Managing an Artist: A Game of Adaptability

The main purpose of my CE was to gain as much experience as possible in the type of music industry fields I was interested in.  These fields include mostly artist related work; 1) Artist Management 2)Marketing 3) A&R.  As first I was completely clueless on how to even go about finding an artist, I could go the Berklee route but I wanted to challenge myself and find a local band that I liked and really wanted to work in cue, Stephanie Cadel et la Caravane.   Initially being considered for a class project in The Science of Artist Management but the group decided to go with a solo artist. I knew I still wanted to work with the band so I met with them and they all agreed, all 6 of them.  Thus, my CE was born.

The initial phase was assessing what the band needed and once that was done I would get into the management of the band.  One thing that I did notice was that it was hard to take away control from a band that has been together for 3 years and are used to running in a particular way, so it took some time gain some trust and rapport with the band.  It was hard when I wanted to learn and book shows but the lead singer was so used to self management that she ended up doing a lot of the work in the beginning, so at that point I adapted and focused on marketing and branding something the band seriously lacked.  We came up with developing a crowd funding campaign aimed at funding their next album  with a small EP to be released and used to promote the start of the campaign to entice listeners and fans to engage with the campaign.   I met with Pledge Music at MIDEM and got some contact information from their lead representative here in Spain.  I also did research on successful campaign and what to do and not to do so that we would have the best shot and executing a successful campaign.   So now we had to build up a bigger fan base and engage those we had already had.   First off was updating their photos, so e then had a kind of impromptu photo-shoot done by a fellow GEMB student Tyler Budd, it was all really last minute but ended up actually coming out pretty decent.  The band then had a show schedule at Radio City on Feb.14th and needed a lot of help promoting since it was one of the biggest venues they booked Valencia.  We came up with this idea to due a raffle at the concert and raffle off an engraved Ukelele, in addition we reached out to local promoters, created posters, and coin/flyers that served as the raffles.  The concert was a success and we got in total 202 people to come watch and around 60 to sign up for a mailing list.   Below are some of the promo tools that were used and created.

Photo-shoot Sample


Caravane Coin/Raffle/Flyer

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.16.41 PM

Poster For the Event

Radio City (SCELC)

After the success of the show the band was approached by a local management company, Play Producciones that wanted to help manage the band and try to enhance their reach, essentially everything I was trying to do with the band.  So where did that leave me?  At first I saw this as a huge blow to the work I had done and to me CE, I thought it was over and I would have to figure something else out. Fortunately the rapport I had made with the band and the work I put in with them really paid off, they let the people at Play Producciones know of me and that they wanted to still keep me working the band, and they agreed.  So now all I have to do is meet with the them and figure out what projects and in what way I will be used.

So far this entire experience has taught  me A LOT not only about managing an artist but about working in the entire music industry as a whole. Yes I have been met with obstacles but I have adapted and made the best of each situation that arose.  I couldn’t expect to come in to working this band and have them completely hand over the rains but I appreciate everything that I have learned from working with them.  I have learned artist management skills, contract negotiation skills, marketing, etc.  Overall I learned to adapt and be able to jump into any area where I am needed and I think I might need that in the music industry especially when it consistently changing and evolving.

Disrupción Records: The Experience So Far…

I want to start of by saying that starting a record label from scratch in 3 months is hard, really hard.  From all the marketing, legal, and a&r work that had to be completed I certainly think this group of 17 students are doing the best.  Needless to say I think Disrupción records was definitely an adequate name for the label at least from my perspective and my experience.   My world was definitely disrupted for a while, pun intended, but for group of 17 motivated and opinionated graduate students to come together with no established order or hierarchy was a no easy feat.  People were striving for positions that had no real power but that of e-mail sender or liaison.  I think the initial process could have been a lot smoother if positions had been established through an application process  before the semester started.  I for one would not have cared if got a position or if I was just part of a team I was just looking forward to the experience of being able to say that I was a part of starting Berklee Valencia’s  first student-run label.  I think these previously established positions would have made the first 3 weeks of the class much easier and more productive than people talking about who is who and how a simple name can change the perception of someones else’s role.

