The New Management:
An Interview about becoming a manager
After forming the Profet sub-division Profet MGMT, Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström went to Örebro showcase festival Live At Heart, where he conducted extensive interviews in attempt to fully grasp the concept of a management. In these attempts, he met music managers Grace Puluczek, Daniel Kempf and Chris Rogers, as well as the three Madrid acts The Royal Flash, Bamboe and Dan Millson. All of these conversations are documented within this very lenghty Profet piece, for your enjoyment.
When letting my brain child Profet go from being the initial straight up music magazine it was three years ago, to being a music magazine with a heavy identity crisis taking form as features covering football, cooking, poetry, literature and much more unrelated to music – I did it to entertain myself. You see, dear reader, Profet has always primarily existed for my own mere pleasure, which is also why it mainly inflicts pain on yours truly. Can’t have pleasure without pain now, can you?
Each step in Profet’s zigzagging evolution zigs and zags, digs and wags first and foremost so I won’t stagnate and disintegrate in my own merciless fright of standing still. As a second interest, the reader (viewer, listener, spectator or whatever it may be) should of course also be enticed by each new venture, but first of all it should interest me and keep me from falling headfirst into the bottomless pit of eternal distress. I think of the moment in Miloš Forman's »Man On The Moon« where Danny DeVito’s George Shapiro asks Jim Carrey’s Andy Kaufman »Who are you trying to entertain, the audience or yourself?«. If I would have been asked the same question, I would have known my answer.
So, dear reader, I’ve entertained my brain by writing about every subject that has come to my interest, but what happens when no more subjects does interest such a fickle mind?
Of course, my eyes slowly travelled onto the possibility of starting a music management. My most inner thoughts patted me comfortingly on my slightly tired head and said »Well, you’re already carefully knitted into your local music scene, aren’t you? You’re more or less already a manager to some of these poor bands, trying to do their best out there. Why not help them out the best you can?«
As always, I listened closely to what I had to say, and for once it wasn’t a mistake! Or was it? I actually haven’t really decided yet, because since I gave birth to Profet MGMT early 2019, I haven’t fully understood what a manager – or a management – actually is or does. I have merely gone on with attempting to assist the acts I care about (as of now VOLGA, nites and LULA) any way I can.
Late summer of 2019, I was invited to Live At Heart, a showcase festival in Sweden’s sixth biggest city (meaning that you can walk all the way through it in fifteen minutes with your eyes closed) Örebro. Apart from one of my Profet MGMT acts, LULA, playing a showcase during the nearly week-long festivities, I was looking forward to attending the many workshops on music management that had been announced. Finally, maybe, hopefully, eventually, I would find out what is expected from a manager – so I could start doing it.
With any showcase festival being more of an excuse to shake as many business hands as possible, I jumped at the opportunity when having arrived in the picturesque gem of a town that is Örebro, to get in touch with other delegates present that I knew had something to say about the matter.
I contacted three music managers, while sitting alone with my eternally glowing screen in a central (whatever »central« means in a city the size of a U.S. farmer village) hipster pizzeria, where I spent approximately 79% of my visit to Örebro. Two of the managers, Grace Puluczek and Chris Rogers, are both British (although Grace lives in and operates from Spain) and the third person of interest, Daniel Kempf, is German – so, while sitting in my lonesome Örebro hipster pizza place, I thought I’d found a fairly decent spread. I had found spokespeople of the music management trade from various parts of Europe, and I was anxiously excited to set my teeth into the pulsating neck vain of the profession that I had so foolishly stumbled upon and into. Meeting them all at different times and places, here is a recollection of my encounters with Grace Puluczek, Daniel Kempf and Chris Rogers.
1. Grace Puluczek, 3Notes Management
On the first night of my Örebro stay (at which point I, of course, hadn’t yet figured out where I would be able to sleep) Grace Puluczek rapidly fired back on my interview inquiry, and we decided to meet at a local (can you even say »local« when a city is smaller than Times Square?) pub. To my surprise, Grace did not come alone.
With her came the three 3Notes acts that were scheduled to play during Live At Heart: Quintet The Royal Flash and the two solo artists Dan Millson and Bamboe. So, there I was, in a small Örebro bar with seven young Spanish musicians and their British manager. Where to start, other than with the seven Spaniards?
