The Hollywood Reporter: Why delve into the producer management business?
Tom Mackay: The answer is Sandy Roberton. He is a complete icon who’s been at the forefront managing some of the biggest producers in the business going on 30 years. And when Colin [Lester] and I came up with the idea of creating this venture, I thought about everyone that I deal with on a day-to-day basis; and who’s the best, hardest-working, most tenacious producer manager out there? That's Sandy Roberton. One minute he’s at South By Southwest until four in the morning meeting people and pounding the pavement, then the next thing you know, he'll be in Australia seeing bands and meeting with A&R guys there.
Colin Lester: It was simply based on the fact that Universal is one of the leading music companies in the world. In as much as they would be involved in making records and working with producers in developing these artists, they work to make the records great. Adding this business is a natural growth.
THR: If the core of a record company is to find artists, nurture them, and to bring music to the market place, how does this fit in?
Monte Lipman: The success of an A&R department in this culture is determined by the intimate relationship you have with the best producers that are out there. I think one of the reasons for starting this venture within Universal Music Group is to look for any way possible where we can to enhance that intimacy between UMG and the best producers and engineers that are out in the business.
Lester: Today synergy is very important, and the role of the record company is expanding, it's changed, it's not just to develop artists making records.
THR: So it this a reaction to the times and the fact that producers are almost at equal billing with the artists when it comes to pop songs in the Top 40?
Lipman: On a much broader level, the core of our business is based on the entrepreneurial spirit, and that's what a lot of this is. It's just a strategic alliance because these producers still have the opportunities to work with other artists outside of Universal. The idea is that it's not just exclusive to the group but it's an alliance that gives them increased opportunity. It's more power to them and us.
THR: Explain how the process will work….
Mackay: Normally what ends up happening is that Colin, Monte myself, and Sandy, we’ll sit down and talk about someone who is available or interested in management. And much like Monte has taught me to do on the record side of things, we don't sign artists if we can't make a difference for that artist, the same rules apply. We have a discussion about a producer or a mixing engineer, we talk about their work, their discography and how we can help and provide a good service to the client. If we are able to do the deal, then Sandy becomes their day-to-day person, pushing them to the world.
THR: What if someone is already on the TFR roster, does it become an enticement to pair that producer or engineer up with a Universal artist?
Mackay: The way that that goes, and this is something that I’ve done from day one at TFR, A&R guys and producer managers can't pair anybody up with anybody. My process is: when it's time to record, we listen to demos, think about who would be good, we come up with a short list of four or five people, we put them in front of the artist and ultimately the artist makes that decision. The process is going to be no different. We're not putting one in front of the other. As I say to the clients that we manage, "I can't guarantee you work, we can guarantee you access…." It's not like we're going to play favorites and shove one of our clients down the throat of one of our artists.
Lester: It's important to recognize that there is an entrepreneurial spirit to management. We only make money when our clients make money. And from our point of view, it's not just putting our clients in situations where they can earn money, we are looking to develop long-term relations and careers for our clients.
THR: So it’s also contributing to the bottom line…
Lipman: To be completely transparent, of course it is. But it's not just a money grab… So much of what we do is participate in the management of an artist's career. We’re constantly involved in the process of developing the artist, everything from song selection, producer selection, what they wear on stage, what they perform, etc. So it's something that we've already been doing. Yes, we do want to get paid, but this is a good opportunity for all.
Lester: I was told recently by a producer that as long as you are in the control room during the song’s inception, you get a percentage of the song that's being recorded.
THR: What's your end goal for the company?
Lipman: For me it's a combination of wanting to make the creative statement and impact on pop culture, but we are also in it for the commerce. It's a good balance.
Mackay: We just want to do good work. We want to represent good, talented people, we want to be proud of our roster in this venture just as we’re proud of our roster at the record label. When they have success, we have success, and vice versa.