Jaxon Buzzell on the Origins of modrNation and the Current State of Music Discovery
Jaxon Buzzell on the Origins of modrNation and the Current State of Music Discovery

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By Lisa Marie

June 10, 2024

With more than 100,000 songs being pushed out each and every day, it’s hard to wade the waters in hopes of finding your new favorite artists. Coupled with this increase in music releases is an increased volume of music discovery platforms, all of which promise to be the go-to source for what’s current, groundbreaking, and new. With this myriad of platforms that are present, how do we decipher which are really contributing to the space, and those that are fake? For Jaxon Buzzell, founder of modrNation, the answer comes from having a refined ear, an engaged community, and a true love for music. modrNation is much more than your average Instagram repost account or blog. With a full creative agency, music video production team, print publication, and string of live events under its belt, modrNation has hopes of becoming the next pillar of music discovery for future generations of artists. We recently spoke with Jaxon about working with his favorite artists, the beginnings of modrNation, and some of the artists who he’s most excited for. 


When did you come up with the idea for modrNation? 

Jaxon: I came up with the idea in April of 2020. I was a Senior in high school, and it was right when people stopped going to school because of COVID. Teachers didn’t really know what to do yet, so I had no classes, no homework, and couldn’t play basketball, I was lucky to have all of this free time. I had been doing photography for a bit at this point but struggled to find artists that would let me shoot music videos for them, so I started modrNation as a means of networking with artists, finding upcoming music, and immersing myself in the scene. It started out as a blog with the goal of bringing video opportunities but has since expanded into so much more and ultimately the umbrella company for anything I work on. 


What made you want to create your own music discovery platform? 

Growing up I always loved finding new music and exploring different genres, so there was definitely that aspect of it and I also just thought it’d be cool to talk to my favorite artists. The foundation of it was that I wanted to shoot music videos, and since I had no experience, maybe if I offered more support on the blog side, I’d be able to shoot for these artists whether it be photos for an interview or a full video. That was the main purpose behind my going into it, but I also always loved discovering music and wanted to have a platform to put on the artists I didn’t see getting supported on my favorite pages at the time. I was always a kid who just wanted to do everything, so I was very scatterbrained until I started modrNation, it’s been the first project of mine I’ve been able to stick with over the last few years as it has the ability to grow and change as I do personally. 

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We live in a time where there are more artists and songs than at any point in history. With this huge influx of sounds, what makes an artist or group of artists stick out to you?

For me it’s all about having a sense of self and purpose behind what you’re doing, I feel that’s what gives artists the individuality to stand out amongst the masses. Someone who can build a story around what they’re doing or what it is that they’re trying to portray will always stand out to me more than someone who just has the technical ability. I think that’s most important, especially when it comes to me wanting to feature them on the page. Sonically, I always pay attention to production before vocals, I feel like I can choose if a song is intriguing to me a lot of the time before the lyrics have even come in. Anything that’s pushing the music culture and artistic conversation forward is what I feel needs to be highlighted, it’s more about what an artist is doing for music as a whole rather than just if it pleases my personal taste. 


With this influx of new music, comes an influx of media outlets that hope to be the pulse of music discovery. How does modrNation separate itself from the pack? 

modrNation is different because of what we can offer to artists and how delicately we approach each project. Outside of an Instagram post, blog writeup, or playlist, we manage artists, creative direct rollouts, A&R projects, and host live events. You can really come to us with anything, and we’ll pull it off or put the people in place who can. There’s a lot we can offer to artists and brands, and that’s really what I’m focusing on right now over the content or event side of the company. The creative agency and artist management side of the brand is my main focus, rather than just being the best outlet. There are so many outlets each with their own unique taste, I personally feel that the last thing music needs is another person’s opinion on what music is good or bad. While it began with intentions to become the biggest music discovery platform, I now see it as more of a services company that can still provide music content when we find something that inspires us to via the magazine or a showcase event. The music blog space is so oversaturated, and I feel it’s also very subjective. Every person and every outlet has a different taste, and it’s impossible to be everyone’s favorite outlet, so I just choose to move purely and support what I’m passionate about. 

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Is there a certain criteria that you stick by when it comes to featuring artists on modrNation? 

There aren’t really any criteria, especially lately as I’ve slowed down on the artist coverage. We’ve been pretty quiet this past year and this month will really be the first month back on the curation side. It’s not a requirement, but I always prefer taking submissions as I feel it’s important to support the community that’s supporting us. A lot of it is about the pitch we get and seeing that an artist is really passionate about what it is that they’re doing, but there are no boxes to check or rubric we go off of.


Who are some artists on the come up right now that you’re most excited about? 

