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Industry Spotlight - Emily White

Posted by MMF on Nov 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

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. 

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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