Keith Harris has managed a number talented artists during his 40 year career in the music industry. At a recent You are in Control conference he was asked to name his favorite artist to manage. Of the artists he has represented, his answer was my own favorite: Stevie Wonder.
Harris began working in the music industry in 1974. He went from an indie label called Transatlantic Records to EMI two years later. While at EMI he joined Motown (an EMI label at the time) and worked with artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, The Commodores, Rick James, The Supremes, Thelma Houston, and of course, Stevie Wonder. After two years of that he left Motown to work exclusively with Stevie Wonder in 1978. However four years later, he formed his own management company and began managing other artists as well.
Though Stevie Wonder had countless hits by the time Harris became his manager (including possibly his greatest album, Songs in the Key of Life), the 80’s marked his highest highest period of commercial success. He recorded numerous no. 1 hits including “Ebony and Ivory”, “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, and “Part Time Lover”.
When asked about changes in the music industry, Harris complained that labels today put too much pressure on developing acts rather than developing artists over time. If this is the case, I can’t help but wonder, how do artists deal with such pressure? More importantly, what can we do to change this practice?