MBW’s World’s Biggest Managers collection profiles the most effective artist managers within the world enterprise. Right here, we communicate to Matt Colon, supervisor of famous person producer and DJ Steve Aoki, and International President of Music of expertise administration agency YM&U. Colon’s music profession began within the late ‘90s as an intern for Def Jam, earlier than he labored at seminal L.A digital label Moonshine Music. He has managed famous person DJ Steve Aoki since 2005, and in 2017, offered the administration firm he co-founded, Deckstar, to YM&U in a deal value north of $20 million. Now, because the newly-promoted International President of Music at YM&U Group, Colon is main the expansion technique for the group. World’s Biggest Managers is supported by Centtrip, a specialist in clever treasury, funds and overseas change – created with the music business and its wants in thoughts.
It’s hardly a shock that Collins Dictionary has named ‘NFT’ as its 2021 phrase of the 12 months.
There have been different contenders, after all, with phrases like ‘metaverse’ and ‘crypto’ making the lengthy listing, 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 severe multi-million-dollar enterprise within the area of 12 months – and expertise administration agency YM&U is on the centre of this explosion.
“Proper now, we’re simply the largest administration firm within the NFT area,” 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 International President of Music, Colon is tasked with main YM&U’s world technique and collaboration between its UK and US Music divisions, whose mixed rosters embrace stars like Widespread, 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 non-public fairness agency Trilantic.
Despite having generated “north of $30 million in NFTs” this 12 months throughout the corporate’s shoppers, YM&U’s world music boss refuses to take credit score for this meteoric achievement.
“Is [the success] as a result of we’re geniuses, and since we’re so tech ahead, and we noticed this pattern coming? Completely not,” he tells us.
“It’s as a result of we had a few artists obsessive about crypto that won’t have been our highest earners, however we confirmed all of them the identical consideration that we confirmed to these [high] earners. We supported them of their journey. They found NFTs, and we supported them.”
That help 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 12 months. Plus, 3LAU’s blockchain-based music funding start-up Royal, which presents fractional music possession of music by way of its personal model of NFTs, has simply raised $55 million in Collection A funding.
“You may solely be an skilled in so many issues. We’re information pooling and useful resource pooling. That’s the place we’re going to search out success.”
Colon’s long-term famous person consumer, producer, DJ and Dim Mak label founder Steve Aoki, has additionally been a number one advocate for the probabilities of the NFT area. Again 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-Cellular boss John Legere.
Aoki has additionally launched his personal NFT platform, OddKey, in partnership with comedian ebook creator Todd McFarlane. Colon theorizes that NFTs have the potential to be a single system that ties collectively all of the “disparate actions in an artist’s life” in right now’s music ecosystem, from fanbase constructing throughout social platforms to group administration and monetization.
“They’re good contracts, which can be social contracts, and you’ll give entry to a fan by way of an NFT,” he explains. “It doesn’t must be your emblem spinning in 3D area for $1,000. You’re going to see numerous adjustments within the NFT area within the close to future. You’re going to see some massive tasks that can flip music on its head.”
Seeking to the longer term – and commenting on his new remit in our extensive ranging interview beneath – Colon tells us that, on the core of YM&U’s technique going ahead, is to have a worldwide footprint.
He’s betting that his agency’s triumphs will come from “having extra experience in home, by being extra geographically various, extra ethnically various, and extra genre-diverse”.
“It’s simply so troublesome as a person supervisor today,” he provides.
“You may solely be an skilled in so many issues. We’re information pooling and useful resource pooling. That’s the place we’re going to search out success. The world has turn out to be too massive and too interconnected for anyone particular person to maintain monitor of all of it. It’s a Herculean job, managing an artist in 2021.”
You’re now International President of Music at YM&U. What is going to that new title entail?
It’s actually two-fold. It’s about enlargement and syncing up our workplaces. We have now 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 find out how to do it. Most administration firms went by way of a reasonably robust time as COVID progressed.
Most of these firms usually are not constructed to face up to that type of monetary stress. Most made it by way of, due to authorities help, and we’re not excluded from that. However what we additionally had was a diversified enterprise outdoors of strictly music, together with leisure, sports activities, social, enterprise administration and accountancy.
