Brooks works in music at Atlantic – he’s got a fascinating job managing musicians and I thought it would be super interesting to ask him to tell us a little bit about his role and his industry. Music has changed so much in the past few years that it makes you wonder what kinds of careers you can pursue in that world these days. Brooks’ career will definitely inspire you…
So what’s your job title?
I work at Atlantic Records as a Director of Touring and Artist Development.
When you were growing up, what did you want to do?
When I was growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Thinking about it, I swam a lot and I was like, “Oh man, I’m going to be the next…whatever the older equivalent of Michael Phelps was at that point.” I wanted to be an athlete.
And then I got to college and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. For some reason, in my mind political lobbying came into play. I don’t know where the hell that came from, but it was one of those things…Why would I want to be a lobbyist? But in my mind I said, “I’m going to go to college for political science. This sounds amazing. I’m doing this.” I went and did that and I took a couple of political science classes, learning about the political climate and subcultures and GDP of countries that I didn’t even know where they were on the map. I realized that it wasn’t for me — not my thing at all.
Where did you go to school?
I went to school at the University of California, San Diego.
What was your degree?
Communications — what everyone has a degree in. It means absolutely nothing.
People don’t realize — I do business development and I studied journalism and philosophy in undergrad.
Oh, and I have a minor in religious studies. It’s very important that I have all of these things. [Laughs]
What do your parents do?
My father is a dentist and my mom helped him build his practice when they were starting out, and then she stayed at home with my sister and I. My dad owns his own practice in Austin, Texas, where we’re from. He still works three and a half days a week. He calls it four, but it’s three and a half. He goes water skiing every Friday. He always told my sister and I to get dental degrees. He was like, “I want you to take over the practice,” and we were both just like, “Nah. That’s not really our scene.”
Were you always interested in music?
Yeah. When I was in college, with political science I was thinking in a very business-minded way. Music for me has always been the passion project. In high school I was going to three or four concerts a week in Austin because it has such a great music scene. Growing up there, I got into the mentality that going to concerts was my main source of entertainment and it happened as soon as I had my driver’s license. It was always something that I did and I never really thought about it until college.
So when I was in college — probably my first quarter — someone was saying that they were planning a concert and I should join this committee. And I was like, “Wait, how do you plan a concert?” It just sounded like such a cool thing. I feel like for the public, the general perception of a concert has so much smoke and mirrors surrounding it. You don’t realize that it’s something people do every day. I was working as a freshman, coming in and really getting involved and getting my feet wet and doing a lot of heavy lifting.
My junior and senior year of college I booked about 150 different shows for the university. Everything from a coffee shop show to a larger show outdoors on the quad with everyone from rappers to indie pop bands to emo bands — all over the map. Anything that you can think of, the university implored us to make these events happen for the students and develop a culture.
I think something people don’t necessarily realize when they’re in school is that there’s a budget for this stuff and the university wants to do these things because it creates such a great atmosphere and it’s exciting for incoming students. There are so many resources that you can take advantage of when you’re in that space.
The budget was healthy, so we got to book a lot of shows. There were a lot of venues on our campus, so it wasn’t like we were bringing them to a stage every time. We could do shows at a pub and it was fun.
There are so many people who want music industry jobs because it’s a very desirable field to work in. It’s all about trying to figure out your niche or where your spot is for you to get in and for you to get people to notice you.
How do you book a show?
You have to have all of your particulars in mind. You have to have your venue, you have to have your budget, you have to have your core demographic and you have to understand what kinds of events they would like to come to. From there, it’s just about reaching out to different agents of different bands. You can easily find any band’s agent or manager these days because it’s on Facebook. Ten years ago, there was a silly print directory — that still exists — that tells you for every band who their manager is, who their agent is and how to get in contact with them.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
The first concert I ever went to was a country show that my dad took me to in Austin. It was Bryan White and LeAnn Rimes.
