In this week’s installment of Strictly Business, Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment, TaP Music’s Ed Millett and Wendy Ong go deep about the rewards and challenges of managing such prominent and pioneering artists as Lana Del Rey, Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Caroline Polacheck, Noah Cyrus and many more.
The conversation — which took place during the Mondo NYC music and tech conference in October — starts with Millett discussing founding the company in 2010 with his partner, fellow co-CEO Ben Mawson, and how Del Rey’s skyrocketing career basically dominated their first 18 months in business. But it soon turns toward the challenges that she and they faced, first from skeptical record companies, then from Del Rey’s insistence that “Video Games” — “a five-minute song that doesn’t really have a chorus,” as he says — be her first single, and then trying to keep her career on track as it took off faster and bigger than they had expected.
He and Ong, who joined the company as president in 2018, also get deep about the aggressive nastiness and outright misogyny their largely female roster encounters online, and how they help their artists cope with it — they even propose that record-label contracts should include provisions for therapy and other forms of mental health, if they’re going to so strongly encourage artists to engage on social media and share so much of their lives in public forums.
They also discussed Dua Lipa’s decision to release her very party-centric album “Future Nostalgia” just as the pandemic was beginning in March of 2020 — and how, even though it seemed completely out of step with the mood of that time, it went on to win a Grammy and, more importantly, provide a welcome relief and release for so many people, who got their grooves on at home in their pajamas instead of the club.
Of course, there’s much more to TaP Music than the above artists. The company also represents many other up-and-coming artists, as well as songwriters and producers, and also boasts a label, publishing company and digital marketing unit. Millett, who co-founded TaP in 2010 with music attorney Ben Mawson, had previously worked in management for Moby and the Kinks’ Ray Davies as well as his own band. Ong, a veteran of Variety’s Power of Women list, brings a remarkably diverse background to TaP. She began her career with music industry posts in her native Singapore as well as Hong Kong before moving to the U.S. to take prominent marketing roles at major labels, working alongside Clive Davis and Diddy. She then transitioned to New York’s Metropolitan Opera — and then made an even more dramatic shift to chief marketing officer of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation — before settling at TaP Management, where she was named president in 2018.
Listen to this week’s episode of Strictly Business below.