The saving grace in my opinion was the artists because once we had them people finally had some work to busy their minds with.  The marketing from both sides decided to come together to work on the overall strategy for the label and well as developing a consistent plan for the promotion of the artists picked to represent Disrupción Reocords.   Of course some people were more vocal about particular things but we all worked together and stressed together about what needed to be done and what we were doing wrong but regardless we kept working.  In a big team there will always  be issues but you learn to adapt and keep moving and I think everyone has tried to do their best in that aspect.   In general we all need to remember that we all are stressed, we all have other classes, and to cut each other a break.  So instead of making a snarky comment or just being frustrated  maybe proposing a solution of offering help may be more productive.   I myself fell into these mannerisms as well but upon realization I’ve tried to be more understanding and proactive. It has also been hard to depend on other people outside the group to execute the logistics of launching a label what with funding coming from a school and certain protocol needing to be followed it often took longer than expected to get the ball rolling on specific projects.

Overall though ,I think the experience creating this label from the ground up has been very educational so far  especially in terms of the reality of working in large group in the context of a music industry related project.  Working in the industry is high stress and things are not always going to go your way but you gotta keep going regardless of what get thrown your way.  Of course things can always be made easier but you have to play with the cards you’ve been dealt and make the best of it and I think the Disrupción Records team has done that and heading in the right direction

The Surprise Release Method, Is it Sustainable?

By this time everyone knows of the success Beyonce had with her recent “surprise” release of her 5th Album “Beyoncé”.  Yes, she sold a bunch or records and made headlines for doing so with no promotion whatsoever, but is this strategy sustainable or just accessible to huge artists like Adele, Justin Timberlake, P!nk, etc.  ?  There are definitely some polarizing perspectives.


Adam Pyarali over at Next Big Sound  seems to have a positive perspective when discussing EDM artist Skrillex and the surprise release of his debut album “Recess”.  Pyarali thinks that the numbers speak volumes:

Skrillex is seeing a large boost in numbers similar to those of a big-budgeted, label-supported campaign. Since the launch of the app on March 7, Skrillex has seen sizable percentage gains across all social platforms. He’s seen a gain of 359k new Facebook fans—up 71% from the two-week period before. Additionally, the EDM artist has seen spikes of 81% and 53% in Twitter mentions and Wikipedia views respectively—seeing major gains on Tuesday March 11 (the day after the album leak).


People aren’t just talking about Skrillex on Twitter—he’s also receiving new followers, with numbers up 48% percent. In regular Skrillex fashion, the artist uploaded Recess to his SoundCloud account on March 18, resulting in a 104% spike in SoundCloud plays. Over these two weeks, Skrillex has seen 6.2 million plays on his account—roughly 8% of his total play count.

In terms of developing more of a following  I agree that this method my attract more media attention but it might just be doing so because of the recent success Beyonce had with her album.  “Recess” did sell well but not nearly as close to the numbers that Beyonce hit with her release.  Skrillex sold about 45-50k while Beyonce moved and impressive 600k+ copies.  To me it seems as if though this strategy is more of a stunt to gain a buzz for the album rather than a real strategy and if more and more artists continue to use this strategy then does it not lose its appeal?  Some industry executives seem to think so:

“I think the surprise release is a one-trick pony,” says the distribution executive. “I am not sure it will work again.”

“I wonder when this is done frequently, does the surprise factor wane? If there are a lot of releases promoted this way, it will become less impactful. If mid-level and lower-level artists pile in, will the surprise get applied to the point where the public doesn’t care anymore?”

I side with these executives,  I don’t think is method is going to be accessible and effective for all artists, I mean if the artists want to decrease spending and self release of course it might be less cost effective but I doubt it will induce more sales. What do you think? Can this ‘surprise’ method be a sustainable approach for artists  in the music industry?