My first “concert concert,” like not in an arena but in a club, was Fall Out Boy. It was in a club in Austin. I’ve probably seen them fifteen times over the years. They’ll be playing at things I’ll go see or I’ll have a band opening for them. It’s been fun to watch their trajectory and come into my own around that.
When did you realize this was something you were interested in as a career? Or that it could be a career?
Once I started booking shows, I realized it was an industry and not just a hobby. That influenced me to look into different opportunities.
I was looking at management companies, record labels, agencies, publicity companies, trying to figure out what would be the best fit for me. I was like, “At this point in my very young career, where are my connections? Where can I reach out to?” And then I thought, “Wait, I’ve booked a lot of shows through a lot of agents, I wonder if I can go intern for one of these agencies.” One summer I interned in Los Angeles for The Agency Group and the following summer I interned for a company in New York called Paradigm, as well as a management company called Red Light Management.
I was trying to figure out where I had connections and how to get my foot in the door. There are so many people who want music industry jobs because it’s a very desirable field to work in. It’s all about trying to figure out your niche or where your spot is for you to get in and for you to get people to notice you. So, I interned for two summers at those different places and then after that I ended up working for The Agency Group in New York. I got the job offer on a Thursday, I did my last final in San Diego on a Friday and I started work in New York the next Tuesday.
What did you do in your internships?
I did everything. I was answering phones, running errands, inputting deals and issuing contracts, which was actually great when I was working at both agencies as I was able to learn about how concert deals were structured. The best part of my internships was when I was at The Agency Group in LA. The CEO of the company came over from London and had me drive his rented Porche from the office in Century City to the Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood. 19 year old me felt so cool driving through Beverly Hills in a Porche. Did I put the top down? Ha…is that even a question?
Did you always want to move to New York? Or was it just because of the job?
I think that I was open at the time. I had different job offers at that time from CAA, William Morris and The Agency Group.
That’s really amazing, and seems so rare.
It was great. But with the other large agencies, when you’re starting out, you start in the mailroom. You’re a number to someone. It wasn’t personal in the way that I wanted it to be personal.
The guy that I was working for is this guy named Steve Kaul, who was a great mentor. Three months into working for him, he was like, “Okay cool, here’s one of my bands. Go book a tour. Figure it out. Route the tour and find the offers. Negotiate the deals. Help set the ticket prices and then let’s discuss it with management and we’ll confirm the tour.” He put a lot of faith and trust in me that I would not have had if I had gone with a larger agency instead.
So what was that first job here?
I was an assistant to the Vice President of the Agency Group in New York. His roster was a lovely Canadian indie-rock band that you might know called Nickelback…yeah…so Nickelback was his largest client. It was such a great experience learning with one of the biggest bands in the world. They still play arenas and their live show, the way I describe it to people is: “Going to a Nickelback show is like drunk karaoke.”
I love that. And I love karaoke!
Because you don’t necessarily want to know every Nickelback song ever made, but you do.
So I was working with Nickelback and a bunch of other bands in that genre. I was also working with a few artists who I still really love: Built to Spill, an alternative band that’s been around for like twenty years, and Doug Martsch, who is a guitarist legend; he’s revered by people. For that kind of music, he’s one of the guitar gods. He was self-managed, so it was so fun working with him on a lot of different components. And then Citizen Cope, who is a singer songwriter.
What was the next step in your career after that?
From there, I worked at The Agency Group for about three and a half years. I had a great time working there and everything went really well and then another opportunity came up with Atlantic Records from my current boss. He reached out to me and said, “We have this position open. It was working in touring at Atlantic. Would you be interested?” And I said, “Sure, I’d be interested in talking about anything.” So, coming into this position, it was very vague and I was trying to figure out what it meant.
Now, seeing the full breadth of what this can be and has become for me, it’s really cool. It’s much more creative. I felt like in my former job, it was a lot of spreadsheets and negotiating and all of that, whereas this is more of a marketing position.
Can you talk me through what your job actually entails?
There are a lot of things. The title is two-pronged: touring and tour promotions.
