Where did you grow up?
The San Fernando Valley.
How did you get started in the music business?
It was really the desperation of wanting to be in a business where I could get free concert tickets and free records.
I was spending all of my money, literally, on concert tickets and records. I have a degree in advertising, and I had won a big competition to get a paid internship at an ad agency. It was a really big deal because internships were usually free. I started working in this ad agency and realized that if I was going to get to the level I was interested in, I was going to have to be there for a million years. People stayed in those positions basically until they died. It was really the driest, most boring job. That was in the mid-80s, and a lot of production started going to Canada. This ad agency was very successful, but they had lost a lot of their clientele and had to lay me off. I was so happy! I didn't want to quit because they were so nice, and they were paying me and I was learning a lot… I just couldn't stand it!
When they laid me off, I had (LA's powerhouse Alternative Rock stationed.) KROQ on the radio, and I decided, why don't I try and get a job there? Then I could go to concerts for free, and I could get records for free. So I drove directly there. They hired me as a part-time intern/part-time employee, which means sometimes I would get paid, but most of the time I didn't.
So what got you into managing?
I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so at KROQ I would volunteer for everything. If a deejay needed help with something, I'd help him with it.
One of the deejays was friends with Oingo Boingo, and they made an announcement on the air that they needed extras for a video. They needed somebody from the station to babysit all of those people, so I volunteered for that. There was a guy from Warner Bros. that used to come do radio promotion at KROQ, and he wanted an intern, so I volunteered to do that one day a week. It was really an issue of floating around and making myself available for everybody. Eventually, I started actually getting hired and getting paid for things.
I would get paid to do casting projects. I would get paid by deejays to oversee their schedules. I started doing publicity for things. I started working at Rough Trade Records, doing retail promotion. I did college radio promotion for SBK Records. At Warner Bros., I worked in the commercial radio promotion department. I really just started branching out and doing all of these different things and learning all of the pieces of the music business. I was a tour manager. I was a stage manager. In 1986, it was the era where people started realizing you could make (charitable) money off of concerts. That was the time they did "We Are the World," and "Hands Across America", and the Liberty Celebration in New York where they redid the Statue of Liberty. All of these things I started either working for or volunteering for. That's when The Talent House started, basically. I started making income and it had to go somewhere. I had to eventually become a company that people could call, rather than just this person that people called whenever they needed something. That's basically what the company wasif you needed something, I would just figure it out.
Then somebody came to me at that point and said, I'm not really sure what you do, but there is this band you might like and they are looking for a manager. I thought, well, I've done marketing, I've done retail, I've done publicity, promotion, and touringsure, I could be a manager. And that's how it started.
Who was the band?
They were called The One Day. They weren't signed. They were sort of this melodic, REM-esque, Eagles-type, pop-rock band. I just thought that they were great, and just figured out how to manage them. They started getting some label interest, and they did a demo deal with BMG. Then the band just kind of disintegrated.
That band then formed into another band called the Fishermen. The Fisherman were probably the first band I ever got signed. They did a deal with Elektra Records. The next band after that was a band called Momma Stud, who were on Virgin. That became the time when I had to decide whether I was going to continue doing all of this other stuff or just be a manager. I didn't have time to do everything else. That was when it became official.
Who else have you managed?
The Presidents of the United States of America, Concrete Blonde, 7 Year Bitch, a band called Truly. Now I also have a band called Lo-Ball, who are currently on the Warped Tour.
I have an artist who is an American, but sings in French. Her name is April March. She was on the Dust Brothers' label, Ideal Records. She's now on a French label called Trickotel, and she just finished her record. She actually does quite well, so we're going to re-license her record here in the United States.
I also manage Chris from the Presidents now - he's doing a ton of film and TV commercial music work. I also manage a band called Shiner from the Midwest. Celine from 7 Year Bitch just finished her first solo recording. Season To Risk are a band I've worked with for years from Kansas City, Missouri. But they're kind of an old school punk rock band, and they don't really need me all the time. So for them it's just an issue of helping them put together tours, or helping when they need to do immigration stuff or contracts. But overall, they are pretty much on their own.
