Industry Profile: Jordan Kurland
By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)
This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Jordan Kurland, owner, Zeitgeist Artist Management.
With much of his roster touring (some behind new albums), and planning an upcoming annual festival, Jordan Kurland’s life is in overdrive.
Kurland is the owner of Zeitgeist Artist Management, which has offices in San Francisco, and New York.
The boutique artist management company, founded by Kurland at the end of 1998, focuses on developing long-term careers for independently-minded artists.
Its small, dedicated staff of six lives, breathes and absolutely believes in music; and believes in taking a grassroots approach to career development in the expectation that its clients will be able to continue creating music for years to come.
Zeitgeist's robust roster includes: Death Cab for Cutie, the Postal Service, She & Him, Bob Mould, Matt Nathanson, Rogue Wave, French Kicks, the Head and the Heart, the New Pornographers, Release the Sunbird, Say Anything, Surfer Blood, Thao & Mirah, Thao With the Get Down Stay Down, Jimmy Tamborello, and Chris Walla.
Jordan is also a partner in two established and notable local festivals: the Noise Pop Music Festival, and the Treasure Island Music Festival.
Noise Pop Music Festival has been running since 1993. In 1997, Kurland offered its founder Kevin Arnold help in keeping track of logistical matters. He has been co-producer of the event since.
Noise Pop 2011 took place Feb. 22-27, 2011 and featured such acts as Best Coast, Wavves, No Age, Yo La Tengo, Dan Deacon, Ted Leo, the Concretes, and others.
This year Treasure Island Music Festival, presented by Noise Pop, and San Francisco promoter Another Planet Entertainment, will take place Oct. 15th and 16th.
Among the acts that will be presented are: Death Cab For Cutie, Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy, Explosions in the Sky, Beach House, Death From Above 1979, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Chromeo, the Head and the Heart, the Hold Steady, Dizzee Rascal, Flying Lotus, Weekend, St. Vincent and more.
This celebrated two-day, outdoor event has sold out the past two years. Over its year year history, it has presented a wide range of acts, including MGMT, Flaming Lips, M.I.A., Modest Mouse, the Raconteurs, Justice, Spoon, Thievery Corporation, Vampire Weekend, Girl Talk, MSTRKRFT and the Decemberists.
Treasure Island Music Festival organizers have been enormously savvy in their bookings, catching many of the acts on their way up, which has kept the talent budget reasonable.
Raised just outside of Chicago, Jordan came to San Francisco in the mid-‘90s in order to work at David Lefkowitz/Figurehead Management. He spent four years there, handling business for such acts as Primus, Charlie Hunter, and the Melvins.
When Zeitgeist launched in 1998, Kurland first shared an office with a friend, and only had a single staffer working for him, part-time. At the time, he was managing the bands Creeper Lagoon, Beulah, and Crumb as well his friend Matt Nathanson whom he went to college with.
Kurland met Death Cab For Cutie the same year, just after its first record “Something About Airplanes” was released by Josh Rosenfeld’s Barsuk Records.
Kurland was attending the North By Northwest Music Conference in Portland, Oregon. He went to see them play at a club. He missed the show, but bought a CD.
Two months later, Death Cab For Cutie toured with Crumb, and Kurland and Death Cab members became friends.
Barsuk had done a fantastic job of nurturing Death Cab For Cutie, and building their huge indie fan base. As a result, major labels began calling them since 1998, but the band wasn’t interested until releasing "Transatlanticism” in 2003, which appealed to far more people than anything else they had released previously. Recorded for $15,000, the album sold over 300,000 copies on Barsuk.
Band members were all pretty much all blown away by Atlantic Record’s offer of a long-term, worldwide deal in the Fall of 2004. This was largely due to Kurland being able to negotiate considerable creative freedom for the band because it had had so much success as an indie act.
Barsuk continues to issue vinyl versions of Death Cab For Cutie’s Atlantic releases. Their new album “Codes and Keys” comes as a double-LP with an 11"x11" double-sided LP insert with complete lyrics and liner notes, all wrapped in an elaborate gatefold jacket.
How have you picked bands to work with?
I would never work with something that I didn’t love, and believe in. There are different levels of belief, or I should say, that I think that they might have varying levels of success. But, for me, it has always been that I’ve always wanted to work with something that I could wake up to, and listen to before I go to sleep.
That’s why I wanted to be a manager. It gave me more freedom than any other job than I can think of as far as working on things that I’m only passionate about.
