By Pablo Nukaya-Petralia
Breaking through in the music industry has always been tough and the pandemic has only made things harder. Live performance has been closed down and with it, the following and the feedback that emerging artists need to stand out.
In Glassell Park, Jesus Martinez, 23, is facing those challenges. Martinez manages Bella Wilcox, 23, a.k.a. Baby Bell, a DJ and musician from the Bay Area.
Wilcox is known for her creative layering and production skills: “leave em alone (Baby Bell edit),” one of her independent releases on Soundcloud, layers vocal samples over a pop-infused piano harmony; “Come Away With Me,” opens with a bold saxophone and orchestral melody over a drum machine before pivoting more towards electronic music.
Wilcox also produces and masters her own music, making an effort to have at least half of the samples and voices she uses come from female musicians, a big commitment in the male-dominated world of DJing. These days, she plays during livestreams so audiences can experience live music from home.
It’s Martinez’s job to connect Wilcox and her music to the wider music industry.
A lifelong resident of Northeast L.A., Martinez points with pride to the working-class Latino background he brings to the business. When he was younger, he sold flowers on the street before becoming the first in his family to graduate from high school, (Eagle Rock High, 2015) and college (Cal State, Northridge, 2019).
Martinez and Wilcox met in 2019 through a mutual friend, shortly before Martinez graduated from CSUN and Wilcox from Stanford. Martinez reached out to Wilcox through Instagram and asked if she wanted to work together, leading to their current collaboration.
So far, Martinez and Wilcox have been talking to representatives from labels such as Hollywood Records and publications like The Fader. These foot-in-the-door opportunities were opened up by Martinez’s connection to Michael Federle, the CEO of Forbes. Martinez was introduced to Federle in 2018 through Lewis DVorkin, the former CPO of Forbes who was serving as the entrepreneur-in-residence at CSUN.
Networking is what opens the doors, says Martinez, but it’s Wilcox’s unique sound that grabs the attention.
Going forward, Wilcox is working on new material while Martinez continues to reach out to industry representatives, albeit remotely. Social distancing in a business built on connections is an inconvenience, says Martinez, but he and Wilcox are undeterred.
“It’s really exciting to me how we’re paving our own way in this industry,” Wilcox said. “I’m really excited to take this journey and hopefully give voice to people whose voices aren’t heard as much.”