My managerial duties also vary with the changes in the music business, particularly when the Universal merger happened. I had a band that was on A&M, and we were sitting and waiting to see whether they were going to have a release. Ideal Records, which was April March's label, was disintegrating. The Presidents had made the decision to put out their last record and split up. Everything was sort of up in the air. I started realizing that for myself, and for my artists, there needed to be another way for them to bring in income, because everybody was at a standstill.
I really started going out there and shopping all of my clients for film and TV. It started working. I had clients that made a hell of a lot more money doing film and TV placements than they ever did selling records. It was great because they were able to go out on tour, and do things to make a living, and pay their bills while the record industry was changing its entire face.
Can you describe the manager's role in relation to the record company?
The manager's role is to oversee every aspect of the artist's career and be the go-between to make sure things run smoothly and to make sure things happen. It used to be the record company's job was to go out there and find ways to promote the artist, whether it be in advertising capacities, or press, or different marketing programs or concepts, placing music in film and TV, helping with endorsements, or attaching records to products, and things like that. In a perfect world, you would hope that's what they would still do, but it's not. It doesn't happen as often now. A lot of times as a manager, you're having to make a lot of that stuff happen because there are so many fewer record labels and the people working there are supposed to handle a lot more stuff. They don't have time to be as proactive as they used to be, or as their department is supposed to be. There is a lot more now that a manager has to move along than they had to in the past.
When you say "make things happen," does that mean that you have to badger somebody there to do it, or do you just have to do it yourself?
Both. You try to badger somebody to do it, but there is only so much time in a day. You have to be realistic. If you have a new artist, and you're competing in a situation where there are a number of much more successful artists that are releasing records at the same time, or that you're competing for attention with, then the bigger artists are going to get more of those opportunities. They are a little bit easier for the record company to have a ‘win' with.
I think that employees of record companies are frustrated as well because they can't do what they want to do because there is only so much time in a day.
Do you also work with radio or do you leave that totally to the label?
Commercial radio is more difficult to get into. There are some relationships that I have where I can call people to get them to listen to stuff, but at this point in time, getting stuff played on commercial radio is not an easy world to break into. On the other hand, with college radio we do a lot of stuff ourselves. We do mailings ourselves to college radio, but not really to commercial radio. Realistically in this day and age, there is a 20- or 30-percent chance that you're even going to get played on commercial radio, so that is not necessarily always our first direction or our first goal.
Can you describe the difference between a personal manager and a booking agent?
A booking agent is somebody who is licensed to book performances. Their job is to put together tours, put together shows, help to negotiate the deal, and contract those shows. A manager oversees and partners with that person in overseeing what they are doing and gives them direction. A manager is not supposed to go out and book the shows. It's the agencies that have the connections - who books what club, and who is promoting what tours.
What's the difference between a personal manager and a business manager?
A business manager is more on the financial end. They handle an artist's financial life, whether that be the bank account, credit, and/or bills. It just depends on how much you want their involvement. A business manager could be the person that just does their taxes every year. Or they can do as much as paying their bills, getting credit cards, helping to buy homes, or cars, or to get loans, or whatever.
Will you only work with artists whose music you love?
On a management level, yes. It's all encompassing. I like to think that I tend to involve myself a lot more maybe than most. There is a lot of personal relationship in there. There is a lot of trust. I just spent several days in a bus with one of my clients. If I didn't like them or love their music, there would be no way. The Warped Tour is hard, and hot, and dirty and dusty! For me to be passionate about selling something, I have to love or believe in it, otherwise I can't sell it.
Do you only work with clients that you get along with personally?
You hope to do that. I think that if you meet a band for the first time, and you don't get along with them, they are not going to choose you as their manager.