Certainly that criterion has changed a lot in last few years because I have staff and I make sure that the things that I work with are going to have a certain level of potential. That doesn’t mean that everything I work on has the potential to be pop stars. But I just feel like it has a potential to be successful, and then support it. That certainly has become more of a factor over the years. But really, it has been (based on) what I love, and what I believe will connect with people.
It was a coup for your company when the folk band, the Head and the Heart, was the cover story of Billboard recently. That surprised me.
It surprised all of us when we got that opportunity. But nothing should surprise me with that band. It’s been amazing. It’s almost one of those things that you don’t want to think about too much because you’ll screw it up. We felt like that on the first She & Him record (“Volume One” in 2008); where you have an artist that rides that wave, that inexplicable thing like that happens, and then you just let it keep happening.
[By the time the Head and the Heart signed with Sub Pop Records in Nov. 2010, the group had sold nearly 8,000 copies of its self-named 9-song debut which had been released in June, 2009.The band signed with the Seattle indie label reportedly following interest from such majors as Warner Bros. and RCA as well as from the indie Glassnote Records. The remastered, expanded album was re-released on Sub Pop Records on April 16, 2011, and has sold 50,000 units.]
How does your company operate?
There are five of us in San Francisco, and Matt Shay in New York. Matt, I have been friends with for a long time. He was at J Records and RCA Records (as VP of A&R and marketing at both) for about 10 years.
We have it set up so Joe (Goldberg) and Justin (Little) do the day-to-day of management. They assist Matt and I. Matt and I co-manage the Head and the Heart, and he has picked up Kathleen Hanna (of Le Tigre and Bikini Kill fame). We just started working on Surfer Blood together. Joe also does some managing. He and I co-manage the New Pornographers, and just picked an artist from the Bay Area, Thao Nguyen, who is great.
Jaime (Nabrynski) handles our web stuff. If a client wants to build a new website, she project manages it, and ensures that their Facebook and MySpace pages are up to date etc. Leslie (Connolly Blakeman) is my assistant, and office manager.
The growth has been really exciting. It’s been a little overwhelming because for a long time we were not picking up a lot of artists, and we picked up four acts in the past year. So it’s been a lot of integration. Frankly, we need to hire somebody in a month or two because it’s just getting really, really busy. But we keep (the company) lean, and it’s very family oriented. We just try to be as effective as possible.
In growing the roster and putting the staff under greater pressure, have you had to make adjustments yourself as a team leader?
Yeah, absolutely. It has certainly been a huge adjustment balancing the management of artists with balancing a staff. In an ideal world, I would have someone to manage the staff, but we aren’t that big of a company, so it is hard. Especially the vortex that you get pulled into when you manage acts. Just trying to keep the ship on course, so to speak. Fortunately, my staff knows that they have to bug me sometimes.
Is it advantageous being in San Francisco, and not in such music industry centers as New York or Los Angeles?
It is and it isn’t. When the technology thing started happening, it was a justification for my existence to stay up here. But, overall, I don’t think that I would have the company that I have, or I would have built it the way that I have built it, if I wasn’t here, if I was in New York or L.A. I would have had different pressures.
You operate a bit differently being in San Francisco.
I agree, and I dig that. Sometimes I miss the energy being more centered in the industry, but it has worked out really well for me here. What I don’t like is the travel. I would have to travel if I lived in L.A. or New York certainly, but living here means I have to be in L.A. or New York. That adds probably 30% or 40% of travel to my schedule.
How close are you with other managers?
It depends on the manager. Managers, in general, tend to operate in their own world. They get so pulled into the world of their clients. I have some very close friends that are managers.
Who do you feel a kinship with?
There are a lot of them. There are a lot of young managers right now. I was recently hanging out with Jason Colton (of Red Light Management) at Outside Lands. Jason manages the Decemberists, and works with Phish etc. I have always been very fortunate that more experienced managers have always been helpful. Pat Magnarella has been a really great supporter, long before I had anything going on. I have become friendly with John Silva in the past few years, and he’s been really great.
Your schedule is packed. Several of your acts, including Death Cab For Cutie, have new CDs, and you have two festivals this year. Are you crazy?
Yeah, I am beginning to think so. I am definitely beginning to think so. It’s a delicate balance between when things are going so well that you want to build on them, but you also don’t want your eyes to be much wider than your stomach. That’s why I feel like it’s a challenge. We are not selling as many records as a business; acts aren’t touring as much as they did a few years ago because of the economy; you just have to figure out that balance of keeping an active roster along with being able to do your work properly.