So, when our artists go on the road, it’s working with their agents and helping them figure out strategically where it’s best for artists to play based on sales figures, radio numbers if that’s applicable for a certain artist, social media stats — any kind of analytics that we have that we can point to and say, “This artist should play in Cleveland on x date because we have radio in that market and the fan base on Facebook is in the top 20 markets for us.” We utilize those tools to make sure our artists go to the right places and play the right venues.
One of the reasons I was brought over here is because of the experience I had with The Agency Group knowing different venues and promoters and understanding the different landscape of where you could play. Like in New York, if you’re a cool, young indie band, you want to play at Bowery Ballroom. That’s the end-all-be-all. But where do you play in Indianapolis? Where do you play in Phoenix? Where do you play in the less sexy places in the world where career artists are actually made.
It’s a lot of planning for tours and then figuring out how we’re going to announce our tours. If we’re going to put up a new song or a new video, if we’re going to put up a pre-sale, what the pre-sale is going to entail, if there’s a fan club or if fan clubs are too antiquated for that artist. If we’re going to have radio get involved and give away tickets. When you hear on the radio, “Justin Timberlake is coming to town in three months, get your tickets now from Z100!” That’s because someone at the record label is doing their job. All those kinds of pieces to the puzzle and making sure that we get the biggest splash that we possibly can on a tour.
I hear this all the time that recorded music is dead, and I have to say honestly, it’s quite the opposite. Record companies are alive and well.
I feel like it must have changed so much from when you started with the Internet and social media. You’ve been here for a pivotal moment.
I’ve grown with it. When I was going to shows in Austin, I was listening to bands on PureVolume. That’s how we consumed music at that point. I listened to an artist on PureVolume, I went and bought a CD at the merchandise stand and that was how you consumed music.
Now, it’s interesting because there’s a lot more focus on streaming that’s happened in the last four or five years. There are outlets like YouTube, Spotify, Ario, Pandora, Beats now with Apple and iTunes radio — everything under the sun. People are focusing on that more and there’s different opinions on how effective different streaming platforms may or may not be, but people are gravitating towards that.
We can see it with Paramore, for example. When we were looking at the numbers, we debuted number one on the Billboard charts, we had the biggest record of the week, but I think we did 150,000 records the first week. It was interesting though because even though we all think streaming is the new thing, 50% of those records were physically purchased in a Best Buy or a Walmart or Target.
I feel like Billboard chart numbers and getting a platinum record are something completely different that what that meant in the 90’s. It’s a totally different system.
People used to sell records and record sales are not what they used to be. Like Taylor Swift, she’ll sell 1 million plus and go platinum and be the first one [to go Platinum in 2014], but even massive, juggernaut artists like Sam Smith, he’s doing well and it’s still moving, but it’s still 800,000 units sold. No one’s at 1 million. When we were growing up, it was bands like N’SYNC doing 2 million in a week. It’s just so different.
I remember standing in line waiting for those albums.
I do too. I was living in Los Angeles and I remember going to Sam Goodie Records on the morning tickets went on sale and you had to wait in line to do this because you could not purchase tickets on the Internet. That’s how you got tickets: you waited on line. Everything is evolving. Everyone is trying to figure it out.
And that’s totally changing your job.
Yeah. And the other part of my job is artist development, which deals with more of the promo side of things. So, when we’re looking at an artist campaign, we try to figure out what the right looks are for our artist to secure. [Editors note: Look in this context means positioning artists the right way in the right places] With Charli XCX, who has been a huge focus for me over the past two years. I’m working with her management to figure out what the right looks are for us to do here. This is not a real conversation, but would it be right for her to go on Sesame Street? No. That’s not her.
I saw her on VH1 Top 20 Countdown.
We’re trying to look at all the looks that are out there, figuring out that we want x, y and z and that we don’t want a, b and c because those don’t fit our image and those aren’t things that we should be pursuing. Trying to help position in the way that the artist wants to be seen and working with their vision and making sure that they feel like we are not doing what they would never want to do, but to help them project whatever image they want to project and find the right looks to do so.
