10 Questions with ... Mike Kraski
January 16, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Mike Kraski opened Tenacity Management and Consulting in 2008. Kraski co-founded Equity Music Group in 2003 along with Country artist Clint Black and served as the label's president for four years. Prior to Equity, Kraski worked for Sony Music Nashville, where he started as an inventory clerk in 1976 and rose to become Exec.VP/GM.
1) You have worn a lot of hats in the music industry but what drew you to work in music in the first place and how did you get your start?
I ended up in the music business accidentally. I needed a summer job and CBS Records needed someone to inventory albums and 8-tracks. Yes, I said 8-tracks!
2) What motivated you to start Tenacity Management and Consulting?
I've always felt that I was on the wrong side of the desk. I wanted to be an advocate for my artists and their music. Tenacity gives me that opportunity.
3) Can you give us a snapshot of the business model at Tenacity and what services do you offer your clients?
Tenacity is a reflection of the state of our business. By that I mean that Tenacity can serve whatever the artist's needs might be. We perform management functions, label management functions, consultancy functions and distribution functions. In today's business I believe that everyone has to do more than ever before and my background and the backgrounds of my partners make Tenacity uniquely suited for today's marketplace.
4) What's the best part about having your own company? The hardest part?
The best part of having my own company is the freedom to make the company whatever I want or need it to be. The fluidity of our structure is our greatest competitive advantage. The hardest part is to not over-commit. There are so many talented artists out there and you really want to help them all. But we work hard at selecting the associations where the relationship works well for everyone.
5) Tell us about what artists you are currently excited to be working with.
Wow, I'm excited about everyone I'm working with, Jimmy Wayne will stun the world with the music he is creating. Mark Wills is working again with Chris Lindsey and making the best music of his career. Bill Gentry is going to wow radio with his new music that will be finished shortly. Rosehill is going to be the breakthrough duo of 2011. And my two songwriters at Blue Guitar Publishing, Blake Gray and David Kroll, will be major stars in this format.
6) While you were at Sony Music Nashville, you were able to help launch the careers of artists like the Dixie Chicks and Patty Loveless. Tell us what sticks out to you as projects you were most proud of from the Sony days.
Aside from the acts you mentioned, I was also very proud of our work with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Montgomery Gentry in large part because we challenged the status quo of Country music at the time. Working with Chet Atkins was an honor.
7) I'm sure you have seen a lot of changes in the industry over the years. What do you think has been the biggest difference from when you started versus the current Nashville business music biz?
The biggest difference to me has to do with passion and commitment. There used to be a mindset that involved a strategic and monetary commitment that spanned years and multiple albums. It allowed an artist to find their voice and their audience. Today there is a lot more of a bottom line evaluation of an artist from the very beginning of the career. Most of the time decision makers hedge their bets until a project takes off and it leaves me to wonder how many opportunities for great music has been lost as a result.
8) Who would you count among your mentors inside and outside of the business? What is the best advice you've gotten that you have actually followed?
A couple of guys from my Sony Distribution days did a lot for me, Paul Smith and Danny Yarbrough. I was taught early on that your reputation is your most valuable asset and working hard treating people fairly and honestly are the keys to maintaining a good reputation.
9) Are there any newer acts in Country music that you think will have the chance to make it big and what do you think is the key to success for upcoming Country artists?
I think Chris Young will be the next big star. He has the richest and best Country voice in the format. He is a stellar writer and he does everything right. He will be the guy.
10) What drew you to get involved with the TJ Martell Foundation? Anything coming up with them that you are excited about?
Cancer has taken many people I love from me including my mother and father. TJ Martell helps raise money for the research that has found some of the answers and has brought us tantalizingly close to a number of others. What we do for a living is a joy, but "it's not curing cancer." But there's no reason it can't be both!
1) Who would you most like to have dinner with living or dead?
2) What would your dream job be outside of the music industry?
Coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers
3) What was the first concert you ever attended?
Pink Floyd Animals Tour (1975)