Miguel Ángel Marshall, lead vocalist and guitarist of The Royal Flash, was located closest to me and thus did most of the talking. When considered twice, I do believe he takes care of the conversation because he is the most eloquent member of the quintet. He told me that the Madrid band has been an item for the past seven years, but that the trip to Örebro marks the second time abroad for this mark of the outfit. Back home in the capital of Spain, they play, if not once a week, at least every month. In Örebro, they were up for numerous showcases, and their excitement was lustrous.
Since I was surprised by the boys’ presence at the interview, I had not had time to go through my standardized process of preparation, which consists of listening to at least fifteen seconds of an artist’s material, and then swiftly making an opinion. Instead, I came clean to The Royal Flash about not knowing the first thing about them, and broke one of the most fundamental rules of the noble trade that is Pop Journalism, when asking them to describe their own sound to me.
»What do you think, from just seeing us?« Miguel said with a smirk, looking around the table at his bandmates.
The Royal Flash
I followed his example and thoroughly gazed through the quintet in search for any common indicator that could reveal the answer to my, and Miguel’s, question. The only form of image statement I was able to detect was the multi-coloured leisure shirts they were all wearing, making me think of the Stockholm indie scene, where a few years back the use of colourful uniforms such as these went through a phase of insane popularity. Thus, I answered Miguel:
»Well, I would guess you do some kind of pop.«
The five Spaniards laughed at me. One band member even made a noise resembling the one that arrives when a contestant of a TV game show gets a question wrong.
»No, man« Miguel said. »We are truly old school rock’n’rollers.«
»Really?« I answered, with the same surprise dyeing my voice as the one I felt when Grace rolled in with such a massive entourage. After this reaction, I went on to break yet another one of the basic laws of Pop Journalism, by asking the following, forbidden, question: »What are your influences?«
Just to inform you, dear reader, that this question is forbidden amongst respectable Pop Journalists, because it is utterly boring and devastatingly uninspiring. It is the embodiment of what is tearing our trade apart at the seams, and I am completely ashamed of me posing it to The Royal Flash. I try to hide behind the moment of surprise and a mild intoxication, to remove any blame from my person. But, alas, I asked the forbidden question, no one else did, and I alone must stand the consequences. Perhaps it may lead to my immediate banishing from The Pop Journalistic Society, perhaps it will pass under the radar of the enforcers of the golden Pop Journalistic law book that we all follow blindly. Either way, Miguel answered the forbidden question in the Örebro bar:
»We started listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the rock’n’roll gods« he said. »Over the years we discovered bands like Tame Impala, Royal Blood and the fucking amazing god Jack White. These are our influences now. We have a bit of Sixties, and a bit of Seventies, and a little bit of Two-Thousands. We call it Insane Rock’n’roll, so there’s the answer to your question.«
»How popular is rock’n’roll in Spain, and especially in Madrid, at the moment?« I then asked.
»There are a lot of young bands playing rock’n’roll and indie rock« said Miguel. »The problem is that the audience does like rock’n’roll, but they don’t know it. In Madrid it’s hard to move people.«
The boys continued to tell me that a generic live music show ticket price in Madrid is somewhere between 10 and 15 euros, or even more, which once again surprised me. I told them back that a small scale show in Stockholm most often is free, or will cost you between 5 and 10 euros. As always, dear reader, the grass appears greener on the other side, and The Royal Flash’s perspective was no different.
»Here you love culture« Miguel said. »In Spain, you never have a free concert.«
On the subject of seemingly greener grass, there has been a raging discussion on the death of culture in Stockholm and Sweden lately. Venues have been closed down, established music magazines have gone out of business, as well as large music stores going bankrupt. The moral panic amongst the culturally attracted masses have labelled Sweden incomparable to havens like Berlin, but still the Madrid boys saw something better when they came here. As the death of culture was the topic of one of my live talkshows (ProfeTalkshow) in Stockholm this fall, I have come to realize that there is no such thing. A venue can close down, and tickets can be hard to move, but sooner or later another one is going to appear and the audience will manage to find it.
