10 Questions with ... James Washington
August 26, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Manager - Martha Wash
- Manager - Linda Clifford
- Manager - Nuttin' But Stringz
- Manager - Allure
- Manager - The Manhattans
1. What led you to a career in the music business?
I've always been drawn to the entertainment business since I was ten years old. Acting was, and still is my first love. From high school through college I dedicated myself to the craft and when I graduated I did what most actors do, I moved to New York, but little did I know what this city had in store for me? LOL!
Through temp work I found myself working in the travel department of a new record label called BMG/J Records in 2001. I had no clue of the music business, other than the music I liked listening to. It was all new and fascinating to me. Some mornings on my way to work I would run into P Diddy or Clive Davis in the elevator, or Alicia Keys or Mary J. Blige and I thought wow! This is really cool.
2. Who are some of your earliest mentors who gave you a shot in the business?
I've never been one to actually have mentors, but I am inspired by Colonel Tom Parker, Barry Gordy, Clive Davis, and what their contributions brought to the industry. My shot in the business came from my clients.
3. You have worked with legendary acts including The Manhattans, and Martha Wash. But you've also worked with some more recent groups like Nuttin' But Stringz. What are some of the changes that you've seen in the music business over the years, and how has that changed the way you do business?
Although I love the indie way, there are still so many grey areas when it comes to how you will put a record together, how it will be promoted and marketed, and most importantly who will help get these things accomplished. It's one thing to have your music up on ITunes or Amazon, but if no one knows it's there then it's just there.
It's the same principle whether you are an established or new artist. You still have to promote! But what's really cool today (especially for new artists) is to have the ability to "Brand" those options which weren't really there for some of the legendary artists. However, with the focus just being on "Branding" a lot of the real talent is being lost.
4. How can a manager make sure that their artist is a priority for their record label?
Being independent is a great way to make sure you're the priority. If you have been blessed with signing to a major label, then I would say "communications" would be the big necessity.
I like to get to know the folks that will be handling my client's campaign. I let them know that I'm a team player and that they can depend on me for support, and I hope that I can depend on them as well.
But I'm also a realist. In most departments there are only three to four employees juggling the careers of 30+ artists on a label. Someone is bound to be neglected, and knowing these possibilities I would utilize the brand affiliation (the label) and I would create or engage other sources that will help me to maintain and/or further my client's career objective. Sometimes the best way to get results is to do it yourself, but keep the label advised of your actions.
5. What was the most unique marketing campaign you've ever been a part of?
I would have to say Alicia Keys. She appeared out of nowhere and within one year she became a worldwide sensation through the guidance of Clive Davis.
6. Recording artists and their managers are now working closely with music supervisors for placements in television, commercials, and film. Please tell us about some of your experiences in this area?
This is new ground that I'm breaking into. I think it's a wonderful alternative for music other than traditional radio. It's a tight market to get into but very worthwhile once you are in. Just make sure your licensing agreements are in order.
7. Would you ever let your artist sign a "360 deal?"
Here are my thoughts about that. I don't know of any artist in the history of the music business that has ever really been happy with their record deal. Record deals never seem to be in favor of the artist (hence indie labels).
But let me say this, if my client can guarantee 10,000 attendees at a concert setting, but the label can guarantee 100,000 - then they should be compensated accordingly. At the end of the day it comes down to the negotiations, right?
8. How have illegal file sharing sites and legal streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, YouTube and others affected the way you market your artists?
Sharing at this point of the game is ok with me. I know that financially this is a burden but to have the population sharing your clients music or video is worth it in the scheme of marketing, which we hope will turn into ticket sells. Touring is still a major source of an artist's income.
9) How do you stay in tune with today's music audience and consumer trends?
I like to check in with the everyday people. I stop them and ask what they are listening to in their iPods. They are excited to talk about their collection and share their taste in music with me. Believe it or not that's how I stay current. Consumers are smarter than the industry gives them credit for. I hear all the time that there is no real music anymore, and that's from all ages.
10) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Learn as much as you can about the business you are trying to get into. Be open minded, creative, and never give up. It's extremely challenge to be in this business especially with all of its uncertainties. But I love show-business and when everything aligns it can be quite wonderful.
In your opinion, what is that special magic that makes a hit record "a hit?"
This is a tough question for me because of my love for all types of music. I used to think that great singing, lyrics, melodies and a great hook made a hit. What I feel is a hit may not register to someone else that way. For example: Gangnam Style did not register as a hit for me, but for 516,709,229 people it did!
Who are some of your favorite artists or record executives that you have ever met or worked with?
- Quincy Jones - I met him at the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland and upon meeting him he told me that he was familiar with me and my work. I was floored.
- Gladys Knight - for her unmistakable voice and charm.
- Martha Wash - She is my best friend in the business, and I admire her for her fearlessness longevity, talent, and trust.
What are the biggest changes you would like to see happen in the music industry?
Variety would be a great place to start. I love all kinds of music but one type of music or artist being played 30 times a day is a bit much. Give some of these other talented people a chance.
What are some of the artists we might find on your MP3 player?
Hiatus Kaiyote, Shirley Horn, Quasar, Ariana Grande, J Geils Band, Aerosmith, Gladys Knight, Martha Wash, Goyte, Lady Antebellum, Christina Perri, Evil Nine... just to name a few.
What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Faith! Keep the faith.