Larry Jacobson- World Audience Manager
|Thanks to Larry Jacobsen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer tehse questions for me. |
Frank: You began your career as a lawyer, how did that translate into artist management?
Larry: When I graduated from law school, I went to work at a large corporate law firm, and I hated it. I was also the only guy leaving early to see Metallica. I’d been playing guitar since I was 14 and had been in bands, so I knew music was how I wanted to spend my life. I ended up as the Junior Lawyer at Giant Records. This was an amazing experience because I worked directly for the owner, Irving Azoff, who is considered one of the greatest artist managers in history. After a year, I brought in a soundtrack every other label had passed on; the soundtrack was to the film “Dazed and Confused”. It went on to sell multi-platinum and its follow up went gold. This lead to a position as a duel A&R and Head of Business and Legal Affairs. Eventually I ended up a part owner of Giant Records while I ran the entire company. We signed and broke Disturbed and put out the Steely Dan record “Two Against Nature” which won 4 Grammys including Album of the Year. We sold Giant in 2001 to AOL Time Warner. I then became Senior Vice President of Capitol Records, which was a great experience but more business than creative. So, I left to form my own company where I could work directly with the artists responsible for the music I love.
Frank: As an artist manager, what are your ultimate goals and objectives personally and for your artists?
Larry: I’ve been in the music business for about 12 years and got into the business because I love music. So for me, to work with an artist, I have to love what they do creatively. I also try to find artists I like personally as that makes the trials and tribulations of the typical artist’s career easier and more fun to get through together. Lastly, I look for artists whose commercial goals are, in my professional opinion, consistent with their music. Can they be played on the radio? Or, if not, can they build a large touring base? Sometimes, an artist has modest commercial goals and, while I can’t take on a ton of those artists, I have worked with some where I felt they had music I loved even if it wouldn’t sell a million copies. Ultimately, I tell artists that I am their employee. I use that term because some are intimidated by my resume (although I certainly don’t think they should feel that way). My goal is to understand the artist’s dream and help them make it a reality. That means not imposing my own creative will but, rather, getting inside and understanding their vision and helping bring it to fruition.
Frank: Having punk veterans like Hot Water Music and now The Draft on your roster gives World Audience a diverse line-up. How does your dealing with these artists differ from working with younger artists that are new to the game?
Larry: Frankly, there isn’t a difference. Artists are artists. They’re not all the same as each other, but they’re all different from you and me. I try to always recognize I’ll never be able to get on a stage and move people the way my artists can, and that’s what makes them special. As for Hot Water Music and now The Draft, while they’d been around for a long time, I truly felt they needed a strong manager who could direct their career in a way that would help them reach a larger audience they so deserve. I love that band and always have. They’re some of the greatest guys in this business. But, as I was saying earlier, they’re artists. And the vast majority of artists won’t make the career decisions a professional will help them make. So, in the end, working with legends like Chris, Jason and George, or with younger bands, is really the same; they’re all creative people and what I try to bring to them is career guidance that is consistent with their career vision.
Frank: You took a big bet on a small band out of Huntington Beach, California. What qualities did you see in Avenged Sevenfold that you knew would translate into their current success?
Larry: I literally stumbled across Avenged Sevenfold when they’d sold about 2000 copies of “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet”. I heard the first song of “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet” which was only 1:26 minutes and realized I was hearing something completely different. The rest of that album blew me away. I hadn’t wanted to be a manager, believe it or not, until I heard Avenged Sevenfold. I got hooked up with them and took them to dinner. They started out by saying they didn’t need a manager and by the end of dinner I was managing them. In my opinion, no band does what Avenged Sevenfold does. With influences ranging from Pantera to The Misfits to Iron Maiden, 9 minute songs, 14 piece string sections, incredible melodies, they’re fearless in the way the greatest artists are. And, speaking as a guy who has a ton of platinum records on his wall, trust me, M. Shadows has a truly amazing voice. I know the Absolute Punk community has very mixed feelings about Avenged Sevenfold. I sincerely consider that a positive reflection on both AbsolutePunk.net and Avenged Sevenfold. Absolute Punk has very passionate music lovers and a band like Avenged Sevenfold evokes passion; you hate them or love them. That’s the essence of all important music and the essence of what I love about Avenged Sevenfold.