These companies didn’t endure in the identical method music did, so we had the good thing about a ‘excessive tides elevate all ships’ mentality. Everybody chipped in to verify everybody was afloat, realizing that if we made it to the opposite aspect, we’d be in a stronger place. Proper now, everyone seems to be making an attempt to place their firms again collectively and get their artists again on the street.
We’ve hit the bottom working. 2021 could also be one in every of our most worthwhile years ever on the music aspect, between NFTs and a diversified roster that’s already touring, between personal gigs [and] new sources of earnings by way of digital performances. With the wind on our backs we noticed it as a possibility to develop the enterprise into the imaginative and prescient that we put forth at first.
COVID has additionally allowed us to develop with out having to fret about geographic limitations. Beforehand you needed to reside in L.A or London, or perhaps New York. We’ve been capable of rent the most effective which can be on the market no matter the place they reside, no matter what time zone they’re in. The purpose is to develop geographically and to develop by way of variety of sounds and workers.
What do you search for in new managers to rent and the way a lot of a monitor file ought to they’ve had earlier than you contemplate taking them on?
We don’t signal managers for his or her roster, we signal managers for who they’re. We have now employed extra managers who had lacklustre rosters, however had been spectacular professionally, spectacular strategically and well-liked within the business. It’s not troublesome to search out somebody who has a giant consumer base and write them a giant examine. There’s no artwork to that.
We take perhaps extra of a Moneyball method to it. Each one in every of our managers has discovered the laborious method that you could lose a consumer in a heartbeat. [Artists] would possibly simply get up on the unsuitable aspect of the mattress. The nice managers will all the time discover the following massive factor. Our purpose is to wager on these managers, and belief that they may discover the artists.
We take a look at it from a human perspective. Subsequent, we take a look at it academically. What’s their information base? What’s their community? Have they got expertise that we lack? Lastly, we take a look at their roster and we take a look at their earnings 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? Clearly, success begets success. You have got success with anyone like Steve Aoki and also you get extra shoppers within the dance music area. Additionally, success provides expertise, however on the finish of day, you’re searching for nice artists. The overwhelming majority of the managers [at YM&U] are between their 20s and 40s, so all of us grew up within the post-CD era, listening to our iTunes on shuffle.
An amazing instance is Kevin [Wolff] – the person who manages Rancid additionally manages Widespread. He’s an ideal supervisor and he loves each genres. Music is music. To handle an ideal musician, you simply must know their viewers. Should you can determine who that viewers is, find out how to attain them authentically, the style doesn’t matter.
The instruments are the identical. What’s completely different is find out how to communicate 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 absolutely succesful that we will handle a rustic artist, a Latin artist, a jazz artist, a bluegrass artist, with the identical group. It’s nearly time, dedication and authenticity.
How has your view on administration advanced from once you guys first began Deckstar again in 2006?
For one, the instruments have advanced. There’s all the time some indicators, whether or not it’s Shazam, or extra recently TikTok. Previously it was Fb. There was a day when it was MySpace. There are locations the place individuals uncover new music and historically we’ve beloved to have a look at these indicators and try to discover issues early. However as a rule, you simply hear one thing and also you’re moved by it. Then you definately meet the artist and it goes again to what I used to be saying about our supervisor philosophy: It comes right down to the particular person.
Life is simply too brief to take care of anyone that you just don’t get pleasure from [working with]. It is extremely straightforward to signal an [artist] consumer, it is vitally troublesome to drop them. Folks not often discuss that. When you’re working with a consumer, you understand the place all of the our bodies are buried. You recognize the highs, the lows, you understand whether or not or not they’ll pay their lease, if they’ve baby help. I’ve toiled for months, typically years, over find out how to drop a consumer, since you get emotionally connected. It’s the closest relationship they’ve.
And for us it’s 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 discuss to the agent, the legal professional, the publicists. What I’m saying is, it actually comes right down to the particular person. It’s good to love the music, however what’s extra essential is you imagine within the artist. What’s actually paramount is, does the artist imagine in themselves?
