Note: This article was originally published here. I was part of their brand ambassador program that has since been discontinued.
My Trask shoes have had their work cut out for them recently. They’ve roamed all over NYC, they’ve trudged through the muck at Bonnaroo (and recovered beautifully). They’ve pressed the gas pedal of my little Ford Focus for hours on end. They’ve tapped along to probably a hundred concerts and they’ve scaled the fire-escape staircase to my Music Row office probably a thousand times. They’ve been a crucial piece of ammunition for my hectic Spring/Summer in Nashville and beyond.
If you give “personal projects” an operational definition of “activities to which I devote my non-workday hours”, you’ll find my time really blends together. This is more intentional and important than negative and stressful. It’s amazing how relevant everything is to managing musicians. I’ll see a print ad in the latest Nashville Scene and think that font would look killer on the next t-shirt. I’ll hear a promotion a boutique is running and think “Hey, we could we do this with concert tickets!” I’ll hear a pop song on the radio and think They should cover that in the tour bus and upload it to YouTube. My goal every day is to find creative and impactful ways to get the music to the fans and the fans to the music.
I like to constantly be in “discovery mode”. Not necessarily in country music, but in the genres I personally love: rock, bluegrass, and electronic among others. “Discovery” means learning about different artists, diving into their catalogues, evaluating their online presence and fan base, listening for similarities in other artists, and going to see their live show. This used to be an esteemed job title back in the day – A&R (artists & repertoire) – and still is at some of the bigger labels. But with the growing accessibility of music and information, everyone in the business is “A&R” to some degree. And every fan is, too.
My findings manifest themselves in a few different ways. I post a weekly Tunesday playlist of four songs (usually new, sometimes not) I’m currently digging. Historically, labels released new records on Tuesdays, hence the name. I also “scout” acts for an agent in town. I’ll go see a show and report back a list of subjective and objective observations. Like “They sound like Mumford and Sons’s red-headed stepchild” or “Frontman makes really weird/abrasive gestures on stage” or “The whole crowd knew all the words to that one song” or “Could potentially sell out the Ryman in two years”. This helps the agent decide whether to sign the band or not, and it’s a great way for me to connect with other managers and industry folk who are also interested in adding new clients to their rosters.
In the midst of all the warm-weather hubbub happening in Nashville, there is also a bleak development sweeping Music Row… literally. Many of the old, historical, cozy little houses-turned-offices are being bought up and demolished to be replaced with apartment complexes, bigger office buildings, and hotels. My company runs out of the 50-year-old RCA Studio A (Ben Folds’s studio). Nashville is up in arms about the prospect of losing such an important landmark. I’ve been trying to educate as many people as possible about the studio and its rich heritage. Ben Folds says it best in this letter: “My simple request is for…whoever the next owners might be of this property, before deciding what to do with this space, to take a moment to stand in silence between the grand walls of RCA Studio A and feel the history and the echoes of the Nashville that changed the world….Listen first hand to the stories from those among us who made the countless hit records in this studio — the artists, musicians, engineers, producers, writers who built this rich music legacy note by note, brick by brick.”