Frank: Let's say Avenged Sevenfold were offered two huge tours for next spring, what options would be weighed and what factors would be taken into consideration when choosing which offer to accept and move forward with?
Larry: First keep in mind that the band is primarily a headliner and has been for several years. So the decision to support or co-headline with another artist would purely be strategic and not based on need. We would look at the artists involved and where they were in their career. We look at the markets and how often the other band(s) have been through those markets on their current record (some artists can over-tour, so demand for tickets on their sixth time through a town may be small). We look at the size of the rooms and the fans the other artist can potentially draw. We speak to promoters to see what they think the headliner (if it’s a support slot) will draw. We check ticket prices to ensure the bill would be competitive, and appropriate for A7X fans who will come to the show. We also consider what our merchandise sales would be in a co-headline capacity and support position. The key to deciding who to have open for a band is- are you opening the band to a larger number of fans, or to new fans, or both? It is also critical that Avenged Sevenfold be able to put on their show. They bring real production and put on a show bigger and different that anyone else out there. They put a small arena show in a theater right now. So giving fans the real essence of an Avenged Sevenfold show is a big part of deciding what tours to do.
Frank: Besides managing some big bands and running a successful website you also run your own law firm handling such acts as In Flames and Rise Against. How do you fit all this into one day? Take us through a normal day for you.
Larry: People don’t think I’m particularly normal so that’s a tough one. I start early answering e-mails with Europe at 6:30am. After that I train in Krav Maga, a mixed martial art I learned from members of the Israeli Special Forces. Head to our offices in Santa Monica, spend some time on Mediabase, which gives me information on every spin our artists get at every radio station at any time of the day. Then the phones start and the e-mails, which never stop, have to get answered. Through the course of the day I deal with our artists labels, check on the status of the marketing initiatives we are working on and try to come up with new ideas to advance our artists careers in innovative ways. I try to call anyone and everyone I can, trying to learn, meet new people, find out about bands, whatever. I take or return every phone call within 24 hours which is something I learned from Irving Azoff (who is better than anyone at that). I spend a lot of time speaking with our artists and employees, trying to make sure we are executing things efficiently. I’m obsessed with two things- focus on what matters, and executing efficiently. So my time isn’t complete unless I feel these two things have been reached. I’ll then get home have dinner with my family, put the kids to sleep then wrap up any unfinished business (usually listening to WorldAudience.com artists). Then I’ll flip on a UFC fight, read a book, and get some sleep.
Frank: Does the internet play a crucial role in managing an artist? How has artist management changed since the birth of computers?
Larry: That depends on which manager you ask. The internet hasn’t changed the basics of artist management in the sense of setting up tours, working with the label, advising an artist on career matters. But when I was working inside the traditional label environment, I saw how little marketing was actually done. The focus was all on radio. So when we started World Audience, we were intent on making it a marketing company as much as a management company. For example, we have an in-house internet research and marketing department that is focused solely on marketing our artists though online channels.
Frank: Some labels claim that managers make it extremely hard for them to develop a close relationship with their artists. Is this statement true? Do you think a tightly knit relationship between an artist and their labels a negative thing?
Larry: Labels and managers have some goals in common but they also have different goals. Labels today have short-term needs from their artists that may be inconsistent with the long-term health of the artist’s career. The right manager has the same time horizon in mind as the artist does. Plus, the manager only makes money if the artist does. So the manager and the artists, in theory, should have mutual interests which go beyond the common interests of the artist and label. I’m not saying it’s never true for a label. I like to think that when I ran a major label, I tried to focus on the artist’s long-term career arc. Avenged Sevenfold’s experience with Warner Brother Records is completely positive. As a manager, one of the things I’m proudest of is my willingness to focus on the future, not simply on how many records can be sold today. There are decisions not to do certain promotional activities, or pass on magazine covers or tours, for example that really make a label upset. We (the artist and World Audience) make those decisions because we feel they’re best for the artist. The interesting thing about my career at this point in time is my perspective as a former label head; sometimes, I find myself saying no to things I know I would have wanted a “yes” to when I ran Giant Records.
