Matt Graham on his unique approach to artist management at BRND MGMT and a bright future for the music industry
As the majors’ system began to crumble in the Internet age with the rise of online file-sharing services, record companies struggled to figure out how to adapt to the life in what would become the age of streaming.
Some labels have stayed, but many have left. And artist development has become an afterthought as record companies grabbed the fastest, easiest, and most profitable hits.
Artists like Chance the Rapper have proven that there is a profitable path forward – but the key is wise management.
BRND MGMT approaches the management of artists differently. Founder and President Matt Graham’s debut in the music industry was the result of a chance encounter on one of his first nights at Emory College, when he met Braun scooter. Friendship turned into mentorship and Graham became Senior Manager at Braun’s SB Projects. The mutually beneficial professional partnership now spans decades.
As a manager, one of the keys to Graham’s success at BRND MGMT has been his ability to learn from the past of the music industry and apply that knowledge to the present in a historically cyclical industry.
While labels tend to ignore it today, Graham has favored investing in the future over immediate and stereotypical successes. Unlike many labels or managers who try to specialize in a genre or a sound, he has built a diverse list, featuring artists like country band Midland, rapper Wale, DJ and producer Nicky Romero, alternative rock band The Score and more.
“I think it’s a reflection of my interest and my ability to evolve among different communities. I never felt personally identified as a New York hip-hop guy or a country guy, ”Graham said. “I think people see themselves in these boxes – managers in particular. They tell me, ‘I’m a hip-hop guy. All of my connections are in hip-hop. I feel like I did it sometimes and it caused me to miss things. So I became more open-minded.
BRND MGMT sister company Tuxedo Music Group, which includes Tuxedo folders, was formed by Graham in 2016 for the purpose of funding and distributing BRND passion projects. It’s a strategy that echoes his belief that managers and record companies should work together to create new, strong bands.
“I don’t understand why every record company doesn’t scramble to partner with successful management companies. There are very few of these companies. Ultimately, record companies need managers as an A&R source. A&R used to find talent and develop talent. For the most part now what they do is find stuff that’s bubbling on the internet or streaming services, write a check, then help source the beats or maybe put someone in. [a studio] with a few producers and writers. But it’s not the same job as an artist and repertoire as it used to be. This is really what managers do ”, Graham Explain. “Everyone says, ‘Why do you want to do the etiquette thing? It is so hard. It’s complicated to pay the royalties. You will lose money by doing it. We have never lost money. Every project we have carried out has been profitable. It’s always about managing profits and losses. And buy artists who you think will have some measurable success. They don’t have to be big stars. Ideally, they become big stars, but they don’t have to be to start with.
Streaming music through online services like Spotify or Apple Music is a method of music distribution in its infancy. Embracing him, Graham sees a new path in which artists can operate, a path where the lost art of artist development is a priority and the big picture, as the continuing benefits continue. to skyrocket, is always present in mind.
“I think this is something that is really lost in our business right now. And it shouldn’t be. Due to the streaming economy that has been created, a new middle class of musicians may exist. And because there is a middle class, that means there is a business there and we can go back to developing artists, ”Graham said of his philosophy. “As a manager or a label, why should we be losers when we meet someone who we know is incredibly talented because they don’t quote, not quote ‘the song?” It made sense to me. five or ten years ago because there was no other way to finance a project. You just put a million dollars in a project and it would go nowhere, “he said. “But now you can invest between $ 10,000 or $ 100,000. Get out some records and they’ll be streaming. Even though they only make one million streams per song, that’s $ 5,000 per song.” “You release a ten song album and it’s $ 50,000 streaming. It’s what I call kind of middle class music. So for a label it’s pretty low risk.”
Graham entered the music industry at an all-time low near the advent of online file sharing which quickly changed the way people consume music, making it difficult for a record company to monetize the music. music recorded for the first time. But one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of a good song. Artists had the opportunity to figure out how to write one over decades and albums. Graham sees a big advantage in coming back on this.
“When I was younger I hated when older, more experienced musical executives told me this, but it always comes down to songs. The songs are really punchy. They determine whether someone is going to be successful or not. You have to find songs that really sound like they’re going to resonate, that are memorable and that feel different, ”he said. “What if the majors still don’t understand that they can sign things earlier, not pay big advances and get very favorable terms?” Then we will. We will invest ourselves for the artists we truly believe in when we know that they are still a little far from fully developed. We will share the master’s income with them and we will finance the record. Hopefully one of those things takes off and a major label comes hats off and pays too much. Because they don’t do their due diligence to do artist development like they did twenty years ago.
Always looking to the future, Graham wants to apply his unique philosophy to film and television.
As television and movie consumption leaves networks and online theaters, Graham sees an opportunity.
“I sort of watch it and I feel like the film and television industry was going through the same growing pains as the music industry when I entered it. So I see this as a huge opportunity for someone who has struggled for ten years to figure out how to be successful in an industry in the age of depression. I think it’s the same skill set and I’ve applied it in music, ”Graham said of skillfully navigating the pitfalls of the music industry. “We have generated billions of views in the content that we have created for very, very little money. And you don’t just do programming for big networks or big studios anymore. There is a huge amount of platforms to sell content on, ”he continued, noting how his music video creation experience fits naturally into a new media landscape where small content is. just as important as feature films. “It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, it has to be the best idea. It has to be compelling, and it has to be filled with people you want to invest in. And that is to identify the stars.
Looking at the music industry, it’s clear that the ’80s and’ 90s were a boom time for the majors system. The past two decades have been a time of transition to the Internet age, but Graham sees a bright future where artist development takes on renewed importance.
“It’s a golden age for music,” Graham said. “You see a lot of these big frames, they leave their bigger perches and start theirs independent labels or the restarting of old brands that they somehow own. And the reason is that they understand that there is a gold rush in music again, ”he continued, noting foresighted an optimistic future. “You’re going to see more labels. And we can already see it. You’re going to see those old marks kind of come back. There is so much money coming in that they have to do something with it. They have to spend it and they should spend it on artist development. This is not what labels have been built for over the past ten years. So I think it’s gonna take some time and it’s okay take acquisition smaller labels. You’re going to have to find people who have the stomachs and the knowledge to be with an artist for three or four years before they have their moment.