– MMF-US 20th Anniversary 1993-2013 –

Industry Spotlight - Christen Greene

Posted by MMF on Jul 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

Christen Greene is the General Manager and Head of A&R at Onto Entertainment and owner of Faux Pas Productions.  She curates and is in charge of a diverse roster of independent artists in many genres including indie rock, folk/singer-songwriter and even a slam poet.  In the last 8 years, she has signed Hey Marseilles, The Lumineers, PHOX, Chris Pureka and Andrea Gibson to management deals and led them all to subsequent record deals and releases and tours worldwide.  She currently resides in Seattle, Wa but used to call Brooklyn, NY  and before that Washington, DC home.  In 2013 she was nominated and graciously accepted a position on the Pacific Northwest Board of Governors for the GRAMMY organization where she is also a voting member.  She really hates cold calls but really loves swimming in lakes.

 

 

What inspired you to want to be a manager?

Well, I wanted to be the person who, “found bands and made them big” and I didn’t know what “A&R” was when I was a kid.  I got more involved in the music industry scene while finishing college and my documentary film thesis was a juxtaposition of independent artists vs. major label acts.  I needed live footage of one of my indie subjects and she didn’t have any shows on the books.  So I booked her a few from contacts I had made while going to shows.  I made a press kit and got the bug.  Never finished that documentary, but I booked her a ton of shows, moved to Western Mass signed another act (Chris Pureka) and developed her, booked her tours, and so it began.  I also really liked the idea of wearing jeans and going to shows for a living – so, you know, it all worked out. J

 

What was your first industry job and how did you get it?

I was a jack of all trades at Merriweather Post Pavilion in the DC/Baltimore area in High School.  I took tickets when Pearl Jam was fighting Ticketmaster that was pretty cool.   I cleaned up after shows, I worked security, green room, etc… where ever I was needed.  I got it because my sister was working there and they needed hands one summer.  It was great.  Ozzy Osbourne shot me with a water cannon once.  I also worked as a Street Team Coordinator at The Iron Horse Music Group (Northampton, MA) when I finished school and was getting my management company off the ground.  That company and those people -- I can’t say enough positive things about them.  Smart, smart folks up there. Taught me a lot about music, buying, booking and promo.

 

What determines your desire to work with an artist?

I have to love the music first and foremost.  The kind of love where I listen to it endlessly, nothing but that for months.  I usually end up listening to it so much that my friends start to hate me for it.  All of my clients have that in common. J   But after that I want a work ethic.  The artist has to be the hardest working member of the team until they’re big enough where they have a team who works for them.   Bottom line:  they have to want it and work for it.

 

In your opinion, what makes a great artist “great”?

In this order:

Great product/songs/albums – it all comes back to the art.  After that:

Great work ethic – on stage and off

Timely, relevant releases

 

What is your greatest professional challenge today?

Truthfully?  Staying focused on conference calls where more than 4 people are involved. J  But on a more serious note our company is juggling a lot right now and is expanding.  We have small arena and shed tours going out and mid-size club tours going out – we have bands in development and going into the studio – and juggling all of that, and all of the people involved in that is challenging.  We’re steering a lot of ships and there are a lot of people involved.  Managing all of the people, the crews, the band members and our employees is a daily challenge.  I’m constantly working on communicating with all of them effectively, efficiently and with patience so that all pistons are firing the most effectively.

 

How did your business transform over the last several years?

It’s grown a lot with the success of The Lumineers of course.  We have a small staff now, which is great.  We have junior managers signing bands and starting to make waves which is a great environment to be around and to foster.  It’s been A LOT of fun these last few years, that’s for sure.  I moved to Seattle from NYC 4 years ago and partnered up with some cool people and we’re making things happen out here in our little corner on a worldwide level.  That feels really good.  I’ve definitely moved into more of an “upper management” world, where most of my day is no longer routing club tours, but looking at spreadsheets, marketing plans and big picture stuff.  That’s new and different.

 

Where do you see this business 5-10 years from now?