Do they need it? Do they wish to put within the effort and time? We don’t signal shoppers as a result of they make a ton of cash, as a result of they may simply fireplace you the following day anyhow should you’re not doing a very 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 buddies with shoppers and likewise having knowledgeable relationship, particularly on the subject of making troublesome choices?
Typically it’s simpler than different occasions. There are specific shoppers who you develop very near, that you just maintain on to for years and years simply since you turn out to be buddies and also you simply wish to help them of their careers, come rain or shine. It’s essential to be self-aware. Most of the time, I wish to say we are sometimes saving the artists from themselves. I’ve mentioned many occasions [to artists], “As your pal, that is what I might do. As your supervisor, that is what you need to do”.
Artists… anyone, appreciates a multi-multifaceted method. They wish to hear the professionals and the cons. Ought to an artist pay their whole tour crew their wages when a tour is cancelled due to COVID? In all probability not. You don’t know when [touring will] come again. There’s no upside to this. However on the human stage, is that the best factor to do?
Some [artists] are very rich, however nonetheless, a million-dollar examine is a million-dollar examine. And a few of them [live] hand to mouth as effectively and nonetheless make that call, like “I wish to help my crew as a result of: (a) I’m going to wish to work with them once more; and (b) on a human stage, I wish to do the best factor.” And as a supervisor, that’s the place you may say, “You may pay this a lot, or you may pay that a lot, however as a pal, if it had been me, that is what I might do”.
YM&U entered the NFT sector early on this 12 months significantly with 3LAU and Steve Aoki – with profitable outcomes. How massive do you assume the music NFT area can get?
The music portion of NFTs is extraordinarily underdeveloped. There are a handful of individuals, 3LAU included, which can be 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 option to earn cash off music. It doesn’t take a lot thought or power. Make a cool graphic, promote it together with your identify. They see it like they’re promoting merch. I see the chance as a lot larger than that. I see it as tokenizing group and entry.
“The music portion of NFTs is extraordinarily underdeveloped. The overwhelming majority see it as a money seize, like promoting ringtones; simply one other option to earn cash off music.”
Issues are being developed so shortly that if I had been a musician, truthfully, I in all probability wouldn’t do NFTs simply but. However within the subsequent two to 4 months, so many issues are coming on-line.
You’ve seen bands like The Grateful Lifeless or Fish create these hyper-engaged communities. However you need to get so massive to do this. We’re coming to a spot [with NFTs] the place you may create a micro-community. You see it on locations like Patreon, the place you may have 5,000 followers, they’ll pay a month-to-month service payment, and you’ll really maintain a enterprise that method. Patreon [is] a extremely cool mannequin, however NFTs can open that up even wider.
Steve Aoki launched an NFT platform and we’re seeing different artists spend money on 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 area. 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 could as effectively have been enamel pins.
A handful of artists, Steve included, caught with the area and saved growing, saved iterating. What most individuals have found out is music NFTs are totally underdeveloped, so the higher wager for a musician is to wager on a platform and empower your self and different musicians to maintain experimenting. It’s higher to wager on the group than to wager on your self.
You talked about Patreon. What do you concentrate on the potential that Twitch has for group constructing and monetization in right now’s music enterprise?
The jury continues to be out, if I’m being actually sincere. There’s a group on Twitch, however there’s not a strong music group on Twitch.
The typical music listener isn’t there. It isn’t some place that you just usually go to since you wish to hear music. It’s usually a gaming platform. There are tons of individuals which can be into eSports in gaming, that additionally love music.
And there are additionally musicians focusing on music for that viewers and that do fairly effectively. And [on that score], we’re enormous Twitch supporters.
Steve’s an unlimited gamer. He owns an eSports firm, and we’ve performed loads of reside performances, as has his label on Twitch. I don’t assume the mannequin has been absolutely labored out but. There’s one thing round it that goes again to the Patreon concept; 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 right now’s music business?
That’s an ideal query. It makes administration a lot extra essential. There’s undoubtedly a world the place you may say, ‘I don’t want a supervisor. My file label does all the things and my agent books my exhibits.’ However even the largest artists are actually taking extra management of their careers. It’s all changing into DIY. How do you handle all that stuff?
