This is a Q&A style interview series featuring the people behind the artists: the marketing heroes you don’t hear about that often.
They are the ones who help artists build a brand and a strong online presence. This time round we talked to Thomas de Raad from Tommy Advice. Read all about his career in the music industry and his thoughts on music marketing.
Can you tell us something about yourself and what it is that you do? Let’s start with a bit of your personal background.
My passion for music started in my childhood. I think I was around 6 or 7 years old. My parents had a hi-fi system with a cabinet full of CDs and cassette tapes. I started plundering the collection and listening to each and every one of them. Even though I didn’t really like most of it, I was still impressed by the sound system and I kind of got addicted to discovering and playing new music.
At one point, I found out it was possible to record what was being played on the system onto cassettes. This way, I was able to fit the songs that I liked into one continuous mixtape, which I then played on my walkman or in the car.
My parents noticed my new hobby, so they asked me if I wanted to learn to play an instrument, which I answered with: “yes, the drums!” I asked for a drumkit for my birthday and I learned to play the drums from when I was 8 until I was 13. After that I got more interested in DJing, spending more time finding new music on blogs and in record stores.
At the age of 15, I got my first DJ gig in a local bar, and it went terrible. My mix was off and out of key, but people liked the music I played. The bar owner asked me to come play more often, and just by DJing almost every weekend, I learned to mix and to play the crowd.
Once I was ready to go to college, I wanted to do something with music, but didn’t want to go to a music-only school. I decided to study Business Management, where I did a minor in Music Marketing and Management, so I had the opportunity to do some internships in the music industry.
How did you get into the artist management and music marketing business?
When I finished my minor, I knew I definitely wanted to do something in the music industry, so I applied for internships at record labels, publishers and management companies. I got hired at Sorted Management.
At the time, this was Nicky Romero, Hardwell and Marco V’s management agency. This internship came at a great time, as it was during the rise of EDM, and there was a lot going on for the agency’s artists.
After finishing my internship, I needed to study one more year. I stayed in touch with Nicky’s manager, and once graduated I got offered a job at Nicky Romero’s new management company and record label, Protocol Management, as an assistant manager. From there, I worked my way up to artist manager.
Just by being surrounded by people who knew a lot about the music industry and were really well-connected, I gained a lot of knowledge about the industry, which I still use every day.
I learned about music rights, PR, bookings, marketing, merchandise, endorsements, touring, show development, and so on.
How did your career move from there - what was the next big step?
After being at Protocol Management for 3 years, I got offered a job at CTM Publishing as A&R. At the time, I knew about the basics of music publishing, but it was not something that came to mind when I was thinking about my next steps.
Nevertheless, I got more and more intrigued by music publishing, and after a few months, I finally decided to take the job. Once I got started in the publishing business, I had a sort of epiphany: it added a whole new dimension to the music industry.
Even though I always worked with producers and artists who write music, I never really realized the intricacies of the songwriting process. At CTM I started to work in more genres than dance only.
More and more, I started to listen to pop, and to understand the songwriting process behind songs. I also got a new perspective on the role of a publisher, who plays an important part in the early stage of an artist’s or songwriter’s career.
Who’s your favorite artist? What’s your favorite genre of music?
I find it hard to talk in genres, nowadays. Because you hear so many different influences from all kinds of genres in music, it’s hard to label music. I can listen to anything as long as the song contains something that catches my interest. This could be the lyrics, melody, voice, production, arrangement, anything.
Some artists I listen to quite often now are Jungle, Mac Miller, Anderson Paak, Tom Misch, The xx, Tyler, The Creator, and Khalid. I also listen to house quite a lot. I always check out BBC Radio 1’s weekend shows to stay up to date with the latest house music.
Can you tell us some more about your current job? How did you get the idea to start your own full-service management, publishing and A&R consultancy company? What does a typical day look like for you?
Last year, after working for CTM for 2,5 years, I really felt the urge to do management, and work more in artist development. I learned there’s a lot of similarities in artist management/development and publishing, so I decided to combine the various disciplines.
There is still a difference, though, in how you develop each talent. An artist’s development works differently to that of a songwriter/producer who is just focusing on writing new songs with others. This also asks for a different business model, so that’s why I decided to combine these.
A few months after I started my company, I realized that, for developing artists on my roster, it would be good to have my own record label in place. This way, we can decide ourselves when and how we want to release music, without being dependent upon other record labels and losing control of our own output.
Beside that, I realized that, as a manager, you are often doing work that a record label should be taking care of, so that made me decide to start the record label ’New Ams Records’.
What artists do you get to work with? Do you work with them personally?
On my record label and management I work with Ruben Pol, he is a Dutch artist and high fashion model. With Ruben, we are trying to build a bridge between fashion and music. His first single was released last Friday, and his EP is due for release September 6.
On the management side, I also work with an English songwriter and producer named Brad Mair, he has done co-writes and productions for and with Dean Lewis, Isak Danielson, Tom Martin, to name a few. In my publishing, I have French DJ and producer Arno Cost, and upcoming pop producer Jara de Werd.
What are the biggest challenges that you encounter having started your own company? Can you pinpoint a specific example? And how do you go about overcoming these challenges?
Developing artists, writers and producers is a long term game. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay patient and stick to your game plan. Sometimes, a short term opportunity might sound incredible, but it might clash with your vision in the long run.
Also, you need to be very critical about time management and the time investment you’re making as an entrepreneur. Sometimes, when I’m very excited about something, I can spend hours working on just that, when I actually need to take a step back, and reconsider if spending these hours is the right way to allocate my time. Prioritizing is an important skill to develop.
Finally, do you have any words of advice for people starting out in the management, publishing and A&R business?
Trust your gut and stick to your plan. Don’t change overnight if something isn’t working out right away. One of the sayings I like the most, related to this vision, is: “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit”.
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