“Skrillex Goes Direct To Fans: And It Works”, Next Big Sound:

“Is the Beyonce ‘Suprise’  Album Drop Working For Others?”, BillboardBiz:


Music Discovery: Where It Is and Where It Can Go

With the prominence of social media and streaming services it easy to fall into the common misconception that music discovery has shifted into an online context.   A recent post by Bruce Houghton over at  shares some statistics that suggest that music discovery has really changed that much.  Houghton sites a recent report by ” Edison Research and Triton Digital … that surveyed 950 Americans older than 12, who said that learning about new music was either “very important” or “somewhat important.”.  Their results where visualized in the following chart:

Music Discovery

This got me to thinking about recent movements people are making to develop streaming type services aimed at music discovery. I feel as if thought the radio is still so dominate due to its ease people can just easily turn on the radio while driving and enjoy whats on the radio, yes it may not be the most diverse selection of music and their definitely is not a lot of choice but what I think maintains is an experience.  People love hoping into car with their friends and family and listening tom music and singing along, people take turns picking tracks.  There is a physical interaction and experience, yes services like Spotify aim to foster that type of experience but I don’t think there are too many people actively searching through spotify to discover new music, people share playlists but its mostly songs that they’ve discovered because of listening to the radio.   In terms of music discovery this chart is interesting because the internet provides a larger array of artists and more quality music.  I think what is integral here is the experiences they create.  When we use streaming services on our phones and or laptops it becomes more of a background noise to a party, a workout, a walk to class, or this very blogpost I am writing right now. I think is if music discovery is ever going to move into a digital and online context services need to start developing an experience for the user that makes the process more important.  Maybe I’m just blabbering about nothing here and the radio is always going to be a major player but I do think streaming services are heading in a right direction, not necessarily with their revenue models but in the sense that they have the ability to expand the reach of music.


Twitter and its Movement Towards Music Integration

Twitter has been everywhere lately, from Lyor Cohen announcing its partnerships with the social media to its recent announcement with Billboard to deliver release real time music charts.  In other twitter related news (f you didn’t know already), the platform has recently announced its plan to reveal its new music strategy in the coming days.  After the demise of Twitter music Twitter has mead with an array of companies; Beats, Soundcloud, VEVO,etc all in the hopes a developing a strategy that successfully integrates music onto their platform. Clyde Smith over at had some insider information on what this new music strategy might entail.

“The short-messaging service is preparing to roll out a fresh music strategy this week, according to a person familiar with the matter.”

“The company plans to shelve the idea of a stand-alone app all together, another person said, setting a new strategic course centered on music conversations and content on the Twitter service.”

“Twitter met with Beats Music in San Francisco this week, proposing a partnership that would promote subscriptions to the music-streaming service, according to a person familiar with the matter. It is also looking to partner with music-sharing site SoundCloud for the new strategy, this person said.”

“Vevo LLC…is working with Twitter to offer bite-sized music videos, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Clyde seems to think that Twitter is going to integrate some sort of of “targeted, curated or fore fronted” version of a music video.    We won’t know what this will all look like especially with the information about partnerships with Beats and Soundcloud on the table, but one thing is clear Twitter seems to be striving to cement its self as a player in the industry.  It might seem logical to them since a lot of their traffic comes from the big name celebrity acts that have developed  huge followings on the platform.  They are putting their hands in multiple facets of the industry; creating music discover data with Lyor Cohen, developing in time music charts, and now developing some sort of new strategy to fully integrate music in their service.  The first step of this process has already been announced with Billboard but there is more to come.   So how will this effect the industry, I guess we’ll find out in a dew days when everything behind this new strategy is revealed.



Pono, the answer to the music industry’s prayers?

Everyone knows that the advent of the mp3 sent the music industry into a frenzy trying to adapt to the digital word.  What with piracy, streaming, and iTunes taking over as the main sources to find, discover, and acquire music the industry is continually met with new opponents.  Many argue that the dominance of the mp3 and digital music has somewhat devalued music and created passive mentality when purchasing music.  After reading various articles and listening to various speakers talk to us about the future of the industry many seem to be waiting for a new product,service, or device that brings back a value in music that was taken away when the mp3 was introduced.  Que, PONO.

