06 Jun How I Became An Artist Manager
I often get asked how I started my career, how I became an artist manager, and how I began working with my first clients. So here it is.
The Artists Successes
First, I’d like to give you a little bit of background on what I’ve been involved with, aside from how I started.
I’ve had the opportunity to manage artists in various genres spanning rock, alternative rock, funk rock, indie pop, pop, R&B, soul, electronic, and hip hop. The artists I’ve worked with as an independent manager have toured nationally and internationally, they’ve had major television and film placements, opened for world-renowned artists, nominated for JUNO and CCMA awards, had successful crowdfunding campaigns, YouTube and digital streaming success, chart-topping radio hits, and Platinum singles.
I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to work under some amazing managers who have managed GRAMMY and JUNO Award winning artists for 30+ years.
Part 1: Previous Experience Working With Artist Managers
My story in artist management starts with my role as Operations Manager of Music Managers Forum Canada (MMF). Before this role, I held junior roles at other music organizations, which I obtained in the first place due to my University Degree in Arts and Culture Studies. With my day job at MMF, as you can guess, I was heavily involved with the likes of artists and artist managers. I reported directly to the Board of Directors, whom include 10 of Canada’s most notable artist managers. The main part of my job was to plan and host educational sessions that involved hiring artist managers from around the world to come and speak to our audiences. By planning and attending these sessions, I began to learn a fair enough share of the business of artist management, and it didn’t take long before I decided I wanted to eventually become a manager too. I “put it out into the universe”, and next thing you know I’m a band manager.
Part 1 B: Conferences and Festivals
It was 2012 at Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto, Ontario, a major music industry conference and festival that hosts about 1000 artists and about 3000 international industry personnel from around the world. We (MMF) were hosting various events in partnership with CMW, and so I was out and about quite a bit that week networking and attending artist showcases. I went to one showcase at the Cadillac Lounge specifically because it was being hosted by the local country radio station, and me and my friends felt like having a country music night out. I remember The Stella’s were playing in the front room, and ESRB was performing in the back room. ESRB wasn’t country, but were performing there because of a mistake in festival programming. I loved The Stella’s, but me and my friends ended up spending the night rocking out to ESRB in the back room. I fell in love with them that night, and it was clear that the entire room did too. They had so much energy and the lead singer had an amazing voice. I had seen so many bands perform before, but there was something about this one that jumped out at me. I chatted with them after their show, found out they were looking for a manager, and after a meeting or two we signed a 6-month trial agreement. I didn’t renew the contract after the 6 months, partly due to the fact that I moved to a different Province on the other side of Canada. I’m not quite sure if this band is still together.
Part 2: Relationships and Connections
A long time colleague and friend quit his job to start an artist management company, and already had 5 acts on the roster. I was very excited for him, and liked the sound of a few of the acts. We began chatting about how we could work together when he came out and asked me if I’d like to manage with him. At this point I was in a different mentality and told him I wasn’t interested in being a manager anymore. A couple of months went by, we kept chatting, and something in me said just do it. So I joined his management team, and completely fell in love with the artists. Their songs, their performances, and them as individual people. Every single one of them. To give you a bit of background on the artists we worked with, they all happened to be contestants in the Western Canadian radio contest called the Peak Performance Project. Gay Nineties (Top 20, Vancouver), Sidney York (Top 12, Calgary) and The Wet Secrets (1st Place Grand Prize, Edmonton). Gay Nineties hit single ‘Letterman’ reached #11 on Alternative Charts; Sidney York has seen great success touring Europe, you may recognize their song ‘Dick and Jane’; and The Wet Secrets are signed to Six Shooter Records and won the inaugural first place 95.3 Peak Performance Prize of over $100,000.
Part 3: Fluke, Fate, Small World (call it what you want) and more Conferences
I was attending the 2014 BreakOut West Music Conference and Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba to co-represent Sidney York and The Wet Secrets, whom were both performing as part of the festival. The Wet Secrets were also nominated for an award or two at the Western Canadian Music Awards (part of BreakOut West).
During the conference portion, I was sitting down in a conference room of maybe 100 people listening to one of the panels. When the panel was over everyone stood up to leave but I stayed seated, and so did one other person sitting a couple of seats down from me. This person was an artist I had seen perform exactly one year prior at the same festival, BreakOut West 2013 in Calgary, Alberta (the festival moves to a new city each year). When I saw her perform in Calgary, I instantly became the biggest fan. I had never met her, but I downloaded her bands songs, followed them on social media, and kept tabs on what they were up to creatively for the following year. That band was called jocelyn & lisa, and the person sitting next to me was lead singer Jocelyn Alice.
I started up a conversation, told her I was huge fan, asked her what she was up to, told her what I was up to, and we made plans to meet again. It was somewhat of a secret at the time, but she was writing and recording new solo material, more mainstream pop than the sound of jocelyn & lisa. She sent me her new music, I fell in love with it, went to see her perform live that night, and knew I wanted to manage and help develop her as a solo artist. Then, after about a month or two of having coffee dates, figuring out if our visions and plans aligned (they did), we decided to make it official. We released the song ‘Jackpot’ to Hot AC radio and it hit certified Platinum in 2016.
Part 4: Current day (mid- 2017)
In 2016, I left the independent life to join Bumstead Productions, an artist management company (and former record label) having managed JUNO and GRAMMY Award-Winning Artists since 1979. Over the years the company has represented artists such as Big Sugar, Colin James, k.d. lang, and The Trews, to name a few.
It was announced on February 10, 2017 that Bumstead Productions was closing down after 38 years, and Founder/President (and my boss) Larry Wanagas decided to retire. Back into the independent life I go! (clearly I’m meant to be here). I had warned a few close colleagues and industry friends that Bumstead would be closing down, and within a couple of weeks I had a couple of new opportunities land in my lap.
Thanks to an introduction from a producer friend of mine, by early March of this year I began managing a new client. Tareya had already been scaling the heights of the Canadian music industry since 2012 with multiple JUNO and CCMA award nominations and chart topping singles earned through her former popular country duo, Autumn Hill. I was already a fan of Autumn Hill, but Tareya’s new solo music blew me away. Stay tuned to see where we go next!
In summary, I owe it to all the generous managers out there who have shared their knowledge over the years. Either directly with me, or to the audiences at the MMF workshops, and at the conferences I attended. I also owe it to these conferences and showcases for allowing me to discover and meet new artists. If I didn’t attend them, I would never have seen, met, or managed half of the artists that I managed.
Since becoming a manager, I’ve had the most fun job I think anyone can have. Yes, it has some downfalls, but I’ve enjoyed (most of) it more than I’ve enjoyed any other job.
Comment below with any questions, or share your story!