Frank: Besides management, your company, World Audience also offers a unique service for unsigned artists to get discovered and sell records. What exactly does your company do for these artists?
Larry: One of the great things about today is the growth of companies like CDBaby, PureVolume, GarageBand, Taxi, etc. A while back we noticed something interesting though; none of those companies were run by people inside the music business. So we started WorldAudience.com as an online music showcase and CD store. Artists can post their music, videos, pictures, bio, tour dates, etc. Plus the added benefit is that they can sell CD’s and merchandise as well. The major difference between WorldAudience.com and those other companies is that we are actually listening to everything that gets posted. We want to find an artist that we can tell our label and publishing connections about, sign them to a management deal or help out in other ways. It’s non-exclusive and there is no contract. So artists might as well join WorldAudience.com even if they are also with CDBaby, etc. Those businesses do a good job, but in my view they haven’t proven they can get artists that elusive label deal or take them to the next level in any meaningful way. That is, they have tens of thousands of artists but at most a story or two about how one of their artists got a song placed or sold a relatively small number of records. We’re getting started so I’m only going to be complimentary of others in the space. But I guarantee two things you won’t get anywhere else: 1. We listen to every artist personally because we’re trying to find the next star, and 2. Because we have a track record of working with some of the hottest artists in the business, labels, agents, publishers, etc., people listen when we recommend something.
Frank: The World Audience Blog has been a source for a lot of insight into the music business by creating a place for fans, musicians and industry people to discuss your topics. Most labels and management could care less about what a fan thinks about the business. Why was it important for you to create this blog?
Larry: I focus on two things: 1. writing things that I think fans and artist will find interesting based on my experience and interactions in the business, and 2. learning something from people who love music. For example, at Warped Tour this past summer, I spent an hour or so having drinks with Kevin Lyman. Kevin always has an interesting perspective on things and so I wrote in the blog about some of those things we discussed that night. When I discuss topics that relate to the business I speak straight from the hip, with no edits or political correctness. It’s important to let the truth be heard about a business shrouded in secrecy. But, what I love to do is shut my mouth, throw a topic out there and hear what other people- fans and artists- have to say. Every day is a new learning experience in any business and the internet gives you the chance to hear in real time what people really think. We did a poll on how much a record should cost. We also asked people to give us the name of a band they though would be huge. The number of responses was overwhelming. So WorldAudience.com/blog is a place for everybody to sound off, not just me. I love to listen.
Frank: A lot of managers have assistants and people helping them out. When should a manager look into getting an assistant? How does someone interested in the business find these jobs?
Larry: The simple answer to that is- when you can afford it and when you have artists who need it. I’ve been fortunate that I can afford top-level people working at World Audience, who bring a wealth of experience and competence to our artists. Most artists are more stoked to talk to Evan Baken of The Movielife, who is our Director of Artist Management (he’s an assistant manager, not an assistant), than they are talking to me. When you have a guy like that, it’s gold. Our agents submit tour routings for our artists and before they even get to me, Evan will look them over. As a touring musician, he can look at the rooms and say “We’re not going to play there, the ceiling is too low, the stage dimensions are wrong, there isn’t a drum riser, etc.” His experience and intellect is one of the keys to our success. Our online research and marketing department is filled with experienced people who know the ins and outs of the music and lifestyle spaces on the web where we can best market our artists and learn more about current and potential fans. If you are interested in getting involved in the music business and/or management you need to do a good amount of research. Find the companies that work with bands you like or, even if you don’t love the company’s bands, they’re in genres you understand. Speaking for World Audience, if you go out to clubs every night, have unsigned bands you dig and spend a lot of time learning about new artists, we want to get a resume from you.