It’s one thing to be working with an active roster; and another thing to be working on two festivals in the year as well.
Yes, that is true. But, to be fair, I’m not as involved as I was with Noise Pop. I am still involved but it’s not at the same level of engagement that I had a few years back. I just don’t have the time for it.
Treasure Island Music Festival is a big event.
With Treasure Island, we partner with Another Planet Entertainment which just finished up with Outside Lands (Aug. 12-14). It is definitely a huge undertaking. As far as my energy and focus between the two festivals, it is certainly more on Treasure Island than on Noise Pop these days.
[Treasure Island lies just off the coast of Yerba Buena Island in the San Francisco Bay. When the Treasure Island Music Festival began in 2007, it soon became one of the prime music events of California’s live music scene. In its five years, Treasure Island Music Festival has never repeated an act.]
Does your staff oversee Treasure Island Music Festival or do you bring in a separate staff?
The Zeitgeist Artist Management staff is basically a Treasure Island staff. Noise Pop is owned by myself and Kevin Arnold. Kevin, himself is an extremely busy guy. He runs IODA (Independent Online Distribution Alliance), which Sony owns half of.
So it is a separate staff. Zeitgeist’s management is one staff, and Noise Pop is a separate staff that works on Treasure Island. With Treasure Island, we are also partners with Another Planet, which has an even larger staff.
[Computer programmer Kevin Arnold worked at the database technology company Oracle, and then at the online music company Listen.com before he founded Online Distribution Alliance (or IODA), the digital distribution company for the global independent music community, in 2003.]
What’s your participation in Treasure Island? Do you help pick bands?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a little bit like a committee; myself, and Allen Scott and Bryan Duquette from Another Planet, and also Kevin Arnold—we do the primary selection of the acts for the festival. It works out really well.
Treasure island has had sellouts for the past two years.
Yep, correct. With Treasure Island, we really are a boutique festival. We don’t try to compete in that large space of going up against Outside Lands, or Lollapalooza. We sell 14,000 or 15,000 tickets a day, and we are more than happy. It’s much more a mixed audience that wants the festival feel. The same way that Noise Pop has always been about presenting somewhat intimate shows, we want Treasure Island to feel like an intimate festival. We definitely have achieved that.
The Noise Pop Festival started in 1993 when Kevin Arnold booked five bands into a small club and called the event Noise Pop. In 1997, you came in to help keep track of the logistics. Since then you have co-produced an event, which became more ambitious, including introducing the film festival and educational series in 2000.
This will be my 15th Noise Pop. That just makes me feel old.
In 2000 and 2001, you and Kevin presented Noise Pop Chicago with the booking agency, The Billions Corporation. Why didn’t that continue?
What happened was that the economy fell out. It was sort of that period. Noise Pop, because of the nature of how we structure the festival, is very sponsore-driven in terms of our ability to do it. The internet bubble burst in 2001. In 2000, we did very well with (Noise Pop Chicago) but in 2001 we lost some money, and frankly I was getting busier and Kevin was getting busier. It didn’t make sense to go on.
A big stress doing something long-distance as well?
For sure. We had partnered with The Billions Corporation and Tom Windish was at Billions at that point. So it was the four of us (Tom, Kevin, myself and David (“Boche”) Viecelli) doing it. But yeah, it was hard. Noise Pop (in San Francisco) would wrap up at the ending of February or the beginning of March, and we had this other festival to look to in May. If Kevin and I didn’t have “day jobs” outside of Noise Pop, it would have been easier to achieve. But it was exhausting.
Many people do think of Noise Pop as being quintessential San Francisco.
Yep. I think that is what we figured out when we went to Chicago. I had grown up outside of Chicago so it was nice to do something there, and also I felt that Chicago was a market that was underserved. Chicago has such a great music community—and this was pre-Pitch Fork Fest and pre-Lollapalooza. So it felt like there was a real opportunity to do it but, frankly, Kevin and I just didn’t have the people power.
Noise Pop, although thankfully well respected and established, has largely been a hobby for the two of us. I think hobby is, perhaps, the wrong word…we moonlight, because we have always had other day jobs.
Money doesn’t seem to be the prime motivator behind either Noise Pop or the Treasure Island Music Festival.
No it’s not. Treasure Island, frankly, is a much more profitable endeavor. That is because of the size of it. Outdoor festivals are a lot sexier for sponsors, and you can do well on that. Noise Pop, we really enjoy doing, and it has become such an integral part of the San Francisco music community—and (of) independent music on a national level—that we have kept going.