Moving on from The Royal Flash, I started talking to Bamboe, a stylish individual with an air of calm about him. Continuing the premise of confessing how I had not heard any of the 3Notes acts prior to the interview, I started by asking him to describe his music, just like I did with The Royal Flash.
»My music is based on a dramatic feel. It’s a mix of piano, guitar, melancholic lyrics and electronic beats« Bamboe said.
»Have you always made music in the same way?« I asked.
»No, when I started making music I took my guitar and wrote calm, acoustic songs, but now I’m discovering new things I can do on my own at home with my laptop. I’m trying not to stay in one style of music« said Bamboe.
»In the environment that you’re in, in Madrid, can you move fluently from genre to genre or is it very static?« I continued.
»I think my music fits in with the new music right now« Bamboe answered. »But, I love pop music from the early Two-Thousands, so I’m trying to take that sound to today. I don’t know if you understand?«
»I do« I responded.
»I listen to pop music all the time, and blues and R’n’B« Bamboe said, depicting how he wanted to merge these styles into one, then recommencing: »I know it’s not different, that it’s not new, but in Spain it’s different. They usually listen to Spanish music, in Spanish, and when you’re singing in English it’s different.«
Hearing further tales from an entirely other musical climate than the one I am accustomed to, I again was struck with surprise. The alteration between Sweden, where most emerging artists choose English for their lyrics and our native tongue gets left behind, and Spain, where the tables are turned, is baffling. Now, when writing this down, I understand how easy it is to inscribe the ways of home to the rest of the world, simply taking for granted that the freedom bestowed upon us is global.
Back in the Örebro bar, I asked Bamboe about the relation between the way he dresses, because I found him suave, and his music.
»How do you interpret your music visually?« I said. »The reason that I ask is that you strike me as a person who is into fashion, and who finds the visual aspects of art important.«
»It’s complicated« said Bamboe.
»But important?« I interrupted.
»For me it’s not 50/50« Bamboe declared, referring to the division between focus given to the music and the visual quality of it.
»Would you say it’s 70/30?« I said, feeling that my mannerism was becoming pushier for every word escaping my lips.
»Yes, and it feels weird for me saying that, because I’m a musician.«
»I totally understand you though« I said, once again interrupting Bamboe’s speech. When he finally got to speak freely without me barging in with new questions and such, he told me vividly about his ongoing attempts to find colours matching his work, which in my opinion is a greatly significant step towards a full artistry.
Ultimately I landed with the last 3Notes artist present, Dan Millson, and of course started this part of the interview in the same manner as the others. Happily, I leaned back and let Dan take care of the first question himself, because since he had heard it posed to his friends before him, I needn’t ask it myself.
»Filip« he said, »first of all, thank you for having us,« as if I were the caretaker of this little Örebro bar. He then resumed: »As for my music, I am a little English boy raised in Spain, brought up with folk and rock at home. Everything from Queen to John Martin, so my music is a mixture of those genres. There’s the grunge of Nirvana in my voice and the folkiness of my guitar from John Martin, or maybe Bob Dylan. I think that’s a good way to describe what I do.«
As my mild intoxication grew less mild as we spoke, my courage took the better of my politeness, resulting in me saying »Well, that was very nice, Dan, but it sounded a bit rehearsed« since Dan Millson’s spoken journey through his influences did sound like something he had said before, the exact same way.
Luckily enough, Dan wasn’t put off by the rudeness of this increasingly rowdy Swedish Pop Journalist, and with a smile answered me: »Well, no, I just said it right now.«
»OK, then« I said, backing off steadily. »But, an English boy raised in Spain you say, did you grow up with Spanish folk music as well?«
»No, you see, my mum’s English, from the North, and my dad grew up in England even though he’s Italian. So, there wasn’t much Spanish music going on at home.«
»So, Dan, what would you like to present to the crowd with your music?« I asked, knowing that Dan, just like Bamboe and The Royal Flash, was meant to perform generously during the Live At Heart festival.
»What I want is that they capture what I want to express, which is that I’m a guy who likes playing and knows how to express himself better through music than through words, like right now. What you see in my concerts is someone telling the truth and opening up to you.«
»And what may we see during this opening of your heart?« I wondered aloud.
