively minded by default. When you start talking about things like cashflow predictions and revenue opportunities, that takes a completely different side of your brain. So I’ve had people mentoring me on Quickbooks and Excel and all those other skills I need to run the business side. I truly couldn’t have gotten there on my own.”
Day has a bigger “moonshot” vision for his young company — one that includes a stage to showcase artists, a recording studio and even a bar and a coffee shop where local artists can perform. But for now, he’s focusing on finding actual office space for his venture — he’s currently just working out of local coffee shops — and on finding the next Wyoming-based voice to sign to his label.
“I think our work with Tris has been a great case study in whether this is an actual viable business,” Day said. “I think we’ve shown that it is, and I’m super excited to see where things go from here.”
Day will be one of five finalists presenting at the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night, which is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. Each finalist will have an opportunity to win business funding from the $100,000 seed fund established for the event.