Overseeing Noise Pop must have been a great networking tool for you as a manager early on.
For sure. Part of the reason I was in touch with Death Cab for the five years that they were self-managed was Noise Pop. They played it three times. It wasn’t ever in my mind that “I am going to do Noise Pop because it’s going to land me bands” but it has helped in that regard.
You came up primarily through the independent sector. How do you view the changes in the music industry over the past few years?
It’s (now) challenging, and it’s exciting. As a manager, you have an ability to connect with fans in such a different way than you had been able to before, but it is really challenging. It is also more expensive running a management company because you are now staffed in a different way. I don’t think that the roster that I have would have achieved the success that it has without the connectivity of the internet. On the one hand I ask, “How in hell am I only selling this amount of Death Cab records with the exposure that we’ve had?” Yes, it’s obvious that people are downloading it and they are fans, but the reality is that Death Cab is the type of artist that would have never gotten anywhere to where they are without the connectivity that the internet provides.
Before leaving Barsuk Records for Atlantic Records in 2004, Death Cab for Cutie had been courted by numerous labels. Around this time, there was a sizable migration of bands from indies to majors including: Le Tigre (from Mr. Lady to Strummer/Universal), Hot Hot Heat (SubPop to Sire/Warner Bros.), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Touch & Go to Interscope).
Few could imagine Bright Eyes landing at #10 on The Billboard 200 the next year with "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," released on Omaha, Nebraska—based indie Saddle Creek.
Definitely not. There had been interest from majors off and on for years for Death Cab—from pretty much when the band started. When I got onboard, when they hired me, it was about six or eight weeks before "Transatlanticism” (in 2003) came out. That record, unsurprisingly, garnered a lot of attention because it is such a great record. But they didn’t feel a real need to go to a major. Then the record just performed so well, and it opened up so many doors, and there was the success Modest Mouse was having (with the 2004 platinum-selling “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” after moving from Up Records to Epic Records in 2000), it felt like that was a window open to jump through.
Death Cab for Cutie never showcased for labels?
No, of course not. People would come out and see them. There was interest. As soon as people started hearing the band through that record ("Transatlanticism”) there was a lot of interest. Then we met with a (major) label and more labels came knocking. The record just kept going. It was a year after the record came out that they signed their deal with Atlantic. We talked to labels for pretty much a year straight.
You were able to negotiate a lot of creative freedom because Death Cab had had so much success before doing the deal. Do you think you’d get the same type of deal from a major today?
No, I don’t think that we would. We got things I don’t think you could get today—just because the business has changed so much over the last seven years. But I do feel that it has been a very positive relationship for us. (Atlantic) lets Death Cab do what they do. There’s no real pressure (for them) to be something that they aren’t. Of course, there are some opportunities that come that we don’t feel are appropriate, and there’s a little bit of a tug-of-war. But in terms of making records, touring and everything else, there’s not much in the way of interference.
How does management set up an album’s release today with a label?
It is much more of a collaborative thing. It depends on the band. It depends on the label. It depends on the management company, ultimately. Bands know their audience better than anybody. They are the ones out there playing in front of audiences every night, interacting with them, and seeing the T-shirts that they are wearing. You have to be proactive as a manager. You have to really go in there. There is no template anymore. That’s the thing. For certain types of artists, it’s more contingent on radio but, for most bands these days, you have to be doing everything. You have to take every opportunity. With this Death Cab record (“Codes and Keys” released on May 31, 2011) Atlantic came to us and said, “How do we create urgency? It’s the seventh record.”
You do get to a point that no matter how good a record is that people are going to look at their (music) collection and are wondering if they need to own another Death Cab record.
We needed to be very creative in terms of how we build up the record. We did the live video (for “You Are A Tourist”), which worked out super well in bringing attention to the release. But it’s hard (to keep momentum) other than the things you do. You tour; you make another video; you service another song to radio. You ask, “What else could we be doing?” As a manager, I think that one of the biggest challenges we have is to figure out how to maintain the presence of a record, and maintain the presence of an artist after a record comes out. You get that initial burst around release, but how do you make sure that people still know the record exists three, four or six months later?
The next record might be two years later.
Absolutely. You really do sit down with a calendar, and work out what you are doing each week and each month to maintain presence. I don’t believe that releasing a record is just a marketing tool for a tour. I don’t think that’s the case. It’s all tied together. I want the record to be as successful as it can be. I want the tour to be as success as it can be. But that challenge (to keep a presence) is such a challenge to creators to maintain.
