‘It is a Herculean task, managing an artist in 2021.’


MBW’s World’s Greatest Managers sequence profiles the very best artist managers in the worldwide enterprise. Here, we converse to Matt Colon, supervisor of famous person producer and DJ Steve Aoki, and Global President of Music of expertise administration agency YM&U. Colon’s music profession began in the late ‘90s as an intern for Def Jam, before he worked at seminal L.A electronic label Moonshine Music. He has managed superstar DJ Steve Aoki since 2005, and in 2017, sold the management company he co-founded, Deckstar, to YM&U in a deal worth north of $20 million. Now, as the newly-promoted Global President of Music at YM&U Group, Colon is leading the growth strategy for the organization. World’s Greatest Managers is supported by Centtrip, a specialist in clever treasury, funds and international alternate – created with the music trade and its wants in thoughts.

It’s hardly a shock that Collins Dictionary has named ‘NFT’ as its 2021 phrase of the yr.

There had been different contenders, in fact, with phrases like ‘metaverse’ and ‘crypto’ making the lengthy checklist, highlighting a shift to mainstream consciousness of digital ideas first popularized on the fringes of the web.

In music, NFTs have grown from a buzzy novelty to a critical multi-million-dollar enterprise in the house of 12 months – and expertise administration agency YM&U is on the centre of this explosion.

“Right now, we are easily the biggest management company in the NFT space,” says YM&U’s Matt Colon, who till not too long ago was the agency’s Managing Director of US Music.

Now, having been promoted to Global President of Music, Colon is tasked with main YM&U’s international technique and collaboration between its UK and US Music divisions, whose mixed rosters embody stars like Common, Steve Aoki, blink-182, Travis Barker, 3LAU, Gary Barlow, Years & Years and Jesy Nelson.

Colon joined YM&U Group in 2017, when his administration agency Deckstar – which he created in 2007 together with Steve Aoki, Lawrence Vavra, Paul Rosenberg, and the late DJ AM – was acquired by UK-born expertise administration agency James Grant Group, which subsequently rebranded as YM&U after promoting a majority stake in its enterprise to personal fairness agency Trilantic.

In spite of getting generated “north of $30 million in NFTs” this yr throughout the corporate’s shoppers, YM&U’s international music boss refuses to take credit score for this meteoric achievement.

“Is [the success] because we’re geniuses, and because we’re so tech forward, and we saw this trend coming? Absolutely not,” he tells us.

“It’s because we had a couple of artists obsessed with crypto that may not have been our highest earners, but we showed them all the same attention that we showed to those [high] earners. We supported them in their journey. They discovered NFTs, and we supported them.”

That assist has led to YM&U artist and NFT pioneer 3LAU (Justin Blau) making over $20 million in main gross sales from his personal NFT releases this yr. Plus, 3LAU’s blockchain-based music funding start-up Royal, which presents fractional music possession of music by its personal model of NFTs, has simply raised $55 million in Series A funding.

“You can only be an expert in so many things. We’re knowledge pooling and resource pooling. That’s where we’re going to find success.”

Matt Colon

Colon’s long-term famous person consumer, producer, DJ and Dim Mak label founder Steve Aoki, has additionally been a main advocate for the probabilities of the NFT house. Back in March, Aoki’s Dream Catcher NFT artwork assortment sale remodeled $4 million, with $888,888.88 paid for a single NFT by former T-Mobile boss John Legere.

Aoki has additionally launched his personal NFT platform, OddKey, in partnership with comedian e book creator Todd McFarlane. Colon theorizes that NFTs have the potential to be a single system that ties collectively all of the “disparate activities in an artist’s life” in at the moment’s music ecosystem, from fanbase constructing throughout social platforms to neighborhood administration and monetization.

“They are smart contracts, which can also be social contracts, and you can give access to a fan through an NFT,” he explains. “It doesn’t have to be your logo spinning in 3D space for $1,000. You’re going to see a lot of changes in the NFT space in the near future. You’re going to see some big projects that will turn music on its head.”