The mother of all formats


Singer-songwriter Neil Young announced that he will be initiating a Kickstarter-funded music service, PonoMusic, and player to deliver high-quality digital sounds. The Kickstarter campaign launched on March 15 and  in the span of about a week and a half as already surpassed its goal of 800,000 to about 4.5 million dollars coming from 13,522 pledgers. Here is a video of Neil Young attempting to explain what Pono is all about.

Most of the conversation with Letterman focused on the new quality that the product will be providing.  ˝The project grew out of Young’s dissatisfaction with the quality of digital recordings after the music industry shifted to the MP3 format˝ and wanting to ˝move digital music into the 21st century”.  The triangle-shaped PonoPlayer will cost $399 and can also be ordered with a discount through the projects Kickstarter, according to the site the player will have enough memory to contain as many as 2,000 albums with memory cards can be used to store more.  So what differentiates this PonoPayer from the likes of iPods?  Well Neil Young says its the quality.  Instead of focusing on a player that can hold all the music in the world this product will hold less but have more quality content.   The Pono mission is as follows;

Pono’s mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite music. We want to be very clear that PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard. PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio. We offer PonoMusic customers the highest resolution digital music available. PonoMusic is more than just a high-resolution music store and player; it is a grassroots movement to keep the heart of music beating. PonoMusic aims to preserve the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings.

So is this the answer to the music industries prayers?  Will it instill a greater sense of value for music due to the focus on quality in sound? Maybe Record Labels can adapt some of Young’s ideas and develop a product incorporates this quality sound into a device consisting of an artist album and additional material, just at thought?

To make your own opinion, check out some more information with testimonials in the video below.



The Industry from an Artist and their Manager’s Perspective Pt. 2: The Manager

This is Part 2 of last weeks post that focused on the music industry from the perspective of the Artist and their manager.   Last week I talked about the artist, Miss Caffeina and this week the post will be about their manager Cindy Castillo and her sentiments about the industry.  I found it very beneficial to hear the perspective of someone working in a field that I am interested in and a lot of what Cindy said what very insightful and beneficial.  Cindy created started her own company GIGnTIK an artist management and international booking company.



One statement that relates back to what Miss Caffeina said  about knowing the music business that I want to touch on shortly because I already discussed it  was when Cindy expressed that the reason that band was so successful because they understood how to play the game and were very invested in the business side of their work.  I think the fact that both sides of the team mentioned this important and a testament to how important it really is for success.

As of now GIGNTIK manages and/or books for 5 artist and at the time of this interview just started working with a sixth.  When asked how many artists she could realistically manage at a time Cindy said 3.  She said 3 is the cap because its doable and each band can get the same type of attention, any more than that would result in one or more of the artists being managed suffering from lack of attention.  For that reason she said that she really only manages 3 of the bands and the rest she only deals with booking that way she can focus on her main artists.  Cindy mentioned that is was vital to keep clear what kind of relationship she has with each artist and they that understand it in order to run a successful business.  To me its crazy to think that you can do all that and still manage 3 bands, I’m struggling with just one to keep up with classes and other work, but it seems with more time and practice it all just becomes natural.

Probably my favorite part of the interview was when Cindy was asked if she could change something in the industry what would she change? To which she responded:

I would retire the entire lobby of people running the industry now.

She went on in detail how she thought it was time to dethrone the execs who have been ruling and shaping the industry for so long.  All I could think about when she delved into the topic further was the image of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland yelling, “Off with their heads”.  Kind of like this:


Cindy talked how it has been difficult especially in Spain to be successful and try new strategies  in the industry when the people making all the decisions have been doing so for over 20 years.  She says its time for a change and I agree with her and not just only in terms of the spanish music industry in mind.  At MIDEM we continually heard people referencing the way the industry was in the past and trying to take it back to that time.  The fact of the matter is thats impossible, we can be inspired by the past and adapt it to fit current trends but thats it.  People keep complaining that the music industry is headed to extinction but in my opinion its largely due to the fact that it is governed by the same people that are allowing it to die by not adapting to the current moment.  I think its time to pave the way for fresh talent eager to take risks and maybe keep the music industry from heading down this slippery slope.

