“They call me ‘the admiral’ here,” says Moots, the Vice President of Rocketfuel Entertainment whose real name is Murali Dharan Marimuthu, as he walked around his office on the seventh floor, overlooking the the Petaling Jaya suburb on a sunny Friday afternoon.
Near the main entrance, a mural painting of a big rocket with a bright orange background adorns the feature wall. Moots explains; “We wanted to go with this ‘space vibe’. I actually wanted to call myself a space cowboy!” he laughs.
“But then, I thought that’s a bit too much. So we went with admiral, and my team members are commodores, captains and astronauts!”
“The names and titles are just for fun! We don’t want to conform to the norm. We want to disrupt, be different. When people come here, people don’t know who is the leader,” he says, before showing his desk, right in the middle of the open place office- no barriers from the rest of his team of 38 people.
According to Moots, the idea of Rocketfuel Entertainment was initiated by Astro Malaysia Holdings Group Chief Executive Officer Henry Tan, four years ago. It was launched in October 2017. The core of the business is talent management.
“Rocketfuel, as an entity, has three divisions; Rocketfuel Network, Rocketfuel Talent and Rocketfuel Records. Under Rocketfuel Talent, we manage 220 talents, not only within the Astro Group but to other broadcasters as well.
“We invest in these talents because we see them as brands. So, we help develop and groom their brand equity,”
“Out of the 220 talents, 47 of them are fully managed by us and for the rest, they provide services to the group but we don’t manage them exclusively. The talents we work with include radio announcers, TV hosts, e-sports hosts and players, musicians, actors and singers.
“We invest in these talents because we see them as brands. So, we help develop and groom their brand equity,” he says.
The 41-year old has a vast experience in the industry himself, being the lead singer and band manager for Pop Shuvit since the early 2000s; Moots understood the process of overseeing the band’s shows and finances.
He says; “It comes to a point where you need someone to manage for you. It’s hard to split and balance yourself between being the talent and the management.”
“As managers, what we do is filtering, running contracts and handling negotiations."
“The talents need to be good. That’s important because the last thing you want is talent getting into arguments with clients. If that happens, your image is done,” says Moots.
Rocketfuel’s talent portfolio cuts across different tiers; from mega-celebrities like Zizan Razak and Lisa Surihani to upcoming singers like Ernie Zakri and Masya Masyitah, and new talents such as Shatirah Amanda and rapper Lil J.
“We have also included e-sports players in our roster. We worked with Facebook for their Facebook Gaming Creators Program. We have close to a 100 talent under that program.
“We are also grooming kids to be future stars. Right now, our youngest talent is six-years-old.
“We have a lot of micro-influencers, we call them the BBNUs (Budak Baru Nak Up). This new generation of social media influencers, most of them don’t understand the dynamics of the advertising world. This is where we come in.
“For us, we work with brands and talents. When brands come to us and say: ‘We want to advertise to this particular demographic’. We will go find those influencers - not necessarily those under our roster - but we will find them a suitable influencer and work on non-exclusive deals with them,” he explains.
In less than two years, the talent management outfit is already seeing much of its hard work paying off; musicians under Rocketfuel have collective secure platinum status 20 times - the status is awarded to singles that hit 200,000 sales, or more.
We have a lot of micro-influencers, we call them the BBNUs (Budak Baru Nak Up). This new generation of social media influencers, most of them don’t understand the dynamics of the advertising world. This is where we come in
“I think this makes us the largest independent label in Malaysia. Thanks to Zizan, Ara Johari, Syamel, Ernie Zakri, SonaOne, Dayang Nurfaizah and Hael Husaini for giving us this honour. We gave out the awards to the talent as well!” he says.
Now, Rocketfuel is also muscling up to go international by signing with LA-based actor and model Ash Stymest. The UK-born lad recently signed with Interscope Records North America and Universal International.
“His (Stymest) first EP is set to be released in the coming months. This is our first footprint in America. If he does well, it will give us the credibility to bring in more talents,” says Moots.
Stymest is not the first international artist signed under Rocketfuel. A Chaleeda Gilbert, a YouTuber from Thailand, was discovered by Moots in 2017.
“Chaleeda was 16-year old when she signed with us. She has released music in Thai and English and will soon release her first Malay single soon.
Chaleeda is also an actress. She has been cast in a Netflix original series called The Stranded. "It’s a global production, produced by Gary Levinsohn who has been involved in films like Saving Private Ryan and 12 Monkeys.
“The series will be out in December. So, big things are coming her way and we’re very excited,” says Moots.
Aside from managing artists and running a record label, Rocketfuel is expanding its digital Intellectual Properties (IPs) through managing content creation, while co-owning IPs with talents.
“We have co-created with Kartel Records a content network call 16 Baris hosted by Joe Flizzow and DJ Cza. Joe wanted to do a cypher show (improvised freestyle cyclical rapping)- where the rapper just goes up the stage and rap. Lo and behold, that show (16 Baris) become a phenomenon for us.
“We’ve just licensed the show to Thailand. We are in the works to license it to Australia and New Zealand as well. So, this brand is going global,” he says with a smile.
Looking into the future, Moots is confident that Rocketfuel will go on to do bigger and better things, as it casts a wider net to bring in talent who can thrive on the global entertainment stage.
He says: “If I am the admiral of this spaceship, my team is the crew of this spaceship. My talent are the astronauts - they are the ones out there exploring and finding new worlds for us.
“If I may be cheesy- ‘Rocketfuel is going to infinity and beyond!” he ends with a hearty chuckle.