Looking to the long run – and commenting on his new remit in our large ranging interview under – Colon tells us that, on the core of YM&U’s technique going ahead, is to have a international footprint.

He’s betting that his agency’s triumphs will come from “having more expertise in house, by being more geographically diverse, more ethnically diverse, and more genre-diverse”.

“It’s just so difficult as an individual manager these days,” he provides.

“You can only be an expert in so many things. We’re knowledge pooling and resource pooling. That’s where we’re going to find success. The world has become too big and too interconnected for any one person to keep track of it all. It is a Herculean task, managing an artist in 2021.”

You’re now Global President of Music at YM&U. What will that new title entail?

It’s actually two-fold. It’s about growth and syncing up our workplaces. We have an L.A, a London and a New York workplace [across] our US and our UK divisions. There was a want to work collectively, however there wasn’t essentially a imaginative and prescient on learn how to do it. Most administration firms went by a fairly powerful time as COVID progressed.

Most of these firms will not be constructed to resist that type of monetary stress. Most made it by, due to authorities assist, and we’re not excluded from that. But what we additionally had was a diversified enterprise outdoors of strictly music, together with leisure, sports activities, social, enterprise administration and accountancy.

Those companies didn’t endure in the identical manner music did, so we had the good thing about a ‘high tides raise all ships’ mentality. Everyone chipped in to verify everybody was afloat, understanding that if we made it to the opposite aspect, we’d be in a stronger place. Right now, everybody is making an attempt to place their firms again collectively and get their artists again on the highway.

We’ve hit the bottom operating. 2021 could also be considered one of our most worthwhile years ever on the music aspect, between NFTs and a diversified roster that’s already touring, between non-public gigs [and] new sources of revenue by digital performances. With the wind on our backs we noticed it as an alternative to develop the enterprise into the imaginative and prescient that we put forth firstly.

COVID has additionally allowed us to develop with out having to fret about geographic limitations. Previously you needed to stay in L.A or London, or perhaps New York. We’ve been capable of rent the very best which are on the market no matter the place they stay, no matter what time zone they’re in. The purpose is to develop geographically and to develop in phrases of range of sounds and workers.

What do you search for in new managers to rent and the way a lot of a observe file ought to they’ve had earlier than you take into account taking them on?

We don’t signal managers for his or her roster, we signal managers for who they’re. We have employed extra managers who had lacklustre rosters, however had been spectacular professionally, spectacular strategically and well-liked in the trade. It’s not tough to seek out somebody who has a large consumer base and write them a large verify. There’s no artwork to that.

We take perhaps extra of a Moneyball method to it. Every considered one of our managers has realized the onerous manner that you may lose a consumer in a heartbeat. [Artists] would possibly simply get up on the mistaken aspect of the mattress. The nice managers will at all times discover the subsequent large factor. Our purpose is to guess on these managers, and belief that they’ll discover the artists.

We take a look at it from a human perspective. Next, we take a look at it academically. What is their information base? What is their community? Do they’ve expertise that we lack? Lastly, we take a look at their roster and we take a look at their revenue stream. We’ve handed on managers who would have added 25-50% of our personal revenue, simply because there wasn’t a want to work with them. If we’re not working collectively, what are we right here for?

YM&U’s music roster holds a broad spectrum of genres, from Rancid, to Greg Graffin to famous person DJs and producers like Steve Aoki. What do you search for in an artist to work with?

What are the connecting traits? Obviously, success begets success. You have success with someone like Steve Aoki and also you get extra shoppers in the dance music house. Also, success offers expertise, however on the finish of day, you’re in search of nice artists. The overwhelming majority of the managers [at YM&U] are between their 20s and 40s, so all of us grew up in the post-CD technology, listening to our iTunes on shuffle.

An important instance is Kevin [Wolff] – the person who manages Rancid additionally manages Common. He’s a nice supervisor and he loves each genres. Music is music. To handle a nice musician, you simply must know their viewers. If you possibly can determine who that viewers is, learn how to attain them authentically, the style doesn’t matter.