»You see somebody who likes what he’s doing and living what he wants, hopefully continuing for years« Dan said. »What I do is what I like, thanks to God or whatever we want to call it.«
»But you do believe in God?« I asked Dan, not entirely realizing that I might have been going at this sweet person a bit too hard with my queries, maybe in order to repent my mistake of asking the forbidden question to The Royal Flash earlier on.
»No, I don’t« Dan Said, »I believe it takes hard work and determination.«
Ending the chats with the chaps, I saw that they all had in fact put both hard work and determination into their musical ventures, because they all described uphill marches connected to their situation. May it be the musical climate of Spain, or the world, but these boys seemed to have battled something in their days.
Lastly, I sat next Grace, who resembled a proud mother amongst her children, to begin what was the initial reason for our meeting; to hear her thoughts on the management trade, in order for me to understand it better.
»My background is that I was working for 12 years for a multi-national company, doing marketing« Grace started.
»Related to music?« I interjected, not having learned a single thing about letting people finish from my talk with Dan and Bamboe.
»No, in entertainment« Grace said. »I was working in strategy, marketing, communication, partnerships, lots of different aspects of the field. That project came to an end, and that was a turning point. I’ve always been passionate about music, and known when something could be big. So, I decided to study at Berkeley, an online course for three months about music business strategies and trends. You cover the A-Z of the business, which was amazing. At the same time, I started managing a DJ. He asked me to be his manager, I said ‘What do I have to do?’ and he went ‘We’ll just go along and discover what we’ll have to do’. That was the way in.«
The 3Notes gang in Örebro, with Grace third from the left
So, it dawned on me that me and Grace Puluczek in a way shared our entrance to the world of music management, even though she has studied the business and I haven’t. When it all comes down, I haven’t studied anything that I do professionally, and my foolish pride always keeps me from doing so. I want to learn on my own, even if that makes everything more difficult for me. That is my final curse, and as of yet I haven’t found the correct spell to revoke it.
During my inner contemplations on my own incapability, Grace went on with her story: »At the same time, there was also an opportunity to take over managing Balcony TV Madrid, which was the online music channel that existed since 2006 in 60 different cities around the world, that later unfortunately came to an end. I started that in 2017, and started managing the DJ that same year. The third band I started working with was The Royal Flash. For me it’s always about love at first listen, and when I was finding more bands that I was loving through Balcony TV, I thought ‘I really think I can help them with improving their visibility and strategy’.«
»And how have you done that?« I asked, sharpening my ears in order to not miss any useful advice.
»Basically, the first step was that I couldn’t do it from behind a name, it had to be from behind a brand. That’s why I decided to create the 3Notes brand, because then I could help many more bands. Every day, it’s about learning how things work, about attending events like Live At Heart, about taking risks, about investing, taking time and learning as you go, and being able to recognize talent. You have to know how to help without forcing your way of being.«
While Grace kept on explaining the key values of 3Notes (being basically the passion for music and helping acts you care about) I began to see the point of bringing the three acts to the interview. Grace put quite an emphasis on the community surrounding 3Notes, meaning that it’s about the acts, about helping them excel rather than personal gain. When interviewing Bamboe, Dan Millson and The Royal Flash, I did somehow feel that nurturing care, and I saw the comfort that Grace had put the boys in.
More secure in my own methods, I left the hefty interview with a sense of belonging. Just like Grace had done with 3Notes, I want Profet to be a collective effort, although I stand behind its creation and ideology. Everyone involved with Profet, be it acts represented or artists interviewed, I want them to feel cared for through the fact that everything I do is connected – and therefore also everyone doing it with me.
2. Daniel Kempf, OWTF
On the second day of my Örebro stay, I was properly hungover (one of two natural conditions of any righteous Pop Journalist) and ready to meet the next music manager that had agreed on seeing me. Daniel Kempf, from record label and artist management One With The Freaks (from here on out shortened OWTF), met me in a cluttered hotel lobby, where festival delegates kept on arriving every minute.
Unlike Grace Puluczek of 3Notes, Daniel Kempf came to the interview by himself, although he did have one of his acts, June Cocó, with him to Live At Heart, with the intention of presenting her and her upcoming album to a Scandinavian audience.