Using the term ‘development’ in your title, is it something that you do more on a record-by-record basis or are you really thinking long term?
We’re thinking career development. The way Atlantic is different from Sony or Universal is that where some other labels might look to see chart success immediately, that’s amazing and we’re so happy when it happens, but we’re all about having career artists.
With Charli, for example, she put out a record in April of 2013 called “True Romance.” The album did great. It was critically acclaimed. It was well received. Musically, it was a great record and it sold a handful of copies, but it wasn’t commercially successful in the way that some other projects that we’ve worked on have been. So then, it’s going back and working with her on the whole next record and figuring out what kind of music she wants to make. Figuring out for album two, how can we take what we did and build on it. It’s not just about a flash in the pan.
One of the big success stories for Atlantic, another project that I worked on that we point to a lot of times is Ed Sheeran. Within eighteen months he went from playing Mercury Lounge to selling out at Madison Square Garden.
So, how big is the team that you’re working on?
There are six of us total. There are four people doing my job. There is someone overseeing us, his name is Harlan Frey and he’s great. He allows us to each have our own roster [of artists] and really is supportive of us. And then we have a department assistant as well, who helps out with all of our ticketing and everything we could possibly need. He’s great too.
The way a roster is broken down, ideally in a perfect world, when someone starts in this position you want to know what their tastes are. The roster that I have now is because I’ve raised my hand and said, “I really like this project, can I please have this one.”
Which artists are you working with?
My roster right now is Lykke Li, Christina Perri, Charli CXC, Marina and the Diamonds, Icona Pop, Paramore — those are all my poppy females who I love. I love that kind of music and it’s so fun to be able to work on music that you actually enjoy.
And then on the rock side of things it’s Portugal. The Man, Young the Giant, Saints of Valory, a young band from Austin who we love, Meg Myers, who is this new young indie chick who we’ve put out. She toured with Indie Blood, Pixies and a bunch of other cool bands this year. She’s like a young Alanis Morissette. She’s awesome. You’ll be hearing about her.
And then on the dance side of things, which was sort of a foreign territory to me when I started. I worked with so much rock and so much indie, that I didn’t really understand the landscape and it’s been so great to learn a different side of the industry. I’m working with a group called Cash Cash, a DJ trio from New Jersey. They had a song this year called, “Take Me Home,” that went gold this year and was a big success for us. Then this group called Volantis, they’re a DJ duo from Sweden. One of the guys wrote Toxic, for Britney Spears — a very small song you may have heard of. We’re putting out a record for them in 2015 and they’re super buzzy right now. Then a group called Clean Bandit out of the UK. Their live show is so cool — it’s a live violin, a live cello, a vocalist, drummer and a keyboard guy. Then Rudimentals out of the UK. Their live show is epic. It’s the best festival band show that you would ever want to see. It’s eight or nine people on stage: three vocalists, a guitarists, a live drummer, a bassist, a trumpet and some other brass instruments — it’s so fun. And then one of the ones we’re most excited about is this group called 21 Pilots. They are on Fueled by Ramen, which used to be the emo label but is now going to become the cool, alternative label after Fun and Young the Giant were on there. They’re our next act that is going to break out of Fueled by Ramen.
How have you seen music change in the last 10 years?
In the past 10 years, there have been so many changes in music. In terms of genre, we’ve seen the fall of guitars and the rise of all kinds of electronic and sampling elements. I think that in the next couple of years, we’ll see the rise in more traditional instruments on stage again with artists like John Legend, Sam Smith and Adele on the top of the charts in 2014.
In terms of touring, in 2005, it would have been ridiculous to even consider paying $1,500 for a concert ticket and to meet any artist you wanted to. Today, it isn’t just the norm, if you aren’t doing it and you’re playing larger rooms, everyone is asking you why not? The VIP ticket bundle advent, for better or worse, is here to stay and there are a lot of tours that are planning special areas in arenas to offer fans a premium experience. People with a lot of disposable income are looking for experiences like this and bands and festivals are more than happy to capitalize on this. The VIP craze is definitely here to stay.
