How big a part does loyalty play in how you approach your business?
Arnold Stiefel: Funny question to ask a person who’s managed Rod Stewart since the Hindenburg. After three decades, our loyalty begins with his career and extends to our recording, production and touring partners.
Jared Paul: I would say it plays a big part, but the most important group of people the loyalty is focused on is the fans. The decisions we help our clients make begin and end with ensuring that the bond is strong and remains strong between them and their fans. Everything is centered there, and decisions get made checking against the question of how will this go over inside any given fan base. As for the team members, etc., and the loyalty at play, it’s amazing when everyone grows to trust each other and knows where they fit in so that we can deliver for the clients for the collective victory. As they say, it takes a village.
Jonathan Wolfson: Loyalty is everything. My motto is: It’s not business, it’s personal. I’m fortunate enough to have clients who are fiercely loyal. When a client is loyal, the manager is comfortable enough to entertain ideas that could be risky and take the client out of their comfort zone, without worrying about getting terminated if it doesn’t pan out.
What are the biggest challenges for breaking a new act right now? How do you attack those challenges?
Ryan Chisholm: I think the biggest challenge for breaking new acts today to finding their entry point. In the past, sync has been an entry point for our artists, and today it tends to be Spotify playlists, Apple’s Beats 1 or traction on Hype Machine. These things alone won’t break an artist, so you have to follow this up with an incredible live show or additional material that will draw people in.
Seth England: Noise and patience. Fans now have so many options at their fingertips every week. As a music fan, I’m thrilled; as a manager, I’m constantly trying to find the strategy and keys to breaking through the noise. One thing hasn’t changed, though, and that is that great songs cut through, always. In this environment, it may take a little longer at times, but hit songs always find their way.
For any act that was around in the early part of the century, how do you help them deal with the drop in income from recorded music What’s the best way to make up for those losses?
Bernie Cahill: It certainly makes you focus on ancillary revenue streams, which may include licensing, merchandise, sponsorship/endorsements, publishing, VIP and privates. So it’s crucial to have great partners that are allocating resources and are hyper-focused alongside management on the exploiting of your IP within these categories. This puts an additional emphasis on the thoughtful curation, delivery and monetization of new and repackaged content. For the Grateful Dead, Mark Pinkus (Rhino) and David Lemieux lead this curation with highly resonant combinations of new products, including new live recordings and highly collectable limited releases. Add in the unprecedented celebration that went on all last year around the band’s 50th anniversary, including the Fare Thee Well and Dead & Company live shows, an 80-disc boxed set, and tons of specialized merchandise, and you have the perfect storm. In fact, 2016 has been one of the biggest years yet for the Grateful Dead. For Dwight Yoakam, he continues to make incredible records that engage his core fans, while providing visibility with new and incremental audiences. Specifically, he just released the critically acclaimed bluegrass album Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars… Dwight has also found success by offering very elevated and limited-capacity VIP experiences at many of his headline dates. Of course, Dwight is an anomaly, as he’s also an accomplished actor, with over 40 feature film and TV credits, which has allowed him to weather the industrywide decline in recorded music while still maintaining visibility. In short, “making up for lost revenue” is a dangerous catalyst for evolving business practices, as your fans can sniff out a cash grab a mile away. It is so important that the value proposition is self-evident and that the offering is a truly authentic expression of the artist. If you get that right, your fans will stay with you for life—and the money always follows.
Arnold Stiefel: Rod Stewart has always been an artist that isn’t afraid to take risks and that has paid off, as evidenced by his 25 million-selling “The Great American Songbook” series, recent bestselling albums Merry Christmas, Baby and his return to songwriting with Time, so we’ve not experienced a drop in recording revenue. Touring is also stronger than ever and thankfully, performing is in Rod’s DNA. As the marketplace changes, one must adapt, for instance in the U.S. he continues his sold-out Caesars Colosseum residency, which now runs through 2018; and in Europe this summer he played football stadiums in the hinterlands, where we mounted successful challenges, as many aren’t traditional music concert venues. Best of all, we did not cannibalize our indoor U.K. arena run, which begins this week.
Jared Paul: All our artists are community-driven artists; that’s the basis of our business—real fans and real long-term engagement. We keep it fresh, work hard at ensuring whatever the offering is can’t-miss and we space out cycles. This way, we can figure out additional ways to monetize the fan base, getting the artists paid well but giving the fans things they would gladly often pay more for. These kinds of things—like fan-club events, VIP packages, destination events, unique branded festivals and physical fan-oriented goods—have helped to offset the lack of recorded-music-based income. I didn’t work as a manager in the pre-piracy world, which of course led to downloads and streaming; I’ve only known a time where touring was the majority revenue generator as a manager. So we look for ways to spread beyond that income.
Jonathan Wolfson: Just to state the obvious, touring is a gigantic part of the revenue they receive these days. That said, you have to take into consideration the health of the client and not abuse them on the road. In order to do this, you have to tour smarter by trying to do fewer gigs for more money, which we’ve been able to accomplish—not an easy task.
Ian Montone: First, many of our artists own their masters and publishing, so even though there has been a dip, it has not been consequential. And with the rise of streaming, we’re now seeing increases in revenue, particularly for those artists with deep catalog. We have an active group within the company looking for sync and licensing opportunities. And many of our artists have diverse and broad interests that extend beyond just making music. To that end, we have helped our artists diversify their business to make up for selling millions of records. Whether that’s acting, writing, developing TV shows, musicals or screenplays, producing, opening retail stores, etc. When we decide to work with any artist, it’s to guide them through the music business, of course, but it’s also to help them achieve goals beyond that.
What changes do you foresee taking place during the next five years, for the business and for yourselves?
Jared Paul: We continue to be hands-on in every facet of our artists’ careers. We’ve become investors when we need to be when someone has to step up and invest to grow talent. We’ve created a studio setup in our offices where our clients can come and create music, video content, rehearse. We feel like our future is in supporting our clients any way we can to achieve their goals, and trying to never get stuck at a roadblock or have a gatekeeper hold them up from achieving their goals. That’s the future we see and one we’ve gotten very hands-on to build towards.
Arnold Stiefel: I couldn’t be more excited by Rod’s next chapter—in fact, I have a feeling that we’re on the brink of another game changer like The Great American Songbook series. It’s not yet been announced, but I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with “Republic.” And personally, since you’ve asked, I intend to continue getting even better looking. By the way, I’ve given you an incredible interview; am I going to be on the cover?
Jonathan Wolfson: I wish I had an answer, as I’m still in the process of figuring out the present.
Ian Montone: Over the next five years, you will see more and more artists owning and controlling their rights and releasing music on their own or in partnership with a label or some other third party. You will see many established artists going direct to the streaming companies. The very best management companies will be self-reliant places set up to manage these rights in concert with managing the artists themselves.
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