Cruel Intentions

The problem with managers, is they’re not very educated. Or experienced. Theyre usually failed musicians, but want to work in music (I was a failed music video director). But most managers don’t know what they’re doing.

It’s not their fault. There’s no school, no formal training. 85% of managers are independent, so there’s not even a culture to learn by working in an office building. They’re kind of just on their own to learn what to do.

But they’re also passionate. Headstrong. Determined. Sometimes, directionless.

I wish someone had been there to hold my hand in the early days. Tell me I shouldn’t be wasting my time with phone calls about which guitar player was hitting on which drummer’s chick and caused an argument. Teach me how to work ‘with’ artists instead of ‘for’ them. Who was noble in the music industry, and who was two faced.

About ten, maybe fifteen years ago, there was an article by Avril Lavigne’s manager talking about their first times together. I can’t find that article any more (Avril’s been through a few managers now so it’s likely been removed) but I still remember, in detail, her talking about how there were very calculating moves behind each phase of her career. Introducing her to the right creative people they thought she’d get along with, or making sure she was at the right concert to just ‘happen’ to meet the band. And it sent chills down my spine, someone being so intelligently pro-active for their artists, instead of waiting for the right person to discover their work. It was the day I stopped being a Re-active manager and started becoming a Pro-active manager.

This is Avril Lavigne drunk. Probably orchestrated by her manager.

I had a lot of fuck ups. Hopefully, these insights into all my mistakes can help someone else avoid them. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and I think I’ve done OK once I learned the ropes. I don’t know, if you see my bands stop them and ask them about me.

For the record, the only reason I’m even still here is because I had two great teachers. The first was Jillian Newman. I met her while directing a music video for her band Taking Back Sunday. I had just started helping another band as their ‘manager’ and, in those first few months, wasn’t getting a lot done. I was frustrated. So I called her and asked her if I could spend the last $10 I had and take her out for pizza to pick her brain. At the end of dinner she offered me a job (I think she was just taking pity on me). I didn’t see that one coming, but I took it, and for the next three years learned from one of the best. I mean, Taking Back Sunday’s first two albums both went platinum without a lick of radio or TV. Genius.

Adam Lazzara and I on the set of the music video I was directing. I borrowed his cigarette for the photo because I don't smoke.

Then I broke up with my girlfriend, had a horrible quarter-life crisis, packed my bags and moved to Seattle (only I ended up in Portland to try and win back my ex). Kevin Lyman somehow remembered me as his intern from five years earlier and called me up, asking if I wanted to work out of his office. He’s probably the only guy I would have turned my car around for. Me and the ex moved back two months later and Kevin took me under his wing. Total genius, and still has the largest national touring festival in the world with Warped Tour. The ex and I broke up again; she’s married now with kids and I’m 31.

When I think of something stupid I did, I’ll post it here. My only intentions with this, initially, were to help some other kids avoid the stupid mistakes I made. But putting it all down has made me laugh. There’s a lot of stupid shit out there, and I’m sure it’s why the music business attracts so many dumb, uneducated saps such as myself.


5 responses to “Cruel Intentions

  1. i’m pretty sure i’m one of, if not your oldest, friend and i couldn’t be prouder of what you’ve accomplished.

  2. awesome blog! Please keep the story coming, this stuff is so helpful to those of us just starting out. Reminds me of Gavin Castleton’s Keys to Failure series ( — towards the bottom)

  3. Mike,
    I believe that you can “insert name of most professionals here” instead of “managers” in your first statement of, “The problem with managers, is they’re not very educated. Or experienced. They’re usually failed musicians, but want to work in music. But most managers don’t know what they’re doing.”

    In my case, it’s Realtors. Scary.

  4. Pingback: On interning: “If you’re just going to make copies all day, at least work at Kinko’s and get paid for it” « KMGMT

  5. Pingback: Guest post: Jillian Newman, manager of Taking Back Sunday « KMGMT

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