[During a recent co-interview with Spinner.com, the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard hinted at collaboration between the two bands.
Coyne was first to mention the project saying, "So we should find a way to do a Flaming Lips/Death Cab three or four-song EP."
Gibbard replied, "Let's do it."
Coyne asked Gibbard if he had any tracks that could be used. Gibbard named "American Waltz" and "Aimless Intellectual" from Cutie's “Codes and Keys” sessions.]
Then there are international demands.
Oh absolutely. And people today are just getting hit from so many different sources in terms of any entertainment. I think that is what has been so fantastic about the internet but also that it hurts artists. People have more options that they have ever had.
Ian Hogarth, CEO of Songkick, and I recently discussed how people discover bands and move away from them so quickly after they have been discovered on the internet.
That you don’t have the ownership of it as you once had. I think that we have all had that experience.
Ian suggested a subgenre of bands might avoid the internet in the future in order to grow at their own pace.
That’s interesting. Death Cab have had it said a lot that they are one of the last bands to break pre-internet. They learned how to sleep in the van. They learned how to play shows every night. Whereas certain artists get so much attention before they are ready for that attention, and it hurts them. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a great band that got so much attention on that first record (a self-named release in 2005 that garnered considerable press) and they’re weren’t actually ready to back it up. That hurt them, ultimately. You just said it. It‘s nice that people can learn about your music so quickly, but it can be really damaging too.
New bands want to play Coachella right out of the box. Many don’t realize that they have to strategize a career.
Absolutely, you do. You do have to look at those big posts, festivals. With the Head and the Heart, we turned down a Coachella offer this year because we felt that it would be much better ahead in 2012. Death Cab, looking at festivals (this year), we didn’t do a lot. We wanted to do our hard ticket plays (this year), and then do soft tickets next summer.
There are so many interesting services coming out. Spotify launched in the U.S., and Pandora went public recently.
My feeling about Spotify and subscription—and I am certainly not alone in this—but I have felt that subscription is the future of what monetization is going to be about. I think that it’s going to be a hybrid for a long time; maybe forever with the option of owning versus streaming. But I do think that it is going to be about streaming and…cable TV is the best model. I’m the guy that has all of the premium channels.
I think that as a mass monetization, it has to be subscription whether it’s tacking on a fee to the ISPs or it’s getting people onboard with Spotify or Mog or any other streaming services. I will always be selling lifestyle but I don’t think that my 3 1/2-year-old son will particularly need to own anything entertainment-related like that by the time that he is digesting a lot of music.
You aren’t a native of San Francisco. What attracted you to the city?
When I moved here it was to work for a management company. I came up here to work with David Lefkowitz (at David Lefkowitz/Figurehead Management). Primus was his big client at the time. Chris Cuevas worked there who I also assisted. At that point, (the roster) was Primus, the Melvins, and Charlie Hunter—a really great roster. I was a big Primus fan so I thought that it would be cool to come to San Francisco for a couple of years, check it out, and get to work in (artist) management, which I wanted to do. It was what my goal. I wasn’t even a year out of college.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up outside of Chicago, in Glencoe and Evanston where Northwestern University is.
You came out to California to attend Pitzer College in Claremont?
Yeah. My sister had gone to Pitzer College. I thought I’d go back to Chicago. I thought I wanted to go east or west, and then settle down in Chicago.
What did you study at Pitzer College?
I was a psychology major. I studied a lot of literature. I thought I wanted to be a writer, originally. When I started in music, I thought I wanted to be a music journalist. Hunter Thompson was a huge influence on me, and on my outlook in life. I grew up reading Lester Bangs, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I was definitely one of many people who came out here who felt a kinship to the Beat Generation that was out here. I am sure I wasn’t the only one that showed up with a copy of (Jack Kerouac’s) “On The Road” and “The Dharma Bums” in my backpack.
While at Pitzer College, you seemed to have figured out that you wanted to be in the music industry.
I started booking shows, and writing reviews for the school magazine and I started interning. I spent my summer before my senior year in New York interning at a management company and then I went back to school and I interned at a couple of record labels.
What management company?
Seriously Inc. with Jim Grant and Roger Cramer. At the time, they had Living Colour, Basehead and, while I was there, they picked up Soul Coughing. It was a good experience.