The instruments are the identical. What’s totally different is learn how to converse authentically to that artist’s fan base. If you are able to do that, on the finish of the day, all we’re doing is empowering artists. We’re amplifying their voices. We really feel totally succesful that we will handle a nation artist, a Latin artist, a jazz artist, a bluegrass artist, with the identical staff. It’s nearly time, dedication and authenticity.

How has your view on administration advanced from whenever you guys first began Deckstar again in 2006?

For one, the instruments have advanced. There’s at all times some indicators, whether or not it’s Shazam, or extra recently TikTook. In the previous it was Facebook. There was a day when it was MyArea. There are locations the place individuals uncover new music and historically we’ve liked to have a look at these indicators and try to discover issues early. But as a rule, you simply hear one thing and also you’re moved by it. Then you meet the artist and it goes again to what I used to be saying about our supervisor philosophy: It comes all the way down to the particular person.

Life is too brief to cope with someone that you simply don’t take pleasure in [working with]. It is very simple to signal an [artist] consumer, it is very tough to drop them. People hardly ever discuss that. Once you’re working with a consumer, the place all of the our bodies are buried. You know the highs, the lows, whether or not or not they will pay their hire, if they’ve youngster assist. I’ve toiled for months, typically years, over learn how to drop a consumer, since you get emotionally connected. It’s the closest relationship they’ve.

And for us it is by no means a contractual one. It’s not like an legal professional or an agent who can simply say, “Sorry, our contract’s up.” We’re those who speak to the agent, the legal professional, the publicists. What I’m saying is, it actually comes all the way down to the particular person. It’s good to love the music, however what’s extra necessary is you consider in the artist. What’s actually paramount is, does the artist consider in themselves?

Do they need it? Do they wish to put in the effort and time? We don’t signal shoppers as a result of they make a ton of cash, as a result of they’ll simply fireplace you the subsequent day in any case when you’re not doing a good job. You signal artists due to the particular person they’re. The supervisor can’t need the artist to be a star greater than the artist does.

How do you strike a steadiness between being mates with shoppers and likewise having a skilled relationship, particularly in terms of making tough choices?

Sometimes it’s simpler than different instances. There are sure shoppers who you develop very near, that you simply maintain on to for years and years simply since you turn out to be mates and also you simply wish to assist them in their careers, come rain or shine. It’s necessary to be self-aware. More typically than not, I prefer to say we are sometimes saving the artists from themselves. I’ve mentioned many instances [to artists], “As your friend, this is what I would do. As your manager, this is what you should do”.

Artists… anyone, appreciates a multi-multifaceted method. They wish to hear the professionals and the cons. Should an artist pay their whole tour crew their wages when a tour is cancelled due to COVID? Probably not. You don’t know when [touring will] come again. There’s no upside to this. But on the human degree, is that the precise factor to do?

Some [artists] are very rich, however nonetheless, a million-dollar verify is a million-dollar verify. And a few of them [live] hand to mouth as effectively and nonetheless make that call, like “I want to support my crew because: (a) I’m going to want to work with them again; and (b) on a human level, I want to do the right thing.” And as a supervisor, that’s the place you possibly can say, “You can pay this much, or you can pay that much, but as a friend, if it were me, this is what I would do”.

YM&U entered the NFT sector early on this yr notably with 3LAU and Steve Aoki – with profitable outcomes. How large do you suppose the music NFT house can get?

The music portion of NFTs is extraordinarily underdeveloped. There are a handful of individuals, 3LAU included, which are actually pushing the boundaries of what a music NFT is and what it means.

The overwhelming majority see it as a money seize, like promoting ringtones; simply one other approach to earn money off music. It doesn’t take a lot thought or vitality. Make a cool graphic, promote it along with your title. They see it like they’re promoting merch. I see the chance as a lot larger than that. I see it as tokenizing neighborhood and entry.

“The music portion of NFTs is extremely underdeveloped. The vast majority see it as a cash grab, like selling ringtones; just another way to make money off music.”

Things are being developed so rapidly that if I had been a musician, truthfully, I most likely wouldn’t do NFTs simply but. But in the subsequent two to 4 months, so many issues are coming on-line.

