The key trait shared by all the managers I spoke with was perseverance. Steve Sherr, who works with Soundgarden, Lenny Kravitz and Chris Cornell, says: “If you are not aggressive and you are not willing to go get things for yourself, then you are not going to be willing to do it for your musicians and you will not get ahead.”
Jonathan Larr, an entertainment attorney and talent manager whose clients include Full Force Rising and the Kill Pills, was determined to break into the music biz by any means necessary. This involved tracking down a few good role models willing to share their experience, including Rob McDermott, with whom he now enjoys a working relationship.
Sherr got his start by taking a leap of faith: leaving his corporate job at PriceWaterhouse in the hopes of landing a gig in the music business. He called everyone he could and his tenacity landed him an internship at Capital and, later, a temp job at MCA, which kickstarted his career. But Sherr takes pains to point out that being aggressive does not require being difficult; open-mindedness and civility are equally important, he says, as are modesty and humility.
“Always do what you say you’re going to do,” says Jeffrey Jampol, a legacy manager who handles the Doors and Janis Joplin, “and if you aren’t going to do it don’t say it.”
Dina LaPolt, an attorney whose clients include Motley Crue and Tupac Shakur’s estate, says her career path involved attending numerous music conferences, taking extensive UCLA classes, studying relevant legal matters and interning for an entertainment attorney.
Getting one’s foot in the door is one thing, finding a mentor — someone willing to watch your back and provide guidance — is another. Andy Gould, the longtime manager for Rob Zombie and co-manager of Guns N’ Roses, got his start interning for Beatles producer George Martin, whom he met as a bike messenger for Chapel Music in London when he asked Martin’s secretary if they needed anyone. This assertiveness landed him a job as a gopher and a reputation as a tireless taskmaster.
“When everyone else went home, when a lot of my friends got married and had kids, I kept working,” says Gould.
Later in his career, Gould mentored Rob McDermott, who ended up managing Linkin Park from the very beginning and now manages a number of heavy metal bands. “It is important to pass down how it used to be and how it is going now without being really negative and sore about it,” says McDermott.
The entrepreneurial gene cannot be underestimated when it comes to successful music careers. It’s no coincidence that all the people interviewed for this report have their own company. Gayle Boulware, who managed Staind and Korn, says the advantages include keeping things on a smaller scale, making matters “much more personal.”
“It keeps it to a level where it is not about the projections,” adds Boulware. “It is about what do you love to do, are you happy, do you have a good quality of life, do you like who you work with and work for?”
The downsides of self-employment are being perpetually on the clock and a willingness to bet on yourself, despite the odds. Gould acknowledges both sides of the equation: “(When you don’t work for yourself) there is a possibility that you are going to work for an asshole,” he says. “If you work for yourself, you know that you’re going to work for an asshole.”
Once established, it’s hard to avoid the old art vs. commerce dilemma. “We’re in the business of music, the business of entertainment,” says Jampol. “In order to have a viable business you need to be profitable. So I think you need to find both. You need to find art that you are passionate about that will be commercially successful.”
Adds McDermott: “The trick is that you should always focus on the art first and no matter what try to find a way to make money so that commerce doesn’t cloud what you need to do.”