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Industry Insight: The Interview Series 3 – Music Management

Questions.

Insights.

One professional.

With music industry experts providing thoughtful discussions from insightful queries, we take a deeper look into how it all works.

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Managing It All: How Do You Measure Success?

Mando Chastouki – Music Artist Manager / Radio Plugger / PR Manager / Owner of The Lyst Records

Current Roster: Beth Hirsch, 88/89, Orbital Junction

Next in the series, we fall into music management in the music industry. From working alongside individuals in PR, radio production, record management and the artists themselves, it is safe to say that our next speaker has had her fair share of invested experience in the music industry.

From originally operating in Athens, Greece to finally moving to London to search for more answers in big investing companies, it allowed Mando to land exclusive roles in directly managing three completely different bands in three completely different genres – which pretty much equates to three different markets to tap into.

For someone who had dabbled in so many sectors of the industry, and has no intentions of stopping anytime soon by delving into the possibilities of sync and brand partnership, I just had to get some insight from herself.

So we hopped on a Zoom call and this what we talked about. With this one going into more detail than ever, I sincerely hope you guys pick up some insightful tips and tricks along the way…

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Questions:

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start out?

Why do you think the music industry has such a “closed door” ethic to it?

What’s the best advice you ever got from someone?

Is moving to London the only way to “make it” in the industry?

How difficult was it at first to establish connections with people in the industry?

What don’t you like about the music industry?

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Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start out?

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“I always wanted to be in the music industry since I was a teenager. So, I studied music theory and classical musicology […] I started working finding a path in Greece, because it’s a local market we don’t have the same opportunity or education – sometimes you’ve gotta figure it out yourself. So I started working with Jazz, even though I was never in to Jazz.

Because I was playing the double bass, I met many jazz players and since Jazz doesn’t have much money, I figured they could use some help. And I had wanted to be music management, so I was like, “ok, that is like, going to be my internship…”

So, I started managing jazz artists and when you’re at a grassroots level, you have to do a bit of everything so I became a booking agent and a tour manager […] and then in order to make some money, I helped them with their session careers as well, as most of them would play for pop stars as part of their big bands.

Then, I built my own record label just to help the jazz musicians release their music safely under a jazz umbrella.

So, I learnt by doing and making mistakes and I had no clue what I was doing.

I did that for a two/three years and I was like, ‘I now know the basics, I know what’s going on’. And so I thought to myself I need to go somewhere where music happens. So, shortly after, I applied for a masters in music business management at University of Westminster.

And I was lucky enough that they gave me a scholarship. So, I did my masters and did an internship in Solar Management. They manage producers and music engineers, [they were a] really lovely bunch. From then on, I was trying to find my way.

… In the music industry, there are some people that are very specific, they come with a very specific dream and they might follow it all the way, they might change.

But at least they know where they are going.

… Me? I wanted to do everything. Maybe that’s a reason why I am a manager, because managers do everything. Do everything, possibly because they don’t know what they are doing most of the time – believe me! Even for many years they don’t make money, except if they’re really lucky!

I did this internship, then worked with a PR agency and a radio plugger. I learnt how to do PR and radio, which is not my speciality I wanted to follow – but it is so needed in the industry. I have a big passion for royalties, rights, collecting societies, so basically – everything you consider boring, I like it!

At the moment I manage three completely different acts, in different genres, in different stages of their career. For two of them, I have a co-manager because it is just too much. I also work for Big Indie records, where they have me because I do a little bit of everything. So I am the press radio representative, artistry relations and I help acts with management even though I’m not their manager manager, but more like in-house.

I’m trying to work my way into sync and brand partnerships, too. I really love that sector of the industry.”

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Why do you think the music industry has such a “closed door” ethic to it?

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“I don’t think the industry has a closed door as such […] I think that’s a myth. But I do think that some sectors of the industry are closed and sync is one of them.

Sync is very difficult to break.

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Why do you think that is?

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“It is down to the fact that they are combining more than one industry.

You have film, you have advertising, you have gaming these days. And it takes two sides to work. So, you might not know music but know people from Coca-Cola, or from Gucci and that just might be enough to start somewhere.

It’s the same with music supervising, it doesn’t just take knowing music and how to edit music for film, you also need a very good understanding and networking in the film industry. Because you wouldn’t be a music supervisor for a music company most of the time. You would be the music supervisor for a movie production.

So it’s different networks, a different language and something that is very difficult to do yourself to start freelancing on it. You would have to gather a catalogue of music that you can license that is one stop. And then you would have to gather all these contacts together … ”

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What’s the best advice you ever got from someone?

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“It didn’t come necessarily from the music industry – but it applies the most to the industry. Just do things. It’s really that, just do, you know? You can think for ages, you can make amazing careful plans, but the music industry is an industry that requires networking and timing.

And it requires experience. And experience doesn’t necessarily mean I ‘have 20 years on my back in Universal Music’. Experience means I was there, I happened to see this, hear this. Witness something. So yeah, you can apply for jobs, and build your CV, can do degrees and all that.

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to doing things.

Y’know if you have the time and somebody says, do you want to help me with that? If you can participate in a project, do it.

