It may seem like all lights, cameras, action and fun from the outside, but the music industry is one of the shadiest industries around. The odds of making it big in the music, even if an artist has an abundance of natural talent is 50/50 at best. There are just so many possible pitfalls, dishonest promoters, sneaky managers, underhanded lawyers and deceitful record executives willing to hoodwink eager artists/bands trying to make their dreams come true. With that said, most of the musicians who do make it to the limelight succeed because they have a strong, savvy and dedicated team around them. Usually this surrounding team is led by a manager who calls all the shots, has the vision and looks out in every single situation for the artists they represent. There’s a common saying in music that goes like this: “Team work makes the Dream Work.” In this article, we’ll let you in on the managers that spearhead the teams behind some of the most successful artists around.
6 Jonny Shipes
The Youth-driven music culture is a difficult terrain to maneuver. Especially in this post-modern era, trends and fads come in and leave as fast as the weather changes. This cycle is even faster in NYC where culture, music and art are so intricately woven into the city’s identity. That’s why it’s important to note the talent of quickly, rising manger, Jonny Shipes. With his management agency Cinematic Music Group, he has been able to sign a crew of formidable talent that really embodies NYC cool.
His talent roster includes music video director, socialite and DJ, Va$htie, a crew of young Brooklyn rappers called Pro Era, led by the charismatic Joey Bada$$, and other buzzing artists on the Hip-Hop scene such as Smoke Dza, Big Krit and Fat Trel. A few of the major moves he’s orchestrated with these artists include securing a licensing deal with Joey Bada$$ and Marc Ecko’s global streetwear clothing company. He is also the visionary behind the lucrative Smoker’s Club tour which takes place annually and is heavily supported by cool, culture-driven teens all over the country. Keep your eyes on this guy; it looks like he’s just getting started.
5 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Manager: Zach Quillen
One of the biggest stories in pop music these past two years has been the success of Seattle indie rap duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. With an unorthodox approach, a self-deprecating sense of humor and an uncanny knack for really tapping into listeners’ emotions, the producer/rapper duo scored huge hits with songs like “Thrift Shop,” ‘Can’t Hold Us” and “Same Love” - making their debut album a huge #1 smash. The surging duo also won 4 awards at the most recent Grammy’s earlier this year. However, a big part of their success must go to Zach Quillen, the group’s manager who oversees the day-to-day running of Macklemore LLC. His all-encompassing job includes managing their touring schedule, licensing deals, merchandise, radio and everything else. Quillen became quite adept in the music industry by working at the Agency Group where he collaborated with artists like Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa. He connected with Macklemore full-time in 2012 and quickly went to work. Riding the wave of great music, exceptional live shows, and a bulletproof work ethic, he proved that indie artists with superb management can make it just as big without the push of a major label.
4 Justin Bieber’s Manager: Scooter Braun
Okay we know, all the news we’ve been hearing about Justin Bieber hasn’t been the most flattering lately. It seems that navigating the terrain from lovable, global teen pop star to young adulthood is proving to be especially difficult for Mr. Bieber. There have been the DUI’s, the multiple neighborhood disturbance complaints, the Brazilian prostitute thing – let’s just leave it at that. However, even with all the recent bad publicity, we can’t forget how remarkable his rise to fame was – and a big part of that is due to his manager Scooter Braun. Braun, an Atlanta-based college dropout spotted Justin as a very young Canadian prodigy on YouTube, sought him out and introduced his music to R&B star Usher Raymond. The rest as the say is history. Braun helped guide Bieber’s career into unbelievable success and riches, and he even masterminded Bieber-centric movies along the way like Never Say Never & Believe. Following his success with Justin Bieber, he’s gone on to guide the successful carriers of pop starlet Carly Rae Jepsen and British boy band, The Wanted. College dropout or not, Scooter Braun definitely has the Midas touch.
3 Kevin Liles
Mr Liles is one of the most experienced and proven music managers around. His career is a perfect example of how determination and all-out grind can take you from nothing to the top of the heap. Kevin Liles started off at heralded record label Def Jam as just an unpaid intern and rose to the president of Def Jam in 1998. He served as president for 7 years, and during his tenure, he fostered the growth of Def Jam artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West and Ludacris into true global brands. Presently, Kevin Liles is the founder of KWL management, an impressive agency that presently oversees the careers of platinum-selling music stars like Trey Songz, Big Sean, Nelly, D’Angelo and Mike Posner. His secret for success lies in his unique management style which involves viewing music artists as living, breathing brands. An integral facet of success is having a grand vision, and Kevin Liles certainly exceeds in this aspect.
2 Celine Dion’s Manager: Rene Angelil
Either way you look at it, Celine Dion is one of the most impactful recording artists of all time. She has sold more than 220 million albums worldwide and is the winner of 5 Grammy’s. And of course, there is her unforgettable song “My Heart Will Go On” which served as the ultimate theme song to James Cameron’s blockbuster, Titanic. But what people might not know is that at the very beginning of her career, her manager and future husband Rene Angelil mortgaged his house to fund Celine Dion’s first album. She is currently midway through a very sweet deal with Ceasar’s Palace that pays her $100 million for 70 music concerts a year. You can be sure that her husband/manager Rene Angelil had a huge hand to play in working out that deal. Rene and Celine have 3 kids together and they are living proof that you can have a working relationship with your spouse and still make things work.
1 Lady Gaga/John Legend Manager: Troy Carter
The 41-yr-old Troy Carter can definitely be classified as a managing prodigy. Hailing from West Philadelphia, Carter originally wanted to be a musician himself but quickly realized that he had a knack for being the principal behind the scenes, booking gigs, managing tours and setting up lucrative deals for artists. He cut his teeth at record companies like Bad Boy (owned by Sean “Puffy” Combs); where he spent his energy promoting rising stars like The Notorious B.I.G. He got his big break after meeting Eve in 1999 who went on to become one of the biggest female rappers in the industry as the first lady of powerful rap collective, The Ruff Ryders. He deftly guided Eve’s career from one peak to the next and eventually scored her a television show deal with UPN.
His relationship with Eve ended in 2006, and in 2007, he met a young and very determined unknown artist in NYC called Lady Gaga. He immediately realized the talent and drive she had and took her on as his client. Through a barrage of endless live gigs, persistent hard work and some well-placed singles and videos, Lady Gaga caught fire and became a veritable global phenomenon. Lady Gaga and Carter parted ways in 2013 – a break-up that sent shock waves through the music industry. However, Mr. Carter is doing just fine. Currently his management company, Atom Factory oversees artists like John Legend, Miguel and John Mayer. Needless to say, this manager prodigy is doing just fine.