Hopefully, dear reader, this will not be dreary for you to read, since the questions asked to Daniel will be a repetition of the ones spoken to Grace. Also, the same procedure will be applied to the upcoming, third and last part of this article, the interview with Chris Rogers. You see, in order to comprehend the structures of the modern music management, I had to investigate its keystones by comparing them using equal methods. Thus, the introduction to my talk with Daniel Kempf naturally started from the beginning, with how he first got into the business.
»I started doing a music festival in Germany, called Immergut« Daniel said.
»Meaning ‘Always Good’?« I asked, testing if my school German still was intact.
»Yes!« Daniel said, to my great contentment. »Immergut is actually a milk company. I was always drinking that milk when I was younger, so I thought it was a good idea to give the festival that name and also ask them to be a sponsor. And, it worked out. It was an independent festival with mostly bands from Germany playing but also international acts, a lot of Swedish bands for example.«
Wondering to myself how Daniel went from arranging a festival to running a combined label and management, I didn’t even have to ask the question aloud. Daniel, alike Dan Millson did in my 3Notes interview bonanza, was one step ahead of me already.
»Then, I started a booking agency, in the year 2003« he said, »because there were so many newcomer bands playing at the festival who asked me to help them book shows. After some years, we did shows with bands like Arcade Fire and Death Cab For Cutie. Since 2009, I also do artist management.«
»Do you only do management at the moment?« I asked, still not being entirely sure what management actually means. Daniel’s answer further confirmed my lack of knowledge.
»Well, I can provide everything, because I’ve done everything« he said. »I have the possibility to release music, I can do the booking, I can do tour management, I can do stage management.«
It may sound like bragging, dear reader, but I ensure you that it’s not. It’s facts. Like Daniel later said; »I’ve worked with almost every aspect of the music industry«, which grants him insight in everything an artist has to go through.
I then went on to ask Daniel about what his process looks like, from when he finds an artist, and what his first actions are.
»I’m never really looking for new acts, it just happens and it’s always been like that« he said. »If I would like more artists, it wouldn’t be a problem. There are always artists looking for management. So, I’m not looking, but I’m always open minded and interested, so when it happens that I find something really interesting, I contact the band and try to meet up. The most important thing is the contact. I’m not doing management because of the business, I’m doing it because it’s my passion to work with music culture. I started the festival because I wanted to support young, unknown bands, and I started the booking agency because I wanted to support these bands. Now, as an artist manager, I’m doing the same. That’s why I need to love the music, and the artist, and that’s why the first conversation is so important. There must be chemistry, because artist management is a very close relationship. I work with it almost every day. It’s a seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day kind of job.«
The first conversation, as Daniel said, is of utter importance. To him it states the foundations for the following collaboration, perhaps as the first steps towards building a mutual trust. From hearing Daniel speak in the Örebro hotel lobby, I validated my beliefs on artist management, as he bestowed upon me the knowledge of the struggles and the rewards this venture brings with it. Being a manager, a professional who mostly gets paid on commission or with a percentage on an act’s income, trust is more vital than ever. If, and only if, the manager’s wants and needs are based on passion, the reward is the well-being and success of the acts. Sounds somewhat like a family situation to me, dear reader, if I ever saw one.
3. Chris Rogers, Fat Penguin
For the third, and final, part of this article, I met Chris Rogers of Fat Penguin Management on a (for me) very early morning.
Three days had passed in Örebro, the day that Profet MGMT act LULA were scheduled to play had arrived, and my fears of spending the whole festival all by myself had not come true. The point of the showcase and workshop setup absolutely panned out, and even if I initially arrived to town on my own, I had managed to make connections to the left and right. But, had I yet managed to figure out exactly what a manager is supposed to be doing? Not really, but with the help of this last interview in the artist manager series – and an upcoming seminar on the subject – I was sure I could wrap my head around it.
In a small Örebro café (everything is quite small in Örebro, as you may have understood by now) I got to hear about Chris Rogers’ way into the music business, and the birth of his management Fat Penguin, working with artists such as Emma McGann, Natalie Holmes and John Nicholas.