Well, I hope the dust settles soon and we all stop saying, “…the business is upside down,” that’s for sure.  But seriously, who knows – it seems we’re moving into all streaming everywhere which is changing revenue streams for a lot of people.  It’ll be interesting to see who does it best.  I also feel like we’ll see the indies thrive more in the vein of the Macklemore’s and The Lumineers: hand-picked teams, around projects rather than packaged label staffs with long terms.  I think we’ll see some good reunion tours and I think we’ll see the output from bands being more multi-media and not just recordings.

 

What is the best advice you have received over the years as a manager?

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something.  Ask questions.  Listen more, talk less.   People want to tell you their stories.  Learn from them.  And consider the source!

 

What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today?

Well, if you’re working with un-established acts, you’ll need to learn how to book small club tours. Know the guys and gals who book those rooms.  They will help you develop the acts, you’ll work with them for years.  Go on tour, meet them.  See the rooms.  Know where you’ll be asking your bands to perform.  See and work in sides of the business so that you know how you’d like them to run when it’s your turn to hire people for those positions.  Smile more.  Go to more shows.  Support and root for your local scene and its bands to their core and help develop and build the community.

 

What inspired you to want to be a manager?
Some would say I fell into it, although partially true I felt after years of running Universal Music's A&R dept, I felt like I had already "unofficially" semi-managed a bunch of acts already, and after I left Universal to run Radio Starmaker Fund (one of Canada's biggest funding organizations, I had the chance to leave there and manage an act I had signed at Universal who was a platinum act….those chances don't come around very often where the first act you manage is already established….that was 10 years ago and I haven't looked back (well briefly, but who's counting ;) )
 
What was your first industry job and how did you get it?
I was a Club DJ and I worked in Record retail originally, but my first "real" job was at an Indie label doing retail marketing, and I got the job through persistence…..its funny I had 2 job interviews that day and after my first interview at CBS (Now Sony) the guy called my second interview at the Indie and told them them to hire me….and they did…I sort of had the job before I got there….fate is a funny thing in my career….my career could have been drastically different if I had gotten the first gig.
 
What determines your desire to work with an artist?
I obviously have to like the music, but as my career in Mgmt has moved on, its less about that for me….its more that you have to believe, not just in the music but the person…..they have to be motivated…and I don't manage crazy people anymore no matter how talented….its just t hard
 
In your opinion, what makes a great artist “great”?
Its the intangible, of course great songs, something characteristic about them (i.e. Great voice, great playing, interesting look) but its really the thing that makes you look at them and say "this person is a star"…..many years ago I met Avril Lavigne when she was 14 years old….we hit it off immediately, she was country back then, but I within minutes of meeting her I just knew she would be a star……ultimately she didn't sign with the label I worked for at the time, but I will never forget that experience.
 
What is your greatest professional challenge today?
Juggling…..literally, all of the different hats that I must wear to keep my business going, Label, Mgmt, Publishing not to mention active consulting and the work I do with the IMMF.
 
How did your business transform over the last several years?
What started as a management company, became a label out of necessity within 1 year of Mgmt….I used to joke that my job as manager was to get Artists out of Major label deals not into them…and thats what I did for the first 2 years of Management, …then my company added a Publishing division again out of necessity ….and finally after a brief stint away from my companies to run the other Funding agency in Canada, when I returned I realized I needed to add consulting to my companies.
I have also changed the way I work with bands as well and he way I work with them.
 
Where do you see this business 5-10 years from now?
The million dollar question….I used to say 5 years ago that the business would be much more focused and that we would be clear of some of the digital challenges ….seems we haven't gotten that far in 5 years….so I am hesitant to say the same 5 years from now…unfortunately I don't see it being that radically different in 5 years, but I hope and expect in 10 years that things will have evened out a bit, and when you consider who thing have changed in the last 10 its not a stretch to say that our business will be radically different in 10 years….maybe look nothing like it does now?
 
What is the best advice you have received over the years as a manager?
Without sounding like an ego maniac the best advice is that which I have given to myself  "when an artist becomes huge and successful it is because they are great, when they fail miserably its because I am a shitty manager"….of course I am being tongue in cheek, but so far that has been the truth for me.
 
What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today?
Be prepared to do everything yourself, don't look backwards but look forward…..if you don't build the story no one else will



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