The Industry from an Artist and their Manager’s Perspective Pt. 1: The Artist

Last friday at our weekly music business forum we were visited by Cindy Castillo an artist manager and founder of GIGnTIK an artist management company.  Joined by Miss Caffeina, one of the bands she currently manages they all had a lot of insight on how to be successful within the spanish music industry. This weeks post will focus on Miss Caffeina’s insight and next weeks post will be on their managers perspective. So let’s start with Miss Caffeina:


The band were very opinionated on how to succeed in the industry with the following quotes being a couple of standouts;

“Artists need to understand the business in order to success in Spain specifically.  They need to be interested in how the business works”

I found this very relevant but not only for Spanish artists, I think its a great thing for a band to understand the ins and outs of the way the industry works in their specific market in order to make the best out of their situation.   In the case of Miss Caffeina they are very involved in their business with one of the band members creating a adaptable tour budget that to track the bands revenue streams. I found that very commendable and think that artists should be as interested in their business as Miss Caffeina is.  Their manager Cindy Castillo even noted that the reason they have been so successful is because of the bands insight on the inner working of the industry.  We’ve seen recent stories where artist ended up suffering because of their lack of awareness in the industry, for example Rihanna and the recent revelation that she almost went broke in 2009 .  In relation to this topic the band also discussed how important it was for an artist to think of people in the industry as their enemies when first entering the music industry in order to ensure some type of success and security . Miss Caffeina talked about having their guards up so that people didn’t take advantage of them and that again I think is an important characteristic to have in order to be a successful artists in any industry. The band also went into detail about the way they maneuver between working both the commercial and the independent music markets present in Spain.  Specifying that they try to appeal to commercial radio while keeping an independent integrity when touring live.  I was a little skeptical and confused by how they leverage trying to work within both markets especially when they came across as more of a commercial band after hearing them perform a couple of their songs.  But this strategy seems to be working and in a market that is difficult to proposer in due to current economic and internal industry factors.

Check out some of the bands material below!

Why SoundCloud Will Beat Other Streaming Music Services – Review

“Soundcloud has focused on making a platform creators want to use. They will continue to improve their consumer experience, as mainstream adoption continues. This will only entice more and more creators to join.” – Dan Polaske

  As we all have seen in recent music industry news streaming services have been a major topic discussed by music executives, entrepreneurs, experts, and more.  Entrepreneur and blogger Dan Polaske seems to think that the streaming service that will come out on top of this streaming war will be Soundcloud not Spotify, Deezer, or the newly released Beats.   Polaske states that the leading streaming service at the moment is Youtube, noting that it technically isn’t a streaming service Polaske notes that regardless its makes up most music streaming online largely due to its user generated content.   Polaske seems to think that this focus on user generated content is what is going to make Soundcloud stand out among its other competitors.

  In addition to user generated content Polaske sites 3 major differences that will further lead soundcloud to success;


“To get your music on most streaming services you must go through an artist aggregator. There are paid and (apparently) free options here are Spotify’s recommendations. You can upload up to 2 hours of audio for free directly to Soundcloud.”  Dan Polaske

Directness & Instantaneous 

“According to TuneCore it takes 2-3 business days to get your music on Spotify. In a world of up to the second content, that doesn’t quite cut it. On Soundcloud your music is uploaded directly and is live almost instantaneously.”  Dan Polaske

Copyright Friendly  

“In order for your music to go live on most streaming services it must be cleared for copyrights. In other words my (unofficial) remix of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” will not make it to Spotify. However, on Soundcloud it is totally acceptable.”  Dan Polaske


Polaske thinks that these factor in addition to the ability of users to upload unfiltered content will only make the platform more appealing to users and people who want to stream and discover new music. The major factor I think is overlooked is the way the brand is thought of in the eyes of consumers and potential users.  Right now when you mention streaming services the first names that come to your head are Spotify, Deezer, and Beats. In order for soundcloud to really even be considered as part of the streaming world it needs to establish a brand  positioning as a streaming service rather than an online distribution platform. To Polaske’s point about user generated content, price, directness, and copyright flexibility I completely agree t that hose are all factors that a benefiting Soundcloud at the moment but as a consumer if someone asked me to recommend a streaming service Soundcloud wouldn’t even be in my top 3 answers.

