As we continue to plow through the month of July, we’re thrilled to offer the third installment in our “Artist Management Interview Series”, this week featuring Atom Factory‘s own Adina Friedman.
Adina comes to the plate with prior experience working for Atlantic Records, Warner Music, and the Artist Organization. On top of that, she has assisted in the management of April Smith, The Dig, Madi Diaz, and pop sensation Meghan Trainor. For the past few years, though, Friedman has focused her attention to the day-to-day management of the phenomenal talent (and TuneCore Artist) Lindsey Stirling.
We got the chance to chat with Adina about her experience as an artist manager, Atom Factory, working with a successful independent artist and more:
How did you begin as an artist manager? What is your method of choosing the artists you work with?
Adina Friedman: I kind of fell into it by default. I was working at Warner Music in New York when I began working with an artist I became musically obsessed with, April Smith. I began helping out and it led to a management role. I quickly realized it was something I really wanted to do. I got a great opportunity to work for John Legend’s team at the Artist Organization, so I left the label side of things.
Moving from the label system to a company like Atom Factory, how has the way a manager/artist relationship begins changed in the last 5-10 years?
Especially with artists like Lindsey, it’s so involved. Since she doesn’t have a label, it really means we’re the manager, the label – pretty much everything. It’s a very close relationship and we put trust in each other. You really have to possess the ability to look at things from all different levels – especially if artists don’t have a label. I had the background of working at a label, how they operate, and the different things they look for in setting up a release. I think managers today have to know a lot more than they did years ago when they had the labels to rely on in terms of marketing and overseeing a release.
What are a couple of the key lessons have you learned as an artist manager over the years?
I honestly think I learn something new everyday. The industry continues to transform and the reliance on digital and social becomes increasingly apparent. There’s no plan that fits every artist – you have to cater to them individually. I think with Lindsey, she’s breaking new ground everyday and there was no path that was pre-written for her.
In terms of the first year of an artist/manager relationship, what kind of role does a manager play in overall business development?
When we first started managing Lindsey, she only had digital distribution (via TuneCore). We had to find the right team members across the board; including people with the right relationships in place to say, get her music into a Target or a Best Buy. We wanted to retain her digital rights, which is why it was so great with TuneCore. It’s also important to find the right publicist and marketing team. – even down to finding the right directors and producers for videos.
Being such a ‘digital artist’, the most surprising thing was how she translated in the physical world. We weren’t sure how she was going to do in record stores, but we quickly learned her fans want to have their hands on physical items, too.
In your experiences, what are some of the biggest misconceptions of an artist manager’s role(s)?
That they’re going to create every opportunity that the artist gets. I think Lindsey is a tried and true sample of creating her own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to come along. I think a manager should help create opportunities, but it’s about working hand-in-hand, and when both parties create opportunities together, the manager is able to take it further.
Similarly, how would you pitch the main responsibilities overall to a potential new client?
I think in some ways managers are like a marriage. You need to take the time and find the right fit, while also jumping on the right opportunities before they’re gone. It’s the all about finding the right balance; you need to get to know the person – and artists want to know what you can offer and what experience and services you can bring to the table.
We have a big team at Atom Factory, and we can let them know the services we offer, and take the time to learn about their goals as an artist and how we can help them achieve them. Hopefully both sides align there and you come to the conclusion that it’s a good fit for both.
When managing an artist who is without the resources of a label, tell us about how you go about assembling a team to help move their music forward.
I think it’s really important to put the right team in place. When an artist doesn’t have a label, there are a lot of pros and cons. In the case with Lindsey, we can get the right people on each facet of a release, but on the flip side the artist has to pay for it. We have a pretty diverse roster and can leverage opportunities and relationships for other artists. One thing labels do really well is they have a lot more funding and are a much bigger machine. That’s the kind of leverage that creates opportunity, with radio especially, for example.
How important, in the case of an artist like Lindsey, is remaining ‘independent’ in 2015?
Honestly, I think part of what makes Lindsey so great is that she’s independent and I don’t know how she’d do if thrown into the label system. I’ve heard great feedback from so many of our partners that we’re able to react so much quicker because there’s not a long approval chain for every little decision. Also, she’s a constant content creator. She’s churning out content every single day, so if she had to deal with the restraints of a major label, it’s not like you can just release a video whenever you want. You’d have to go through the approval, funding, sign offs – I feel like you’d lose part of what makes Lindsey so great as an artist.
When it comes to being presented with a label deal for an artist in 2015, what factors do the artist/manager team have to take into consideration?
I think you have to look at what the label is going to bring, what their strengths are, and if it’s a good fit. If you’re an artist, sometimes it’s completely the right way to go, and for other artists, sometimes it’s really not. You really have to understand the value proposition and make sure you’re getting the right offer. It’s almost as important as the relationship with the manager – you’re giving them rights to your music, the work that you created, and putting your trust in them, so you have to feel good that it’s the right relationship and you believe in what the label is offering you.
How important is music publishing when it comes to maximizing the revenue from an artist’s catalog? What role does the manager play when it comes to staying on top of royalties?
I think with someone like Lindsey, it was really important to at least have a publishing administration deal because of her large international base. If you don’t have someone collecting that, you could be leaving money on the table. I feel it’s important to retain that publishing as long as you can and if you’re going give it up, it should be for an important reason – whether it be for an advance for a record, or you believe this publisher can get you the syncs or co-writes you need – it’s all about starting this relationship at the right time and getting the value out of it that you should be.
Have you been able to identify the differences between a company the size of Atom Factory can make on an artist’s career versus other types of management companies?
I think its somewhere in between – we’re small enough to give artists the attention they need but we’re big enough to offer unique services that not every management company is able to offer; especially in terms of digital, creative, and touring services. I think Atom Factory has been really smart about growing the company and taking on artists that we have the resources to manage.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years as an artist manager?
I definitely want to continue to grow as a manager and take on more clients. It’s all about finding the right artists at the right time for now.