It’s official: TaP Management has gone Hollywood. Granted, the U.K.-based firm co-founded by Ben Mawson (pictured above at right) and Ed Millett (pictured at left), which also includes an in-house label and publishing arm under the TaP Music umbrella, has had a Los Angeles presence — a humble abode in Venice Beach — since 2012. That’s when their first client, Lana Del Rey, decided to relocate to the West Coast from New York City and the L.A./London time difference just wasn’t working. But their new location, while still decidedly homey, is the epitome of California living. Walking distance from the Chateau Marmont, this compound-style residence sits at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac and boasts soaring ceilings, a recording studio, a spa and a guesthouse, not to mention views from downtown to the ocean.
It’s so L.A., as is their newest client: Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld, who is perhaps best known as Emily Junk in the “Pitch Perfect” movies,” the singing role that led to her deal with Republic Records and a subsequent string of hit singles. TaP’s influence is already apparent on Steinfeld’s latest single and video, “Afterlife,” which will be featured on her forthcoming Apple TV+ series “Dickinson.” She’s going in a decidedly edgy direction that is more reminiscent of fellow TaP clients such as Del Rey, Dua Lipa and Ellie Goulding than any of her previous pop songs.
“She likes that our artists are commercial but still credible, that they have their own lane and their own identity,” said Millett. “You can be massive but you can also do something boundary-pushing or just smart. And she wanted to explore that.”
The first single from Lipa’s sophomore album is due to drop soon. “It’s more upbeat and dance-y with a disco element — there are no ballads,” said Millett, who added that the Grammy winner’s global arena tour will kick off in April.
It’s not just the company’s roster that is expanding; so is the company’s global reach. René Symonds has been elevated to head up A&R for TaP Publishing, and Wendy Ong will now run both TaP Management as well as TaP Records, working across all artist campaigns within the U.S. Their staff, which currently consists of 40 employees internationally, includes a total of four A&R execs, a tour production manager, tour accountants and a social team. “As managers we’ve always tried to cover as many bases as possible, not counting on anyone else for the success of our artists, particularly labels,” said Millett.
Mawson and Millett may not have a lot of faith in labels but they believe in the future of their own imprint, which happens to be a joint venture with Universal Music. “It’s early days, but it’s exciting and we feel like it’s going to be a big part of what we do over the next few years,” said Millett, who sees the label as an extension of the management company. “What’s amazing is that we’ve achieved commercial success with credible artists — artists with identity. I don’t think we’ve had any cheap, commercial success. Credibility comes in different forms, and some of them are better at certain things than others. But there’s a credibility across the roster.”
Another commonality among many of their clients: Estrogen. “Most of our success comes with solo females,” said Mawson. “Ed and I are both …”
“Feminists?” offered Ong.
“Feminine,” Mawson said with a laugh. “I’m much more emotional and upfront, and he’s more considered — a little bit detached, maybe. We’re both very sensitive. Lana gave a speech which referenced that we protected her and she felt safe with us. Lana’s had a rough time … a really rough time at the hands of some.”
The vision that Mawson and Millett had for their company when they first started working with Del Rey a decade ago is finally coming together, under one roof. “The way we set up the company was always about keeping all of the creative, like, in the company, whether it be writing, producing, marketing, whatever,” said Millett. “So we wanted a house where it’s more relaxed and more creative hopefully. Less corporate.”
The vibe is the opposite of, say, Maverick’s sleek offices in Beverly Hills. “We did get offered a spot there and we said no,” said Mawson. “It doesn’t have any windows.”
“So much of this job is about conversation,” said Millett. “Why do you have to sit behind a desk in a tower block staring at a computer with an air conditioner going? If you want people dedicated to this job — it’s weekend and evenings — you need to give people a lifestyle where they want to be part of it all the time.”
But it’s more than merely a relaxed attitude (both co-founders are barefoot and sipping beer) that sets TaP apart from the competition. “We won’t name the big management companies in L.A. — the two in particular — but they’re a conglomerate of individual managers rather than a unified company,” said Mawson. “And as much as they may sell themselves as having all these services, it’s not very integrated.”
“We always wanted to have a company where everybody is crossing over and collaborative,” added Millett. “A lot of the managers share day-to-days with other managers so that there’s this constant communication all over the world.” Aside from L.A., New York and London, Tap has offices in Berlin and Sydney and they’re considering Singapore (where Ong, a native of Malaysia, was educated) as their next outpost.
Pictured from left: René Symonds, Tim Manton, Wendy Ong, Ed Millett, Ben Mawson, Oscar Sidebo, Remy Logan, Nic Damasio, Jules Baddeley.
“The whole ethos is just about offering proper global management and having teams present in the major territories,” said Millett. “A global approach is more important now than it ever was. The U.K. is where a lot of good music comes out, but it’s a tiny part of the world. Since the rise of streaming, you need to start everything at the same time. If it’s a U.K. artist, you need to be starting here as much as if you’re an American artist or vice versa. That’s why Wendy has come in. She’s working across all of our artists, from the embryonic ones to the big ones, setting them up with Spotify, YouTube and all of those important relationships.”
Kicking off her shoes and sipping a glass of red wine, Ong — who was promoted from head of marketing — looks like she has made herself right at home at TaP. But the firm’s lack of hip-hop artists is quite a change of pace for her. She started out her career at Arista, where Ong helped to expand the international popularity of OutKast and Diddy. She then went on to work at Capitol Music Group and Interscope Records before joining Roc Nation as CMO, where she ran campaigns for Jay-Z and Rihanna. “I get the culture,” she said. “I don’t know [why] because a lot of it was banned in Singapore and Malaysia.”
Millett teased Ong about her past adventures in “the urban world,” as he put it. “Wendy,” he asked, “how many meetings have you had to do in strip clubs?”
“Oh my God, I’m a connoisseur,” she said. “In Atlanta is the best, by the way. They have a buffet! It’s a family affair.”
This brought back other memories for Ong. “I was once in Germany with Big Boi and his friend,” she recalled. “He was smoking a cigar and I was like, ‘You have to agree to do this interview.’ He was like, ‘Can we talk about this in the sauna?’ I was there in my robe and I was like, ‘Do we really need to do this here?’” Needless to say, there are no more strip-club buffets or business meetings in bathrobes in Ong’s future.