You’ve seen bands like The Grateful Dead or Fish create these hyper-engaged communities. But it’s important to get so large to do this. We’re coming to a place [with NFTs] the place you possibly can create a micro-community. You see it on locations like Patreon, the place you possibly can have 5,000 followers, they’ll pay a month-to-month service payment, and you may really maintain a enterprise that manner. Patreon [is] a actually cool mannequin, however NFTs can open that up even wider.

Steve Aoki launched an NFT platform and we’re seeing different artists make investments in NFT platforms too. What are the advantages for an artist of proudly owning a platform?

There was a second in March, April the place a bunch of artists and musicians made a ton of cash promoting NFTs. Then most of them left the house. They made the cash and left as a result of in the end these NFTs didn’t maintain worth. There was no thought behind it. There’s no utility to these NFTs. They would possibly as effectively have been enamel pins.

A handful of artists, Steve included, caught with the house and stored creating, stored iterating. What most individuals have found out is music NFTs are completely underdeveloped, so the higher guess for a musician is to guess on a platform and empower your self and different musicians to maintain experimenting. It’s higher to guess on the neighborhood than to guess on your self.

Credit: Caspar Camille Rubin

You talked about Patreon. What do you concentrate on the potential that Twitch has for neighborhood constructing and monetization in at the moment’s music enterprise?

The jury is nonetheless out, if I’m being actually sincere. There is a neighborhood on Twitch, however there’s not a sturdy music neighborhood on Twitch.

The common music listener isn’t there. It isn’t some place that you simply typically go to since you wish to hear music. It’s typically a gaming platform. There are tons of individuals which are into eSports in gaming, that additionally love music.

And there are additionally musicians that specialize in music for that viewers and that do fairly effectively. And [on that score], we’re large Twitch supporters.

Steve’s an monumental gamer. He owns an eSports firm, and we’ve finished loads of stay performances, as has his label on Twitch. I don’t suppose the mannequin has been totally labored out but. There’s one thing round it that goes again to the Patreon thought; that subscription mannequin and creating micro-communities.

With the rise of the DIY artist sector in thoughts, how does the position of a supervisor or a administration firm match into at the moment’s music trade?

That’s a nice query. It makes administration a lot extra necessary. There’s positively a world the place you possibly can say, ‘I don’t want a supervisor. My file label does all the things and my agent books my reveals.’ But even the most important artists at the moment are taking extra management of their careers. It’s all turning into DIY. How do you handle all that stuff?

“Artists are called artists for a reason; they’re creating art. Artists should not have the time to manage a business on top of creating art. If they do, typically the art suffers.”

Artists are known as artists for a purpose; they’re creating artwork. Artists mustn’t have the time to handle a enterprise on high of making artwork. If they do, sometimes the artwork suffers. The position of a supervisor has turn out to be exponentially extra necessary as a result of now we’re operating whole companies. We’re not simply telling a label when to place one thing out, or when to tour.

We’re launching Kickstarters every single day. I imply that figuratively. We’re creating new IP, new concepts, making new partnerships. We’re making an attempt to show over each rock to seek out new sources of revenue.

There’s a lot extra alternative and so many extra methods to interrupt an artist than there was once, however it’s additionally exhausting and time-intensive. It is subsequent to inconceivable for anyone particular person to try to do all of it, a lot much less a staff and positively not an artist on their very own.

Following on from that, from a supervisor’s perspective, what is the position of the file label in at the moment’s music enterprise?

It’s altering, quickly. It is determined by the artist. If you wish to be a Top 40 Pop artist, the position of the file label is essential. One factor the labels have higher than all people else is entry to the streaming companies.

They even have, oftentimes, financing that you simply don’t in any other case have entry to. Obviously a lot of those platforms we’re speaking about are primarily different types of financing. But not each artist is constructed to be on Patreon, or has a neighborhood to assist finance them.

“Labels can take punts and spend money on things. The great labels still have good A&R. They still bring ideas to the table.”

