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A little wiser, a little smarter

It was a Tuesday night in summer 2008, a very good night for a quiet drink with my South African mate, in an Irish Pub, owned and run by a Pakistani family, on the West Side of Vancouver. The Guinness wasn’t great, but the locals were getting quite excited as the dulcet tones of an Ultimate Fight Club Special danced across the bar. “Brew, meet my mate Rich” said Brad “you should be his manager.”

Now I’m sure any artist manager would be delighted to have an up and coming young musician, working with a Grammy winning Producer, thrust upon him. The anomaly of the situation was simple however in its beauty. I wasn’t an artist manager, I had no history in the music industry, and I had never even considered being in the industry (beyond of course standing in front of the mirror in the 80’s when I still had hair, crooning ‘Kayleigh, is it too late to say I’m sorry’ or words to that effect). So I did what any vacationing, public sector employee with an education in theology would do. I prayed he would go away, leave me in peace, or if not, at least buy me another drink. 

Bizarrely though, and despite my protestations, the cajoling continued from both Rich and Brad, and in the depths of my dark and wicked heart visions of me and Katy Perry at an industry party began to spawn. “I want a manager who can learn the business with me” said Rich, “not someone who knows everything already.” I didn’t need much more persuasion, I’d make Rich famous, and Katy would be mine.

And so, I found myself a few months later, back in sunny Hillsborough, setting up my new company, the delightfully named DG Artist Management, focusing my efforts almost exclusively on my new and un-contracted best buddy Rich. (It was originally going to be called Harvey Artist Management, but HAM didn’t really project the sophisticated image that I thought Katy would buy into.) I started reading up on the Music Industry, and on the advice of Snow Patrol’s recently jettisoned bassist, I started hassling anyone I could think of.

At first it went well, I got gigs for Rich in British Columbia, in venues he’d never been in before, and I even organised a mini tour in Ireland. He came, he played, George Jones loved him, my mum made his breakfast, and I drove him from Ballycastle to BalconyTV. We still didn’t need a contract, he was going to start a record company with me, I was free to turn other down artists and bands who approached me, as I had Rich. I threw money at a website, online marketing, spent 100s of hours online contacting venues, that big break was only ever an e-mail away. Time and money were not an issue. Why should they be? I had his word and I was committed.

On the back of our success in 2009, I organised a 2010 tour with Rich booked into festivals in Denmark, Ireland, promises of gigs in England, and half a dozen other venues on board. Rich would be famous, Colonel Tom Parker would be in my shadow, Simon Cowell would ask me to be an X-Factor Judge, and Katy would have my children; Katy Jr. Glenn Jr. and Richard.

Rich Skyped me from Vancouver, “I’m booking my tickets this week, really looking forward to the summer tour.” A week later he e-mailed me. “This isn’t working out, I’m not committed to touring in Europe this summer, I don’t want you to be my manager anymore, I hope you learn from this experience.” I was devastated, promises broken, time wasted, money up in smoke, and he never to this day told me why. I ate humble pie as I went back to the festivals and venues to make my apologies, there would be no Rich, there would probably be no more DG Artist Management. I thought things couldn’t get any worse, oh how wrong I was, enter Russell Brand. The dream was dead.

Or was it? Somehow, by some means, I had fallen into artist management. I had picked up knowledge, skills, contacts, and learned some valuable lessons in my naivety. Was it wise to really just let that go because I had been shafted by one person? Lesson one when investing time and money in others with a promise of a return, you need a contract. Lesson two, you need a contract. Lesson three, you need a contract. Lesson four, apply what you have learned. It’s not rocket science, but sometimes some of us need to relearn the obvious rather than just give up.

Six months later, I’m still here. A little wiser, a little smarter, still liquid, and bringing in little pieces of money here and there; an exhibition set up for a local painter in New York, a money making gig organised in the Black Box, prospects with a couple of local bands. Starting my own business wasn’t what I thought it would be, there were setbacks, and they hurt. I wasn’t prepared, I learned too much on the cuff, much by my mistakes, and I put too many eggs in one basket, but I stuck with it.  I’m still prone to trust people and take them at their word, and while it remains my inclination as a person, business is a hard teacher, you need to be tough. One lesson among many learned – get a contract.

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