Articles Cited

MIDEM, as experienced by me.

 Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. – Orison Swett Marden

  Going into MIDEM my focus was to network with as many people as possible in the hopes of developing some job opportunities come July.  No one was going to come up to me and say, “Hey there, would you like a job?”  the only way I was going to take anything out of MIDEM was to network, and network I did.  Though my random conversations at the conference , The Carlton and Morrison’s proved to be quite entertaining it was the meetings I arranged before hand that turned out to be the focal points of my entire trip and gave me the most insight about the industry.  After about 20 e-mails sent and a couple of replies,  I arranged 4 meetings and one volunteer opportunity.

Meeting 1

My first meeting was with Toomas Olljum an Estonian artist manager who works with some of Estonia’s biggest musicians female vocalist Iiris and the alternative band Ewert and the Two Dragons.   We spent close to an hour talking about all his different avenues of work including being a consultant for a Nordic Region festival called Tallin Music Week  and starting his own management company.  Toomas shared his story about how got into the industry and highlighted a lot of experiences that gave me insight on how to be a successful artist manager. One of the most important things he said was to “rarely say no to an opportunity” he delved into the importance on how every opportunity and every experience can be useful especially in the music industry.  So when he emailed to me to offer me the chance to work on some projects in Estonia for Tallin Music Week my immediate answer was yes.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 5.43.16 PM

Meeting 2

  My second meeting was with Alastair Burns from HeartStop Music in Australia.  Lets just say this meeting didn’t go as well as the others. To be short and to the point the meeting fell through because I could´t find him during the Aussie BBQ.  Some takeaways for successful networking I learned from this encounter are; 1) Research/google the person you are meeting because their google picture might not be an accurate representation of what they look like in the present 2)  Set up a meeting in a space that is less crowded. All hope was not lost though as I received a very detailed e-mail from Alastair giving me a lot of good advice and insight about the music industry in Australia.



Meeting 3

My third meeting was with Scott Cohen one of the founders of The Orchard  a “pio­neer­ing music, video and film distribution company and top-ranked Multi Channel Network oper­at­ing in more than 25 global markets”.  This meeting out of all 4 was probably the most helpful and insightful in regards to my culminating experience project.  Scott was really interested in the band I was managing and was very insightful on how to develop the bands social media engagement.



Meeting 4

My final meeting was with 141a Management  “a music management company representing artists from all music genres. They are one of the few companies who still believe in the old method of developing artists and not manufacturing them”.  This meeting came about rather randomly, I tried  to just walk into the British Music area to meet some of the London based companies and labels but that didn’t end up so well.  So once again I was left with an e-mails as my main avenue to network, but hey why not it worked before. I contacted 4 labels and didn’t hear back from any until my last night at MIDEM.  I got a message  from the assistant manager saying if I was still interested to meet her at the British Music lounge at 6.  I sat down at the table with 2 other people sitting down and they turned out to be the CEO of the company and another manager, before I knew it this meeting turned into a type of interview.  I expressed my interest in artist development and how I admire the fact that their company focuses on developing their artists and works hard to ensure their success rather than trying manufacturing it.  They continued to ask more questions and finally ended the meeting asking me if I was interested in a job and that if I was to send my resume in to their office so they can work out an offer.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 6.22.23 PM


To be honest, I did not expect any of this when I got on that 15 hour bus ride to Canne.  I knew I was going to spend most of time trying to meet people rather than attending the various workshops and speeches. A lot of the people I met at random during the conference expressed confusion on why a graduate student would be attending the conference and at the time my only answer was to network but I think I got more out of it than that.  I got to talk to industry professionals and get an insight on the way the industry is working at the moment, and yes I know that the music industry is ever-changing but to foresee its future you have to understand where it came from and the problems that made it not successful,  MIDEM gave me some perspective on that. For me MIDEM was about seizing the opportunity at hand and I think I was able to do that.