Frank: Generally speaking, is it necessary and beneficial for an unsigned band to have management?
Larry: The best advice I can give an artist is this: there are very few good managers out there. Don’t ever, ever, ever sign with an inexperienced, incompetent manager. So, you ask, aren’t there inexperienced managers who will become good managers? Of course there are. You just never know which ones will help your career and which ones will screw up your career. So, you should have a lawyer draw up a contract with an inexperienced manager that allows you to terminate him or her on 30 days notice during, say, the first year or two. You won't find a successful artist that doesn’t have great management. But, you can sure find a lot of artists who have been screwed up by incompetent or inexperienced management. Also, keep in mind that this is the toughest time in the history of the music business. So even those of us who are experienced are adapting and learning everyday. If I find it challenging with my experience and relationships, imagine the much higher hurdles faced by young managers with no war stories to fall back upon.
Frank: What is the best way for an artist who is looking for management reach you? Do you personally listen to everything that comes your way?
Larry: If you send it, I’ll listen to it. I listen to everything. I only trust my ears. So send it on- WorldAudience.com
Frank: What is your biggest pet peeve about today’s business model in the music industry?
Larry: Lack of vision and a pipedream wish that the “good old days” will come back. Nobody will ever admit that, but when you look at the state of the music business today, you see how different we are than other “normal” businesses. Years ago, Intel sold memory chips, not semiconductor chips. Intel Chairman, Andrew Grove, saw how memory chips had become commoditized and that Intel was being undercut by the Japanese on price. So he got out of the memory chip business and into the semiconductor business. He labeled that period a “strategic inflection point”. A sea change in a particular industry. Well, we’ve been in a strategic inflection point for about five years and yet it’s still business as usual. It seems that people become stuck in business models and are never willing to challenge modes of thought. The same can be seen in the notion that a CD should sell for $19 or the developing artist price of $14. The pricing of any product is a really simple proposition: what will the consumer pay? Our research uniformly says kids want to pay $10 for a CD. Now, practice shows people will pay $12, maybe $13 for a new artist’s CD, but no more. Yet the record companies’ overhead is such that they still need records to sell for more than that. Now personally, I think the failing on the part of the record industry is, in part, a failure to convince those who would buy, rather than steal, music that there is substantial value in a CD. The movie business has convinced people $14 is a good price to pay for a DVD of a movie you’ll watch 10 times at most with bonus features you’ll check out once if that. The video game business has people paying $50 every year for a game with little technological improvements; only the player’s move to a new team is different. Nobody ever fell in love or broke up to a movie or remembers a summer fondly because they were playing Halo. Every time I listen to a particular song, I remember the time my wife blew me off when I asked her out for the first time. And I sure as hell get a smile on my face when I hear the songs we listened to when we fell in love. The point is, we, the music industry, suck at convincing people of the value of music. But, since we suck, we have to accept the market’s judgment as to how much they’ll pay for what we sell. The answer to the problem is easy: cut costs and be happy selling fewer records for the right price. The winners will be independent labels with lower overhead that are run by people who are experienced at selling records to more than 15,000 people. That’s why I’m soon launching World Audience Records, an independent label with resources run people who have sold millions.
02:05 PM on 12/08/05
this is a really great, informative interview.
he makes a great point--how is it that people have been convinced to pay $14 for a movie or $50 for a video game, but not $19 for a cd? i am one of the people that thinks cds should only cost $10, but given how much music means to me and that analogy to movies and video games, i really see where he's coming from. there definitely does seem to be a lot of flaws in music marketing, and since marketing is what i want to get into it's particularly interesting to think about. things need to change.
07:24 PM on 12/08/05
man. i wanna intern for this guy. i wanna be an entertainment lawyer.
10:24 PM on 01/21/09
how did you get a hold of him?