If you meet an industry professional and says, ‘can you help me today, I have back-to-back meetings’, go to see how it goes.

Why? Because – just do it, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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Is moving to London the only way to “make it” in the industry?

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“I’ve been trying to answer this question for a long time. I never wanted to live in London. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunities are amazing, the music scene is amazing. But personally, it’s not my city, you know? So you always think to yourself, where am I going to settle?

It all depends on what do you mean by “making it” in the music industry. There are people that for them, success is to be involved. Or for musicians, to be heard.

So I know both musicians and professionals that are happy that they have an audience or are happy that they are running a small record label. And they still have another job on the side.

For them, the fact that their niche metal label is known … or the band is known is their success.

Then you have those people that want to be able to make a living from the industry. Now, again, you can do this on a local level. The thing is though, you will most certainly have less options.

So, in Greece, for example, you will probably won’t make a career in anything […] like sync and branding, for instance, because we don’t even have sync agencies. But you can make it.

Someone is working in customer service and someone else is working in booking. If this your goal, again, you can do it on a local level. If your goal is to be an executive in the music industry, you will need to go to a place where they have executives. That would be London, that would be Berlin and that would be the States.

Everything that applies to the other industries, in my opinion, applies to the music industry. You could make a tech startup, and it can flop and you can still end up in Silicon Valley. There’s no difference in the music industry.

So, it all boils down to what is your definition of success, what to do you want from the music industry and how you see yourself in the industry as a whole.

So many people think – I need to move there, they mean for the executive positions to see the whole picture. That’s why I moved, to see how big companies do it. To see all these detailed positions that you would never see in Greece.”

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How difficult was it at first to establish connections with people in the industry?

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“For me, I was lucky – it was very easy. A) I was super extroverted. B) I came from a masters, we were 60 people around the world all looking to do the same thing. It was a very lucky class because at least 25 of us bonded and stayed close. Now they are all in different positions in the music industry, so that was my initial network.

Plus, my preference is in rock and metal music, which is niche. You can go to a metal bar and you can find your people. So, I found people from when I was a radio plugger, they sent me to Download Festival. It was my kind of thing to meet everyone.

I had something to talk about and didn’t feel out of place. Then managing these three acts at the moment. Being their manager, it basically means that I need their entire world, right? This means there’ll be other musicians, small booking agents reaching out. For me, it was very easy.

But I know that for others, it’s not.

That’s why there are so many networking events in London that are just for that. Which I find funny. Even the extroverted are kind of awkward, even though you are going there to network. The expectations of the night is that you meet someone valuable. It is a very weird expectation.

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What don’t you like about the music industry?

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“It’s a very DIY industry, right? And many people don’t treat it as such.

We have all these flamboyant words, and so many people talk to an artist […] When I was in University, they had these guest speakers. They use all these flamboyant words and they make it sound like a process that you need two PhD‘s to understand, and it has nothing to do with that, you know?

I remember when they were saying stuff like, ‘you need to be with a good distributor, have lead time to use all the marketing tools available’.

And I was like, what are these tools?

It boils down to, “hey, if you want to pitch for playlist, you better do it four weeks before the release. Oh, how do you pitch the playlist? Oh there is a form. Ah.”

The process behind things are very specific and then are so many things that nobody knows. Of course there is chaos!

I call it the sauce. The sauce on top. It’s the sauce that covers everything. It makes it seem unapproachable and it really isn’t.

Another thing I don’t like is music industry machinery. And specially London, it is very strong, mainly because London is the hub. And they know their craft, which is good.

But there is a process, and when you are in the arts business, we are called to think outside the box. And these processes like, intensify the box.

You get in the loop that, ok – I have an artist, I have to send them to BBC Introducing, I have to get them a radio plugger, a press representative. I need to do this, this and that.

It’s a recipe, y’know? And recipes are not good. Recipes are a good way to start, but when you become a good cook, you do your thing and add your own spice.

So, I don’t like this standard thing, and that’s the questions that you will be asked.

As a manager, they will ask these specific questions and through this process, we lose the authenticity of the bands, the music and the message and everything is just politically correct.

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What can we take from this?

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I’d just to like to thank Mando for taking the time out of her busy schedule and speaking with me about some insightful topics.

The important bit to take away from this is how do you measure your success?

Whether that is an executive position at a major record label or as an intern at their indie counterpart, it all depends what table you wish to sit on.

As daft as it may seem, there is a music scene across every UK city – from the Scottish borders of Edinburgh to the coasts of Brighton. But like Mando, Of course, to see how the big corporations work it may certainly be best to move to London. But it’s not the be all and end all if you don’t. Personally, I’d just be satisfied with any niche opportunity, regardless of the responsibilities and wage slip it comes with it.

That’s quite possibly a decision you’ll have to make all by yourself.

Hope you enjoyed this instalment in The Industry Insight series. Come back next week for the next topic of discussion.

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Mando’s Profile: linkedin.com/in/mando-chastouki-750016103

Why not peruse the other instalments in the series?

By manvmusic

In one of the most controversial, ever-changing and unpredictable industries, join my rants and ravings as I dissect the music industry word by word through technology, current events, industry stories and problems.

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