Labels can take punts and spend cash on issues. The nice labels nonetheless have good A&R. They nonetheless carry concepts to the desk. The labels that I take pleasure in working with essentially the most, it has nothing to do with the cash.

It has to do with, ‘Do they actually contribute to the process, or am I just going to them for approval of our ideas?’ If that’s the case, except there is a ginormous verify concerned, you’re simply creating a new degree of approval. You’re simply creating a velocity bump in the method. There are loads of artists that don’t want labels. There are different sources of revenue. There are different methods to construct neighborhood.

There are different methods to finance artwork. That doesn’t imply that labels don’t have a place, however the label’s place in music is altering.

UnitedMasters not too long ago introduced that they’ll begin paying artists in cryptocurrency and EMPIRE not too long ago paid an artist a $1 million advance in Bitcoin. How do you foresee using crypto shaping the enterprise?

There’s a good story to be instructed in regards to the adoption of cryptocurrency. Our artist RAC was the primary artist to promote his album on the blockchain, in 2017 or 2018, We offered his album for Ethereum. It took months and months to clarify to his label on the time what it was and why we’re doing it. All to promote 100 albums! It was equal to love $2,000 on the time.

Now, granted that $2,000 is most likely $40,000 or $50,000 [today], however it was a small step. The examples you’re giving are simply an increasing number of endorsement. More importantly, the query will probably be, ‘How does the blockchain empower music?

How does it solve some of the problems with opaqueness in accounting, lack of transparency with royalty payments and royalty tracking?’ All of these items are solvable on the blockchain. It’s simply how rapidly are the powers that be going to interact? Not a lot will occur with out the most important labels collaborating.

What would you alter about at the moment’s music enterprise and why?

I want that there was a higher manner for communities or followers to dictate recognition. It’s largely primarily based on algorithms telling us what we ought to be listening to, or what different individuals are listening to.

“I wish that there was a better way for communities or fans to dictate popularity.”

We nonetheless depend on radio, we nonetheless depend on playlisting, we nonetheless depend on largely main labels, placing up the funds and giving entry.

I want there was an simpler manner for the general public to find music, to finance music, and for that music to achieve success with out all these intermediaries taking a lower and inserting themselves, for higher or worse.

What’s the very best recommendation that you simply’ve ever been given in this enterprise, and what recommendation would you give to someone developing in the artist administration world?

The greatest recommendation I’ve been given was when a buddy of mine mentioned that his mom at all times instructed him, ‘Find something you love so much, that you do it for free, and then find someone to pay you for doing it.’ I used to be making nice cash popping out of school and dealing at a dot com. I made a decision to give up that job so I might stay, barely paycheck to paycheck, as an entry degree music intern.

“If you want to be a manager, find artists out there. There’s no school for it. Most of us in the music industry did not come out of college and get a job at a record label. Almost everyone I know did something for free in the music industry for years before someone paid them to do it.”

But I liked music, I didn’t care how a lot I made. I didn’t care that I might solely afford to eat baggage of popcorn for dinner; I used to be working in music. Lots of people come to the music trade for the standing, the movie star and the social flex. I simply love music, and if that’s your guiding mild, then success will discover you. For someone who desires to get into the trade. Number one, don’t say ‘No’.

The reply is at all times, ‘Yes’, even when it’s one thing you don’t wish to do. You by no means know what it is going to result in. And then past that, simply begin doing it. You don’t want to attend for somebody to present you a job. If you wish to be a supervisor, discover artists on the market. There’s no college for it. Most of us in the music trade didn’t come out of school and get a job at a file label. Almost everybody I do know did one thing without spending a dime in the music trade for years earlier than somebody paid them to do it. My recommendation is, simply do it. Work for anybody who will take you.

A specialist in intelligent treasury, payments and foreign exchange, Centtrip works with over 500 global artists helping them and their crew maximise their income and reduce touring costs with its award-winning multi-currency card and market-leading exchange rates. Centtrip also offers record labels, promoters, collection societies and publishers a more cost-effective way to send payments across the globe.Music Business Worldwide

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