Where do you see music going? A lot of people talk about it like it’s a dying industry, but really it seems to be thriving from what we’ve talked about.
I hear this all the time that recorded music is dead, and I have to say honestly, it’s quite the opposite. Record companies are alive and well. Granted, we are having to reinvent what the new model for a record deal will look like, but are also offering support that traditional record labels never have before. My job, for example, was one that didn’t exist 20 years ago. The fact that record labels have taken it upon themselves to find people with experience in the touring space to help advise and market an artist’s tours shows a gesture towards working as a partner in all facets of an artist’s career.
Over the next decade or so, I believe that we’ll see an even greater transition between people purchasing music and people streaming music. Look at the film industry…blockbuster is now out of business, but the studios still release movies into theaters for the fans who want that experience and now they allow you to stream them through Netflix / HBO GO / Amazon etc at home. In print media, a lot of print publications are dying and everyone is going online as well. I believe that the music industry will follow suit. We will always still have physical and digital product for sale (just look at the demand for vinyl…it’s greater now than it has been in the past 30 years), but we’re also coming to grips with the reality that we’re going to need another form of consumption as the habits of music lovers change. Who knows what time will tell, but for the time being, it seems like streaming may fill that void.
Have you ever worked on a project that you weren’t excited about?
No, I love all my projects. [Winks]
How do you deal with something like that?
I think there are elements to every project that you can find that you like. Even if it’s a tougher team to work with or even if the music isn’t great, there are always parts of a project that you can find that you enjoy. I feel like the projects I’m most excited about I love the music on. I’m just really trying to dive into the music.
For me, some of the dance stuff wasn’t on the top of my list when I started, but after going to a bunch of their shows and hanging out with the artists and really getting involved in a collaborative environment, I feel like I’ve really gotten into to the music now.
Do you get tired of the music you’re working with? Do you hear it way too much?
We do hear it a lot. I would never say that I get sick of it. The same way that an artist at the end of a cycle is so excited to stop touring and go off the road because they might be sick of a song, I’ve seen a lot of shows many times on an album cycle. For me, it’s not sick of it, it’s like we’re celebrating a sendoff. It’s like celebrating that when you come back to us, there’s going to be a completely different set list and live show.
I know you travel a lot and you’re going to shows constantly. How hands on are you with the way that you work in terms of spending time with your artists and traveling with them?
That definitely varies project to project. There are some that I’m less involved and some that I’m more. With something like Vance Joy — that’s another one of my projects that I’m working on right now — I was in Texas with him. Vance Joy is supporting Taylor Swift all summer in stadiums around the US. It’s really fun to hang out with him now. We went and did some radio promotions and played a lounge performance and went out to lunch and then did another meet-and-greet. I always really enjoy those experiences hanging out with artists and I feel like a lot of really good ideas come from those interactions.
For Charli’s fall 2013 tour, I was running around New York doing a bunch of promo with her and I feel like when you have a personal relationship, that’s when you can really give an opinion on things and give guidance in the best way you can. Knowing them one-on-one; knowing their likes and dislikes. Part of my job sometimes is to say, “I know you’re tired, I know you want to sleep right now, but we’ve got to go do this radio thing.” Part of being a tour manager is saying, “We have to do this today. This is actually important.”
It seems like a lot of the work you’re doing straddles the line with what a publicist would do.
We’ve got a publicity department and a radio department and a video department that handles MTV, VH1 and all of that. My position is like a quarterback for a lot of that. Saying, “Hey, publicity, can we do this? Hey, radio, can we do that?” Connecting the dots. Our department usually has the relationships with artists and can help work on things like that. It’s not “are we doing things?” it’s “how are we doing them?” Connecting creative directors and choreographers and set designers. It’s kind of all over the place.