I interned at Geffen Records in the fall of 1993 in L.A. It was a very exciting time. (Nirvana’s) “In Utero” was released (the same week) as the label released the first Counting Crows record (“August and Everything After”). Geffen had a lot going on at that point. In 1994, during the spring semester, I interned at Imago Records. They shut down later that year (in Dec. 1994, when the Bertelsmann Music Group, who was financially backing Imago, pulled funding). By the point I was there they had Henry Rollins, and Aimee Mann and a few other acts, but they ended up shuttering their doors.
You graduated in 1994. What did you immediately do?
I was kicking around L.A. I was answering phones at ASCAP.
From those early jobs you would have seen a good part of the music business. People often later describe this period as some of the most exciting times of their lives.
It was exciting. I figured I wanted to work around music, but I didn’t have any relationships. I didn’t know anybody. If I knew anybody it was like it was the fifth person removed from them. I needed to get experience. I was also commuting from college—driving from Claremont, which is only 35 miles from L.A.—but it’s a two hour commute with all of the traffic each way. The time was interesting and the energy of it was great. I was fortunate that it didn’t take me very long to find a steady job once I graduated.
Was Sunset Strip’s music scene going full tilt?
I don’t know about full-tilt. It was kind of between. There was a lot of music, but there wasn’t particularly an L.A. scene that was breaking at that point. It was pretty soon after that Rage Against The Machine and some other acts had broken. But there wasn’t anything from that era that broke large.
L.A. isn’t really a great live music town.
I would agree with that.
Why did San Francisco appeal to you?
A job opportunity at a management company came up, and it was working with a band that I really loved. And that was it. I had some good friends from college up here and I thought it would be a good opportunity. I had no idea if I was going to stay or not. At the very least, I thought it’d be here a couple of years.
Was Matt Nathanson then living in San Francisco?
No. He’s a year younger than me. He moved up here after he graduated. His girlfriend at the time, now his wife, was living up here. So he moved here as well.
Zeitgeist Artist Management began by handling Creeper Lagoon, Beulah, and Matt.
I had been working for David Lefkowitz for almost four years. I felt that it was time to branch out. I took a $10,000 loan from my dad. Creeper Lagoon had just done their publishing deal so I had a little bit of money from that. That’s how I started the company. I really struggled for a while. It wasn’t until 2003 that things got good.
Were booking agencies receptive to you when you started as a manager?
Yeah. I was fortunate. David had a lot of success so people would take my phone calls because I had been calling (before) from that office. Certainly, when I started working on Noise Pop, it allowed me to establish relations with agents that I would not have been able to establish as just a manager. So that was really helpful.
What offices did you start with?
I shared office space with a friend, Adam Werbach. He was leaving his job (as the youngest-ever national president of The Sierra Club; elected in 1996 at age 23) and he was doing some television production stuff. So the two of us had an office together. He kind of inspired me to do (management). I was thinking about it and he convinced me to do it. Then, while we were sharing an office, we ended up doing some consulting. Pretty soon after I left (the booking agency) the internet music thing started happening. We started doing some consulting in that space. That was my primary form of income for two or three years.
[Today, Adam Werbach spearheads Saatchi & Saatchi's global sustainability efforts in 80 countries.]
Just strategy. There were all these technology companies based around music up here, but they didn’t have people who had relationships in the music industry. So I would leverage my relationships, and strategy etc.
You also managed Crumb who toured with Death Cab.
Crumb came with me as well when I started the company. They broke up soon afterwards, but Crumb was integral in my forming my relationship with Death Cab. Death Cab’s first real tour down the West Coast was supporting Crumb. That’s how I started becoming friends with those guys.
You first missed Death Cab’s performance at the North by Northwest Music Festival in Portland in 1998.
Exactly. I drove over (to the club), and missed it. I managed to buy a CD and loved the record.
The band only had the one record out at that time?
Yeah, “Something About Aeroplanes” had just come out (on the indie label Barsuk Records).
Over the years, all managers lose acts. Is it heartbreaking to realize or to be told, “This just ain’t working out?”
Yeah, for sure. The relationship between an artist and a manager is a personal one. You don’t know how it’s going to go. Every time we go to meet with a potential new client…there have been times that I have had meetings with an artist that I have really loved, and realized that it’s just not a good fit. It’s like anything. With any relationship, there is going to be water under the bridge. Sometimes that water stays water under the bridge; sometimes it rises over the bridge. We haven’t lost a lot of acts over the years, but it does happen. It is just part of (the business).
But you have had your heart broken.
Yeah. Everybody does, I think, in this business. We have a certain style of management, and it’s not going to be right for everybody…and people change.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”