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Often in meetings with traditional music industry partners, people say to me “I want to work with a tech-savvy, forward-thinking manager.”  Awesome, right?  I have been — and continue to be — lucky enough to work with folks in music, media, and technology that I admire and consider it an honor to create and execute ideas with them.

I come out of those meetings high on life, inspired, and ready to dive in with potential new partners; hopefully bridging the traditional with the now. But, sometimes, people don’t follow through on the new ideas discussed in these initial meetings. And there is only one reason: fear. Fear of taking risks, fear of what others in the industry might think, and (gasp!) fear of failure.

My artists who have had teams in the past sometimes tell me when they’d bring an idea to the table, the response was often “well let me check with my close circle” and then the idea would die. In my world, why wouldn’t we try a new strategy, idea or type of technology? What do we have to lose? If it doesn’t work, we re-group and try something different.

I had Family of the Year on Google Wave last year. Obviously that didn’t work out, since Google Wave was shut down this month. But does that stop Google, arguably the most innovative technology company of the century?  Here is what Google CEO Eric Schmidt had to say about it:

“Our policy is we try things. We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new.” Schmidt said Wave, despite its lack of market success, was “a very clever product.”

The music industry can’t move forward or evolve without taking risks and trying new things. Zoe Keating is an artist who is asked to speak at broad technology conferences as well as traditional music industry events. She pointed out to me once that at technology conferences, everyone is talking about what is next and what is possible. At music conferences, industry folk are often generally complaining about the “current state of the industry” and desperately trying to grasp onto anything that will help salvage their past glory.

Our Google Wave experiment may not have worked out, but giving away music exclusively via Brendan Benson’s Facebook page (due to his forward-thinking publisher at Chrysalis ok-ing the concept) did. The experiment increased his metrics fivefold in just a few months. This is just a toe in the water; I’m thrilled to execute some of the projects we’ve been working on custom to each of our artists in the coming months.

ALL sections of the industry need to take risks; this does not just apply to technology-based platforms. I’ve had booking agents break my heart when they don’t want to tour an act despite our team putting together distribution, promo, a strong social media presence, strategized data capture, and arranging for the artist to open for someone larger. What more could you want? Well, we always want more, but I’m used to breaking acts with social networking, the internet and technology in general because these tools are free, available to all, help artists connect with real fans, and work.

On the flipside, we just did a very forward-thinking publishing deal recently for one of our acts, GOLD MOTEL, who currently self-release. Are we open to label partners? Of course. But in the meantime, we found a publisher who believes in the songwriter, the band, and the team we have been assembling. The result? Syncs this week in an indie film and a banking advert that benefits the band both financially and helps to get their name and music out even further.

So, please, try new things and don’t be scared. What do you have to lose? Maybe a little time, but how rewarding and fun is the payoff for artists when new strategies help them get to the next level? I can’t wait to see what collectively our industry achieves next.


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About Author

Emily White

Artist manager Emily White is partner at Whitesmith Entertainment; she also serves on the boards of CASH Music & Future of Music Coalition. She is a frequent contributor to midemblog and Midem speaker and moderator.

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