Insights into the music business from a genius music manager

I was so excited to meet someone, who really has a great knowledge about the business, since I had really no idea about it, before I’ve started the blog. His friendly and open personality was very striking and I was really impressed of his career and his drive.

Lara: Hi Sebastian, could you please introduce yourself and tell me about your job?

Sebastian: My name is Sebastian, I live in Berlin and London and I work as a music manager. I’ve got a management partner in Nashville, USA, and we take care of several artists, songwriters, and producers in the US, the UK and Canada. Our main client is a songwriter-producer, named Sasha Skarbek, who lives in London. He created some singles for James Blunt, Miley Cyrus, Adelle, Jason Mraz and many more. Our concept is finding young artists, ideally between 14 and 17 years, and developing them together with producers until they are ready to release their music. This can be done in many different ways. My main job is artist management. Right now we are managing three artists, Millie Turner, a young artist from London, the band Dubé from Canada and the singer Emily Krueger, also from Canada.

Lara: How did you get into the music business?

Sebastian: I’ve been playing music all my life. I played the piano and I also graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Piano in Frankfurt. For my Master, I went to London to study Music Management. During this time I made an internship at a management, called Machine Management (producer of Clean Bandit, Years&Years, Mika etc.). After that I was very convinced to get into the music business. Through connections, I got to know the manager of Sasha Skarbek, who is called Micheal Dickson. He invited me to come to the US and I have been following him for over 6 months. He introduced me to a lot of people in the business. Then I started a day-to-day business for Alec Benjamin from LA and after a while, we’ve started to manage people by ourselves. Well, that’s how I slipped into the music industry.

Lara: How do you scout new artists?

Sebastian: On the one hand, we’ve got a big network, because we are already well known, especially Mike, who has been knowing the business for 30 years. But on the other hand, I’m actually looking for new artists on social media platforms like Soundcloud, Youtube and Instagram. I found Emily Krueger on Soundcloud three years ago. So I used to regularly browse through the channels. By now I’ve got an intern, who has taken over this task.

Lara: How do you recognize talent?  Are there any criteria?

Sebastian: It all starts with the musicality, because other things like a certain look, how to move, how to speak and so on, these are the things, that you can develop over time. And the person must be really unique and outstanding. This can be shown in a really unique voice or a special style of production. The best age for an artist is from 14 to 16, that’s actually our target group because if you find a person, that is one of a kind, it will take 1-2 years to find the matching producer, to let the people find and define their own style. That’s definitely the must-have! But also the personality plays a role, can the artist inspire his audiences? Here is my favorite example: If I meet an artist for only a few minutes and after that, I’ll immediately think that I want to be friends with him because his personality is so amazing. And I think that’s how fans see their idols. They stand out, there is something special about them, that you’ll notice very easily.

Lara: What about the promotion? What are the possibilities?

Sebastian: We start with the artist development before we can release something. We align the artist with several songwriters, ideally one artist with one songwriter. Normally the artist needs to write about 30 songs with different people to identify his style. Assumed this process is over and the artist offers about 5 songs, that are ready to release, there are different options. The traditional way is going to a major label, for example, Universal, Sony, and Warner. If the label likes to music, the artist will be signed and the label will take care of the artist’s marketing. But that changed a lot, nowadays he has to do many things on his own. The major labels normally just sign people, who had already proven that their style had worked in the market because the labels don’t have huge capacities anymore. So our way is a partnership with label service companies, basically distribution companies, but everything is now done online, so they don’t cost a lot. There are different online distribution sites, for example, tunecore and distrokid. You can upload your song for around 10€ and then it is going to be uploaded to the major digital stores and streaming services. That’s the infrastructure on how to get the music in the store. The label services companies are a mixture between distribution company and label, they distribute music and they provide some money for marketing purposes, that means you can create cool videos, photos, maybe a PR campaign, that ensures the promotion of your single in blogs. The artist can also put the money in social media campaigns, but first we try to build up the profile in these channels, to transfer his brand image. At best he has already a fan base. I’ll give you the example of Millie Turner: Two years ago we released her first song, together with the label service “awal”. The deal was about 4 songs and one EP, for 10.000 Pounds, that we’ve used for PR, Mixing, Videos and Photos. My main marketing challenge is to put the songs into playlists from Spotify etc. It can be done by a distribution company, but we do it ourselves. We have a lot of valuable connections to Spotify and Apple Music, so we play the music to them. That’s the beginning and after a while, the interest is going to rise. In the case of Millie Turner, after the release of the first single, we got noticed by the press, for example, the Fader, Vice, Nylon Magazine, Wonderland, Best Fit, so that has led to mouth advertising in the industry and suddenly every major label wanted to sign Millie. We’ve managed to create a hype around her. Now two years later we’ve signed a complete label deal, still with the same company, but with much more better payment. In contrast to major labels we still own the song rights, because when you sign with them, you’ll lose every right. From now on there is definitely more money involved, the marketing is done through the radio in England. If someday the artist enjoys his own radio promoters in every country, the press will be expanded, better videos will be created and so on.

Lara: What has changed in the industry in the last years? Do you think the business is harder now?

Sebastian: I would say yes and no. It has never been easier for artists to produce and publish their music because there is no need for a big investment. There are programs like Logic Pro X and FL Studio, with which the artist can produce the music on his computer and don’t need a studio anymore. The distribution is almost for free or maybe 10€ per year. So everything that you’ve needed in the past, for example, the distribution of CDs, becomes no longer necessary. That means it is definitely easier for artists, but as a consequence, there is much more music in the market, so you have to be really unique. When it comes to the marketing process it is way more difficult to stand out of the mass. With the help of social media, the artist can do the marketing by himself. So to conclude it I would say its easier, but you definitely have to be more patient.

Lara: What are your future plans?

Sebastian: My main goal is to get one of the three artists, that I’ve mentioned, to the top ten artists worldwide. They are all signed at labels, but no one knows if they can reach this goal. I want to get one to the top and then strengthen his management. That would be amazing!

Lara: Wow, thank you so much for your time!

Sebastian: No problem!

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