»I worked in a completely different industry before coming into music, with business development« Chris said. »But, I’m a musician by background. I’ve played violin for 25 years, so music is a big passion of mine. I then got really bored with my job, and decided to match up my knowledge of business with my love for music. I started by testing out with a friend, managing him as a producer, and I still manage him now. I was testing the water, trying one thing at a time, and then started taking on artists as well. So, it was a very random way into it, but I’m very glad I did it.«
»Well, Chris, in the two other management interviews I’ve conducted during my time here, with Grace Puluczek and Daniel Kempf, they both described their way in as quite random« I said. »I don’t think there is a ‘normal’ way into this thing, I believe you just happen to start doing it.«
»I think so« Chris exclaimed. »I think you stumble into it. Maybe some people go to university and study courses on the business, but quite a lot of people just stumble into it. If you want to do management, doing it for money or fame, it’s not worth it though. It’s about love and a want to see someone grow and progress in their career, and you have a total belief in their music. That’s how my roster has grown, it’s all been about totally believing in what I work with, rather than it being about money. That’s completely secondary.«
»For how long have you been doing this now?« I asked.
»Five and a half years now, out of which four have been full time. It has been great fun. Completely stressful in a different way, but exciting as well. I hope to still be doing it for at least five more years, if not longer.«
Chris does run Fat Penguin mainly by himself, not unlike how Grace runs her 3Notes on her own, and how I am solely in charge of Profet. In the Örebro café, Chris shared his thoughts on this solo work of his.
»It’s great, but also makes me very busy. I love the idea of bringing other people in and helping grow them as managers, and them taking on rosters of their own. The key thing for me is seeing growth in people.«
»Is that the development you’d like to see for Fat Penguin if you continue another five years (or more)?« I inquired.
»Definitely« Chris laughed heartily. »I’d love to have a team by then. There’s already plans for a proper office space for us next year. Alongside the management, we run a music conference as well, so there’s two different growths coming to one.«
Upon hearing Chris speak the latter words, my thoughts dashed to Grace’s monologue that I’d heard in a crowded bar two days prior to sitting down with the Fat Penguin man. She spoke of the significance of a brand, rather than doing management from behind your own name. Chris Rogers has done the same, and what I acknowledge when collecting his description of his business is the common use of the word »we«, instead of »I«. I do it myself, and I’ve seen plenty of independent, one-person-company-people do it too. When hiding behind a brand name, it feels natural and comforting to say »We do this« and »We do that«, like it includes us in an invisible belonging.
»During your five years doing this, have you seen any change in the industry and in the way a manager has to operate?« I then asked, strategically, in order to find the proper management advice fitted for today’s music business climate.
»Good question« Chris said, a statement which always makes the proud Pop Journalist in me blush. »You have to become more and more adaptable, as a manager. Things have splintered, and you can’t rely on record labels in the same way anymore, so managers have become more key. Having an understanding about every aspect of the industry is really important. I’m an expert at nothing but know enough about everything to get me by. Today, there are more chances for artists than there has ever been, but it’s also more competitive.«
Mere hours after my interview with Chris Rogers, Live At Heart hosted the previously mentioned seminar on artist management, which was advertised with the tagline »Do You Want To Be a Manager?«. I eagerly attended, and found Chris to be one of the panel speakers, together with a wide international range of music managers.
The seminar discussion, led by Swedish artist manager Peter Åstedt, tackled the subject in the same way I have approached it in this article – trying to exemplify, on a basic level, what being a manager actually means.
It became clear half way through the session, that all members of the panel had their own methods and perspectives on the profession, which fortified the conclusion with which I gladly travelled back to Stockholm at the end of my extensive Örebro visit:
Being an artist manager has no real definition. Each person who might stumble onto the trade chooses their own way, their own process and their own will. From what I gathered through my conversations with Daniel Kempf, Chris Rogers and Grace Puluczek (as well as her three acts) there is one key word: Help.
A manager should primarily want to help and support, and the greatest wisdom I learned from my time in Örebro is that if that desire comes from a passion for music, then there is no right or wrong. Luckily, help and support is everything I want to give to the Profet MGMT acts – LULA, nites and VOLGA – and that want of mine sure comes solely from passion.