Over time, there are relationships that may sour. There are bound to be certain people when you're dealing with a family of three, or four, or five band members, that maybe you don't care for as much, or maybe you don't have that connection with. That's just life. But that's not how you walk into the situation. That's not anything that you choose, because you really have to get along with them. You have to like them. There has to be a trust between the two of you, otherwise it's impossible to do the job. You also have to trust them that if money comes in, they're going to pay you. There is a lot of trust involved. I'm the point figure that all of the other people come to. The business manager comes to the manager. The agent comes to the manager. The record company comes to the manager. You have to have a real understanding of what your client wants and needs and what their preferences are. You have to be able to communicate with them on a daily basis about that stuff.
My strong belief is that you have to be able to argue with your clients and get in fights with your clients. It's not personal, but it is emotional when you're talking about somebody's career and somebody's life. You have to be able to get into those arguments and then have it be okay an hour later. Everybody is passionate about their opinion. There are a lot of people who don't work that way. It's strictly a business relationship, or they strictly work absolutely for the artist and there is no discussion point with the artist. That's not how I work. If we can't get into an argument, then we're probably not going to do well working together.
What is the common range of management percentages?
Fifteen to twenty percent.
Do managers of unsigned acts get paid for what they do, or do they wait for commissions from deals they make?
It's all different. It just depends. Unfortunately with unsigned acts, there is no income unless the band members have jobs. I don't know of many band members who have been able to actually afford to pay a manager's salary from their day jobs. So a manager has to come into the picture understanding that there is not really any money. It will be probably a year until you get a record deal, or until you get a publishing deal if you choose. If the band goes on tour, an agent has to come into the picture knowing initially that their commission is not going to be very high because a band on the road is not going to make very much money.
That's where having faith in the band comes in. If you're selling something that you don't like or believe in, and you're not going to get paid for it for a while, that could be a problem. If a manager comes in after a record deal is done, they still make no money because they have to go through an entire record cycle until the second recordand hope that there is a second recordand hope that there is an advance paid on the second record. So that manager is expected to work for another year or year and a half on selling this record for the artist for free. There are situations where a record company will actually put an advance together that gets the manager paid at least for their work for that first period of time. Most of the time, you walk into a situation and there is not a huge amount of money, especially if it's a new band. That's where, for my situation, the film and TV side comes in. We can get overhead paid, and we can get income for the bands and for ourselves by getting bands placed in projects.
What should unsigned bands do to prepare themselves to get signed?
That's different in every situation. I think they need to play a lot. They need to start acquiring an audience. They need to be really good at what they do. And they need to have confidence in what they do. It's not always the best bands that get signed. It's the confident bands, the bands that feel that they should get signed, that get signed. A lot of the best bands that you see or hear never get signed, or never sell a single record, because they don't sell themselves properly. I think you have to be willing to not take no for an answer if you believe in yourself enough.
I don't think the package is the most important thing. I get these fancy, shiny, glossy packages from bands with a DVD and a this and a that. I don't look at any of that. I don't have time. I have a hard time even listening to packages period. All I want to know is if I put in the music, am I going to like it?
My personal opinion is that it doesn't have to be the most high-tech, fabulous recording either. I think that if a band puts themselves in the poorhouse to even shop, they are already starting so far in the red because you have to make numerous duplications and send numerous packages out before you even get a response from anybody.
You need to try to get people to see you and make sure you put yourself in the best, most positive light for people to see you in. That could be at the dingiest, grungiest club, but if you've got your shit together as far as playing a rock show or whatever it is, then it's not going to matter where you are.
You need to make sure that you're the best that you can be, and you have to have the confidence, because that's going to show. Sometimes that confidence is annoying. I have people that call me a lot. "Did you listen to this?" "Did you listen to that?" But I know who they are. I don't have time to take them on, but I know who they are. I listen when they send something. The more people that know your name, the better. Even if somebody never sees or hears you, if your name sounds familiar, it makes you sound bigger than you are. I think that's the step to success. That's just like when you're an employee starting at the bottom rung in a job. The more that the boss hears your name, even if there is no reason for it, you're all of a sudden going to sound like a familiar entity. That's only going to help you move up in the company.
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