I think some of the most interesting jobs are the ones that don’t really have so much of a defined thing. That’s when you really get to explore and do other cool things. Do you ever bring talent to the table at Atlantic?
I have a few times. There have been a couple of artists I’ve suggested to A&R. Our A&R department is in charge of signing and helping to make records. There have been a couple of artists where I’ve said, “Hey, A&R, check this out because I’ve seen a lot of heat on this online and no one seems to be on it or someone tells me this is going to be a big thing.” A lot of times it will be a Spotify viral playlist or I’ll be reading through Pitchfork, Complex, Rolling Stone, Spin, Brooklyn Vegan, just to see what names I’m seeing repeats of. I’m trying to see who people are talking about and why they’re talking about them.
What would your advice be for young artists? How can they be heard?
There are so many young artists out there, I feel like now, more than ever. If you want to be heard, do something different and true to yourself and people will notice. Right now, there are so many dime a dozen bands trying to be the next Lumineers and that genre has all of the superstars it needs. Try something new. When you think of the most dynamic artists, they’re constantly reinventing themselves. When you look at true superstars like Justin Timberlake, he only has three records and they all sounds worlds apart. This is because he’s working with a diverse group of people to keep his sound on the cutting edge.
If you want to be heard, do something different and true to yourself and people will notice. Right now, there are so many dime a dozen bands trying to be the next Lumineers and that genre has all of the superstars it needs. Try something new.
What would your average day be?
In the morning, two days ago it was running out and doing a TV show with Vance Joy. Being at the TV, hanging out, making sure everything is going well, making sure that artists are comfortable in the environment that they’re in. Doing a TV show, having thirty people working on a show that you don’t know yelling at you to start to go to stage, just trying to make sure everyone is in their comfort zones. It could be going from morning TV show, coming to the office, working on a schedule for Charli XCX — we’re going to shoot a couple more magazine covers that are going to come out. Then we’ll have an artist come in the office or a manager come in the office to do a meeting or a lunch. Then I’ll go back and work on a marketing plan for Lykke Li at Radio City Music Hall to make sure that we’re selling all the tickets that we possibly can. Then I’ll go out that night to see whatever artist we have playing at Webster Hall. Days look like that a lot of times, where they’re stacked.
You’re working a lot of hours.
But it’s fun.
It’s not a job. It’s just part of your life.
And I feel like if I complained about it, it would be so unfair because there are so many people that want to work in the music industry, that if I complain for a second — and I have to stop myself sometimes — someone else can take my job in a heartbeat.
I understand. I feel like fashion is very similar.
If we do morning TV, I’m out the door at 7:30am or 8:00am, sometimes even earlier, and if we have a show I’ll get home at 1:00am or 2:00am in the morning. It’s all worth it.
What do you find to be the most challenging about your job?
Time management and prioritizing. I work on a roster of about 26 different artists right now, so finding time for everyone and juggling to make sure everyone gets exactly what they need, that’s definitely the hardest thing. Because we care, I’m not trying to clock out and walk out of the office at 7:00pm on the dot every night or 6:00pm or whatever. I’m working until the job gets done.
Do you ever feel like you have too much on your plate and you need to hand off to someone else? How much can you be working on at one time?
I’m very close to the maximum that I can be working on to still be effective. But I don’t feel overwhelmed. I used to when I first started because it was a lot all at once. But I’ve been able to get a grip on what needs to happen today and what can wait until tomorrow. But it’s also being on call at 2:00am when someone’s bus tire goes flat and they’re not going to make it to morning TV on time or radio or they miss a flight and figuring out what’s going to happen with that.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I really like getting to work with artists and getting to see their inception through completion. The Charli album, “Sucker,” we’ve been talking about this since April. I was in LA and she was like, “I’ve got this amazing album concept. It’s a great name and there are great visual components.” And then finally in September when we got the album artwork, I was like, “See, that’s awesome, because you had this idea back then and here it is. And it’s everything you wanted it to be. It’s so rewarding to get to see that — when an artist’s vision comes through and you get to be a part of that.
