I recently got the chance to conduct an interview with music industry professional Ronnie Traynor, the general manager of artist management company Various Artist Management.
Just to begin, what is your current company of work and how would you really describe your position within the company?
Ok, so the company is Various Artists Management, which is a 360 full service music management/artist management company. I am a general manager of the company so i oversee a lot of the general running of the company, and I also am an artist manager and I have a roster of acts that I work across.
What kind of acts have you got?
So, we manage a range of artists across the board, we do Charli XCX, we do The Libertines, Barns Courtney, Tom Grennan, Spiritualized, Reverend and The Makers. Yeah we have about 25/26 acts. We also have a producer management side as well so we manage T Levi, who is currently producing the new Prodigy album and has done the Barns Courtney album and a bunch of other producers as well and then we have a brand partnership aid so we specialise in connecting brands with bands. So we have Tom Grennan who is launching a campaign, launching the new Audi which is coming and is going to be launched in Copenhagen next month. Yeah and we are doing Charli XCX who is working with Moschino and Ciroc Vodka so we have a brand partnership section here as well.
Thats interesting, so one of the next questions is how do you develop relationships with your clients?
How do we develop them, in terms of how do we find them? or how do we work with them on a day to day basis?
Artists come to us or we find artists in various different ways. One of our specialities as a management company is we look after heritage acts for example acts who maybe have been given so the popularity of Spotify, opens up the audience who can consume music so like older consumers. Its much easier to access so older generations can get back into the music they were into when they were young so we do a lot of older acts, were doing the 80s and we’ve just done Shed Seven and Milburn, and we do Reverend and The Makers and Spiritualized we took on. So those acts, those heritage acts come to us via lawyers etc. We have younger up and coming acts, so we are either approached directly because they know we manage other acts so they find our email and have got solicitor to say hey this is my band, can you have a listen. So a new young act I’ve just took on called Millie Go Lightly, she literally emailed me a bunch of tracks, said ‘hey my names Millie this is my story’ we ended up taking her on, literally we just got her in for a meeting and thats how that happened. We have scouts so we have young kids going out, going to kids and we’ve got a guy in the office and thats what he does really and then he comes back and tells us ‘I’ve seen these bands this week, these two are really really good, maybe we should check them out’ so various methods of how we actually find and take acts on.
On a day to day basis, each act has a manager, we tend to have more than one manager for each act, so we sort of spread the work load so people can be placed at different times so most acts have one to two main managers so work across them and each act also has what we call a day to day manager so the manager works across sort of overall artist career strategy so that’s everything from brokering record deals, publishing deals, and working with labels collaboratively so working on creation of the music, finding producers, finding writers and getting out the recordings that are mixed and mastered and working collaboratively again with the artist and the label in terms of marketing, PR and all the sort of promotion around the release. We manage relationships with all the DSP’s (Digital Service Providers) so we pitch directly to Spotify, to Apple Music etc. So the managers on the overall artist career liaison, to all the different stakeholders so the live agents to work across their live career and the day to day managers deal with the artists every day needs so travel, getting to sessions, and anything we need help with so collating information monthly, and the rights to information etc. They’re the sort of administration/assistants on the everyday stuff for the artist and manager’s needs.
As a manager yourself do you think having a professional relationship with those you are managing or more of an informal and understanding relationship works better?
It’s a combination of the two, you can’t really have one without the other. So the way we tend to work with artists when we find artists, we tend to not to get anyone to sign a management contract for a good few months until we work out whether there is a kind of relationship and whether we can work together, its very much a relationship based business. You need to be able to talk and you have to be very honest with them about stuff, you need to be able to have the relationship where you can be honest with the acts and you can look at things that doesn’t work like that outfit doesn’t work, or that song doesn’t sound great, sometimes its quite tough. Yeah, you need to have a comfortable enough relationship/friendship that you can talk honestly about stuff. On the flip side it is very important that there is a professional relationship in place, after all the artist is giving 20% of their income to the management and trust them to have belief that they can look after and are doing the best job for them in terms of getting the best deals and making sure money is being spent correctly so there has to both sides of the coin, theres not one without the other. I recently was working an act that was a songwriter who was a very very talented songwriter but we just didn’t click, he was having a lot of personal problems and XYZ but we didn’t have a relationship where I could talk to him and therefore we decided to part ways because it just wasn’t working.
That leads on to, as a manager as well are there any particular principles that you swear by or have carried through your career? I know you’ve worked in quite a number of companies are there any particular principles that you stick to?
I suppose honesty, working within a business where you have to be very very honest. I always worked in creative industries and its always kind of been music related so music is quite a hard one sometimes because most music is very personal and some people like some things and others don’t like other things so sometimes you have to look at something objectively and be able to give honest feedback as to how it works within that project. It might be something that maybe something that I personally may not listen to but i need to be able to look at it in a commercial sense and whether its going to help this persons career and therefore I have to brutally honest and totally honest with them. Theres no point in lying or being scared to be truthful because it could damage their career or the project. When I choose acts to work on a projects for brands, I have to be very confident its the right act for the brand so I suppose honesty and integrity. You also must be hardworking because people are relying on you, its small businesses and a relationship based business and I have to make sure we are working and putting the hours in and we are there for the artists, because I’m not working for a big corporation with a big salary and doing the basic 9-5, its a 24/7 job and you have to put the hours in. You’ve got to be very hardworking and willing to go the extra mile, we’ve had people come work for us and we always say to them this isn’t a 9-5/10-6 business, I could get home at 11:00 at night and if my artist is in LA I could be talking to them til 11 or 12 or 1 o clock in the morning, or if something goes wrong and my phone rings in the middle of the night you have to be there but it is also a lot of fun.
From looking at your linkedIn, in university you didn’t do a music based degree, do you have any advice for young women looking to enter the music industry and grow into managerial positions?
When I went into university they didn’t really do music based degrees, so I did a degree in Italian but I was Djing and I was very much involved in music scenes around my university and was doing music related stuff. I then went to work in music TV and then went into music after that. Thinking about it, we have a mix of people here some with degrees, we have a girl who came from LIPA so from a music university and then we have people like me who just have non-music based degrees. I think the advice to be given is first and foremost you need a passion for music and not just passion for music but a passion for the industry because its an industry that changes constantly, its literally week to week and year on year. We had a meeting this morning with one of our social media team who are working across our acts, and even down to the content, at the moment its all video based content for Instagram and that could change again. We are constantly looking, you’ve got to constantly keep up with the way technology changes, so that impacts how music is consumed and how music is marketed and how music is sold. So, having a passion for music and having a passion for technology these days and constantly keeping up with the changes in it. What other advice? I suppose having a passion for it, it’s not quick or easy and its very different to 20 years ago. It’s harder to break artists these days, there’s a lot of artists out there and the amount of artists you crossover to make big bucks or to become globally known names is a lot more difficult because there’s so many more access points to market, it’s a lot more difficult to make it big. So, a passion and then just making sure you’re connecting and speaking up and making sure you’re heard and you think your opinions are viable and you’re not afraid to just speak your mind because there’s a lot of big shouty men in this industry and you have to be not afraid to speak up.