There’s so many and I don’t want to give up too much of the sauce haha. But really, there’s an artist Kurtis Wells who’s doing something I’ve never heard before and I think he has the potential to drop a class album. I love the singer/songwriter scene too, Alice Shone, Sydney Ross Mitchell, Devon Gabriella, runo plum, there’s so many talented artists. Amie Blu is also an absolute gem, I love her music so much. On the rap side, Ajna, mynameisntjmack, Wakai, Jawnino, MESSIAH!, Ovrkast., Sideshow, and that whole scene is really special. 


In addition to writing about artists, creating playlists, and interviewing the next generation of talent, modrNation is actively producing a physical magazine and throwing in-person events. Are there any other projects or initiatives that modrNation is hoping to bring into its ecosystem in the future? 

The second issue of the magazine is being worked on right now, and it’ll be in a much different format than the first. The concerts are one of my favorite things to work on too, definitely something I want to bring back this year in a larger capacity. I’ll be studying in London this Fall and am hoping to book a show out there. The pillars of modrNation at the moment are media, management, publishing, and creative services. Last year was big for the management branch, and we have a lot in store for the second half of this year so I’m really excited. 


What advice would you share with artists who are hoping to be featured by platforms such as modrNation? 

As cliche as it is, being yourself is obviously important. That’s the only thing that will separate you from everyone else. If I want something that sounds like Kendrick Lamar I’ll listen to Dot, if I want Travis I’ll go to him, don’t try to mimic people because you can’t do someone else’s style better than theirs. I guess the other thing would be to experiment with your sound and understand that music and creativity are never “done”, an artist's responsibility in my eyes is to spark cultural discourse so you should always be aiming to push boundaries and challenge the norm.

 I also always encourage artists to move as if these blogs and discovery platforms don’t exist; I’m not saying that as in “don’t submit your music”, but don’t look through the platforms and try and replicate the music that they support. Every single breakthrough artist is something new, even if they’re reminiscent of something old, Tommy Richman is a perfect example giving us a sound all of his own. Ignore the music industry until the music industry comes knocking at your door. 

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Interwoven into your love for music is a deep-rooted passion for photography. Not only have you shot photos of JID, Khalid, and midwxst, but you’ve also directed music videos for The Alchemist, Boldy James, MAVI, and more. When did you first develop these passions, and what is it like to work alongside such amazing artists as the ones I’ve just listed? 

I started with photography when I was like 15, mostly nature and street photography similarly to how most people start. I’d always liked art as a kid, and as I got older photography just sparked my interest and remained a constant. My dad has done it his whole life, so I kind of just naturally was around it and thought it was cool, my older brother was also a big part of me getting into it. I was just sticking with the nature stuff for a few years, but I really wanted to start shooting music videos. Once quarantine happened, I really couldn’t go out and take photos at all, so that’s when I learned how to edit videos through YouTube tutorials and footage shot around the house. modrNation was really how I got my start shooting videos, and it started with an artist named Sideshow who I met through a mutual friend Dexter Navy. I shot my first video for him around September of 2020, and he also introduced me to The Alchemist so that’s how we were able to shoot the TV Dinners video with Boldy and it was just a chain reaction from there. It’s awesome to work with these artists, as they’re some of my favorites and it keeps me inspired to be the least experienced one in the room, that’s something I always strive for. I also much prefer to work with artists who really inspire me regardless of their size or stature, but when I get the opportunity to work with someone I’m inspired by and has an audience that’s obviously the ideal situation. 

If you could shoot photos of any artist in the world, who would it be? 

For me it’s all about an artist having a strong visual identity and narrative, like I’d love to shoot for someone like Tyler The Creator or Olivia Rodrigo who are building entire worlds around every rollout with each leading into the next. I also love do old-school, Chimodu-style shoots for people like Snoop, The Roots, or even Al Green or someone like that. LL COOL J too, my mom loves him and his photos are always so sick. Honestly though the thing I loved about pursuing a career as an artist photographer was that you never knew what artists were gonna grant you those life-changing opportunities and it allowed me to grow bonds with artists I would’ve never otherwise known much about.


What do you hope to accomplish in your career over the next decade? 

This is a really hard question for me but I know that in ten years I want to have the freedom to only touch projects I’m passionate about and have the platform in modrNation to assist the artists I believe in to achieve long and fruitful careers. At this moment I think expanding into a label and offering creative agency services on a global scale would be amazing, but who knows where the music industry will be in ten years so I plan to just do what feels right in each moment. The main thing is just having a team of artists and executives who inspire me and having the ability to pivot to whatever excites me.

What’s one album that you’d take wherever you go? 

Immunity by Clairo, there’s a song for every mood 


What does the phrase “big ass kid” mean to you? 

When I was a kid, my mind would run a lot more freely. So when I think about being a big ass kid, it means to be creative and pursue the passions that you want. I feel like a lot of artists maintain that kid-like mentality and it’s a beautiful thing, I hope to keep that as long as I possibly can.

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