Emily White is the co-founder of Whitesmith Entertainment, a music and comedy management & consulting firm based in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. In 2012, White launched Readymade Records & Publishing with Brendan Benson as a platform for Brendan's production projects after he produced over 6 albums in a year, including his own. The team assembled around Readymae is commission based, which is a new model for how record labels are structured. In addition to Benson, White manages GOLD MOTEL and Sydney Wayser in addition to consulting on Eric Burdon (of The Animals), Urge Overkill, and The Big Sleep. White sits on the board of Direct to Fan music technology non-profit CASH Music. In her early career, White was integral in developing The Dresden Dolls worldwide and worked directly with Imogen Heap, The Fiery Furnaces, Secret Machines, Paolo Nutini, Angelique Kidjo, Taj Mahal, Jonah Smith, and Zac Brown Band at companies ranging from Live Nation Artists to Madison House Inc.
Photo by BriAnna Olson attached.
What inspired you to want to be a manager?
My management career began in college when I was trying a variety of internships but always seemed to look at things from the artist’s point of view, as they are why we are here. I’ve always loved music and wanted to work closely with it. I love helping guide the source of music, and my father and grandfather are both great coaches, which certainly influenced my career path.
What was your first industry job and how did you get it?
My first internship was for David Avery and Winifred Chane at Powderfinger Promotions in Boston, which came through my university, Northeastern. My first paid gigs were working at venues in Boston as well as tour managing The Dresden Dolls in college. I met the band when they played my school and asked if they needed help, and our relationship evolved from there. The local club / merch work came through an internship with the local promoter in Boston and through other artists in the city. My first full-time job was at Madison House in New York after I graduated.
What determines your desire to work with an artist?
We of course look for talented artists whose output we admire, but we also look for people who work hard and treat others well. The latter traits seem basic but can make a big difference in the long term. It’s important for us to be on the same page with the artist and have a solid connection as well.
In your opinion, what makes a great artist “great”?
I think that emotion is hard to put into words. It’s art that you can’t live without, and/or live performance skills you go out of your way to see. We generally work with very multifaceted artists. Everyone on our management roster is a writer, performing artist, has recording skills, and they are generally multi-instrumentalists as well as vocalists. In addition, some are producers, actors, authors, screenwriters, and into various areas of fashion. That may just be the type of artist I am personally drawn to, but it certainly gives us a lot to work with and great ways to intertwine the individual or collective group’s talents into a larger picture career.
What is your greatest professional challenge today?
Unfortunately, sometimes I think artists can get in the way of themselves. But like a great coach working with a fragile athlete, a manager’s job is to support the artist and help them keep a level head. At the end of the day we will look for artists that we can work well with, so they know when to accept guidance knowing that we have their best interests at heart.
How did your business transform over the last several years?
Our business has evolved into a roster of extremely talented artists who are a pleasure to work with and have very self-sufficient yet growing careers. And I am certainly more interested in consulting than ever, as it is always interesting to work on projects that can affect larger groups or all artists from a broad perspective. Film technology is growing in a slew of ways, particularly with regard to production: my business partner Keri Smith has been on an executive producing and producing role with some pretty great projects coming out this fall. It is nice to have a balance of someone that works in the same field yet a parallel industry. Our comedy division will continue to grow, particularly in the area of books and recorded, the latter I'm particularly excited to get involved with.
Where do you see this business 5-10 years from now?
I'm so excited to see where our artists are at in 5 to 10 years! I love empowering people to find what they want to do and would love to grow a staff of likeminded people who understand our tactics and outlook on how to develop successful and sustainable careers. I also want to take on projects in the broader sphere of music as well as manage an Olympic swimmer. And I want a performance space on the roof J.
What is the best advice you have received over the years as manager?
I was lucky to be schooled under great managers who kept a relatively level head and looked at things from a rational point of view. I think that if you stay the course and do great work it helps to consistently grow and move things forward.
What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today?
Get ready to work work work. More than ever, managers are involved in all areas of an artist's career. You're running someone else's business in addition to your own. It's a lot to take in. For me meditation and exercise are extremely important to helping me be as focused as possible. Finding outlets to balance a rather intense job in any field is the key to longevity.