“Artists are known as artists for a motive; they’re creating artwork. Artists mustn’t have the time to handle a enterprise on prime of making artwork. In the event that they do, sometimes the artwork suffers.”
Artists are known as artists for a motive; they’re creating artwork. Artists mustn’t have the time to handle a enterprise on prime of making artwork. In the event that they do, sometimes the artwork suffers. The position of a supervisor has turn out to be exponentially extra essential as a result of now we’re working whole companies. We’re not simply telling a label when to place one thing out, or when to tour.
We’re launching Kickstarters on daily basis. 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 search out new sources of earnings.
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’s subsequent to unimaginable for anyone particular person to try to do all of it, a lot much less a group and definitely not an artist on their very own.
Following on from that, from a supervisor’s perspective, what’s the position of the file label in right now’s music enterprise?
It’s altering, quickly. It depends upon the artist. If you wish to be a Prime 40 Pop artist, the position of the file label is essential. One factor the labels have higher than everyone else is entry to the streaming providers.
Additionally they have, oftentimes, financing that you just don’t in any other case have entry to. Clearly numerous these platforms we’re speaking about are basically various types of financing. However not each artist is constructed to be on Patreon, or has a group to assist finance them.
“Labels can take punts and spend cash on issues. The nice labels nonetheless have good A&R. They nonetheless convey concepts to the desk.”
Labels can take punts and spend cash on issues. The nice labels nonetheless have good A&R. They nonetheless convey concepts to the desk. The labels that I get pleasure from working with essentially the most, it has nothing to do with the cash.
It has to do with, ‘Do they really contribute to the method, or am I simply going to them for approval of our concepts?’ If that’s the case, until there’s a ginormous examine concerned, you’re simply creating a brand new stage of approval. You’re simply making a pace bump within the course of. There are many artists that don’t want labels. There are different sources of earnings. There are different methods to construct group.
There are different methods to finance artwork. That doesn’t imply that labels don’t have a spot, 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 pleasant 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 might be $40,000 or $50,000 [today], however it was a small step. The examples you’re giving are simply an increasing number of endorsement. Extra importantly, the query will probably be, ‘How does the blockchain empower music?
How does it resolve a number of the issues with opaqueness in accounting, lack of transparency with royalty funds and royalty monitoring?’ All of this stuff are solvable on the blockchain. It’s simply how shortly are the powers that be going to have interaction? Not a lot will occur with out the foremost labels collaborating.
What would you alter about right now’s music enterprise and why?
I want that there was a greater method for communities or followers to dictate reputation. It’s largely based mostly on algorithms telling us what we needs to be listening to, or what different individuals are listening to.
“I want that there was a greater method for communities or followers to dictate reputation.”
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 a neater method for the general public to find music, to finance music, and for that music to achieve success with out all these intermediaries taking a minimize and inserting themselves, for higher or worse.
What’s the most effective recommendation that you just’ve ever been given on this enterprise, and what recommendation would you give to anyone developing within the artist administration world?
The very best recommendation I’ve been given was when a pal of mine mentioned that his mom all the time instructed him, ‘Discover one thing you like a lot, that you just do it without cost, after which discover somebody 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 stop that job so I may reside, barely paycheck to paycheck, as an entry stage music intern.
“If you wish to be a supervisor, discover artists on the market. There’s no college for it. Most of us within the music business didn’t come out of school and get a job at a file label. Virtually everybody I do know did one thing without cost within the music business for years earlier than somebody paid them to do it.”
However I beloved music, I didn’t care how a lot I made. I didn’t care that I may solely afford to eat baggage of popcorn for dinner; I used to be working in music. Lots of people come to the music business for the standing, the celeb and the social flex. I simply love music, and if that’s your guiding mild, then success will discover you. For anyone who needs to get into the business. Primary, don’t say ‘No’.
The reply is all the time, ‘Sure’, even when it’s one thing you don’t wish to do. You by no means know what it’ll result in. After which 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 within the music business didn’t come out of school and get a job at a file label. Virtually everybody I do know did one thing without cost within the music business for years earlier than somebody paid them to do it. My recommendation is, simply do it. Work for anybody who will take you.
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