How do you handle challenging moments with your artists?
I’ve had moments that are challenge, but at the end of the day I have to remind myself why I’m doing this. There are a couple of things that have happened that are very challenging in the moment, but then you step back from it and you let everything roll off your shoulders, you don’t take anything personally — we’re all working together here — and then a week later it’s a funny story you can tell for some autobiography later.
I have to remember why I’m here. I’m not here because I need the job — well, I do need the job — but I’m here because I love it. Sometimes you have a rough day and I’ll come home and be bummed out for a while and then I’ll go for a run and I’ll be good.
You spoke a lot about your first boss being your mentor, do you feel like he’s still your mentor? Do you have a specific mentor?
I don’t feel like it’s one person anymore. Atlantic has been very inspiring for me. The caliber of the people that are working here is great. Steve was an amazing person to introduce me to a lot of people and show me how to carry myself in the industry and be respected. He was such a great first step for me.
But Atlantic has so many inspiring people. My boss, Harlan, has been working touring people for the last twenty years. He challenges me. Julie Greenwald, our chairman, has been in this industry forever and can call Jay Z up in a second and get him on the phone. Craid Kallman, who is the other chair of our company was one of the most revered club DJ’s in New York and truly has such a passion for music and making the best music that you possibly can. It’s really cool to see that. Some of our radio people will tell me stories about working with Tina Turner or the Spice Girls and it’s funny because I’m looking at all these people and I’m like, “You shaped my childhood.” Especially with the radio people, being like, “I liked the Spice Girls because you were doing this. Because you were telling me to like them.”
People aren’t going to approach you with things. If you have opinions, ask about them. Check peoples’ temperatures on them.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I think my dad gave me the best piece of advice, which was, “Never be afraid to ask.” People aren’t going to approach you with things. If you have opinions, ask about them. Check peoples’ temperatures on them. I feel like people in our generation, or people in the workplace in general, are scared to ask for things or scared to suggest things or scared to speak up. In doing that, either someone is going to hate you, or they’re going to respect the hell out of you. The answer is going to be either, “No, why would we do that?” or “That’s a great idea.” It’s important to take a risk like that, than to be a person sitting quietly and not speaking up.
What kind of money can you make in this industry?
Working in the music industry is just like working in fashion or TV — when you start out, you make no money. You rent an apartment out in Bushwick for a year and are scared to walk home at night because your train stop is very sketchy, but you do it because you love it. You don’t come into this industry to make money. There is money floating around in the music industry, but you don’t enter the music industry to make money. If you want to make money, go to law school. Go to business school. You can be successful in the music industry, but I don’t think that money is a key factor for most people in the music industry.
What would your advice be to people aspiring to work in the music industry?
There are two kinds of people: the people who want to work in the music industry because they hear that the music industry is so great and then there are people who love music. I fall into the second category, as do most of the inspiring people I’ve told you about — they’re all music lovers. If you love music and this is what you want to do, you have to figure it out. It’s probably going to be starting out as an assistant somewhere like a record label or a management agency or a publicist. Whatever it is, that’s how you need to get your foot in the door, but you can take that anywhere.
I’ve gone from an agency to a record label, and I’m doing a very non-traditional job at a record label that ten years ago would not have been what it is today. Maybe a management position like this exists because there is such a broad spectrum.
What’s your dream for your career?
It’s hard to say. My dream is to have as much of an impact on elementary school, middle school and high school kids and really make music as huge a part of their lives as it has been for mine. It’s shaped my life in many ways. Even if one person said to me, “Charli XCX’s ‘Sucker’ record was the best pop record I ever heard.” If I ever hear one person say that, I will have accomplished my dream. That’s all that I want. I just want people to love music the way that we do and the way that everyone at this company does.
Everyone talks about record labels like this big, bad machine that’s so corporate and has a horrible agenda. In actuality, we just want our artists to succeed. We want people to love our music. If we wanted to make a zillion dollars, we’d be working on Wall Street.
Check out other career posts here.