With a career spanning almost 30 years working for companies like Warner Music where Michael cut his teeth as a Promotions Manager before moving into marketing and A&R roles, music industry heavy weight Michael Parisi’s career has seen him contribute to the success of artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, K.D Lang and REM.
His time in the industry has seen him put in charge of artist rosters including the likes of Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day in his marketing role at Warner and AC/DC, Garbage and Kylie Minogue in his role at Mushroom Records. With his first band he ever signed, a then-unknown UK three piece at the time, becoming a band you may know as MUSE, Michael’s instinct for what works in the industry is second to none, having more #1 albums than any managing director or A&R around this time.
In 2008, he started his own record label Wunderkind – (a joint venture with Michael Gudinski) and a Music Management and Consultancy Company MPMgmt. Looking after a roster of artists including Stonefield, Dan Sultan, Owl Eyes, Polish Club and Vera Blue, there’s no doubting Michael’s talent for artist management and running a label. Chatting to me about his role, Michael discusses the various hats he wears his role and how un-typical his working week is. Let’s break down Michael’s last few weeks.
Can you give us an idea of what your role in the industry entails?
Well essentially I run my own management company, Michael Parisi Management, and basically my day to day role is to oversee and guide the careers of the artists that we work with on a management level and that entails everything from personal assistance with their financials to creative, A&R, booking tours and everything associated with the proper management of an artists career.
What does your week look like in terms of tasks you have pass across your desk to complete?
Well it’s one of those jobs where you can’t predict what’s going to happen on any given day. It’s a 24/7 job and situations change and fluctuate but essentially you break down the kinds of tasks you perform each week based on your artists needs. For example, we have a Vera Blue record coming out in the next few weeks and a tour announcement so we’ve spent the better part of last week focusing on getting the details of that plan right. At the same time, we’ve got a Dan Sultan record going to radio in two weeks time, so we have to juggle that as well. Similarly, we’ve just released a record by a band called Polish Club and we’re still working on rolling out the campaign for that. So because we have multiple artists in different parts of their cycle in any given week, their needs and the tasks you perform will be tailored to that and there’s no sort of set agenda.
You need to be nimble, malleable and you need to have the ability to drop everything you’re doing at the drop of a hat to take care of a time sensitive situation. It’s not one of those jobs that’s structured. It’s whatever happens on any given day and your reaction to what’s coming in will be what your workday consists of. In management, things change by the hour, by the minute sometimes! So it’s an interesting job.
It’s not like any other job in the music business where you’ll have meetings day by day and you’ll have a structure behind what you are doing, whether you’re a marketing or promotions person in a record company, management is a totally different beast. You need to be adaptable and turn on a whim based on what’s required, based on your artists needs, based on what’s thrown at you and what challenges present to you everyday.
So the meetings you attend, essentially are dependant on what campaigns you’re working on each week and what kind of progress you’ve made on each of them?
Yeah, Exactly! You don’t sit there and go “oh on this day at this time we’re going to have a meeting about this act” you know. The subject matter and people involved in these meetings change, times change, opportunities come up that need to be acted on quickly. As I said, it’s one of those jobs where you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. So you’ve got to be on your toes the whole time. Things happen so quickly in this business and particularly when you’re doing management where you have to able to react to a situation that may happen in the next 10 minutes with no warning. There could be issues with a particular tour, a concept or an idea may change, opportunities come along, so you just have to be open to do anything that is required on any given day.
Recently, I’ve been focused on the Vera Blue record that’s been coming out, so we’ve been constantly having meetings and phone calls with our partners, our booking agents, our record label, and our publisher. There’s a whole team around the artists and you’re constantly talking to them, that’s how things work in this role. You have to keep your communication really open about every detail that every person in the team is working on. So we always have meetings, but they’re never structured, you’ll be discussing the progress on the campaign and where everyone in the team is at.
No meeting is the same for each act, no method is the same at any given time and no plan is the same. The artists on my roster are different and what may work well for one artist might not work well for another because they have different markets and other variables. So what’s good for Dan Sultan is not necessarily good for Vera Blue and vice versa and our strategy with polish club is very different to our strategy with Dan Sultan. So every meeting is very different and the partners we have around each act are different. They aren’t all with the same publisher and record label because their business plan is different.
Have you attended any industry events of late?
I didn’t attend any “industry events” as such but I did go to Los Angeles with Vera Blue who kicked off her tour in LA a couple of weeks ago. We also had various meetings at Capitol Records, her U.S. record label, so I spent the better part of two weeks there helping set up not just that tour but her album release in the U.S. While I was there I also took meetings about Polish Club with their label who are a little label called Fourthreetwo through Capitol. So we did do a lot of industry meetings in Los Angeles.
What was involved on a management level with kicking off Vera’s tour?
So we have a U.S. agent Matt Galle from Paradigm which is one of the more prestigious agencies based out of New York, and we spent considerable time focusing on where the hot spots for Vera were in the U.S. We determine this by working out where we are getting most of our streams, based on Spotify data and statistics and from that information we were able to put together a tour based on where we thought the heat was. This tour is very much an introductory tour so we employed publicists to help us get the message across. We’ve got the record label involved to make sure that they were aware of the act and to make sure they’ve got the right people along for the ride.
There’s quite a bit of organisation involved in setting up a tour like Vera’s. An introductory tour is so different because it’s her first time in America and in this market, so we wanted to make sure we were getting her into the right market, at the right time and to the right people. You have to book the tour before you can set up travel plans to ensure the artist has the right visa’s and then you have to plan all the transportation for the artist, crew and back line. Then you have to plan out the marketing and all the day-to-day requirements of the artist as they are traveling. There’s a lot that goes into it beyond simply booking the venue.
So you’ve attended quite a few of your artist’s gigs over the past few weeks, any show in particular that stood out to you?
Vera’s LA shows as part of kicking off her tour included a couple of her own showcases for the record label and for the Music Supervisors of Capitol. Then last week we released the Polish Club record and there was a launch in Sydney for the fans and media. Working so closely with artists, you’re constantly going to shows, primarily for your own artists but also as a manager. You’re always on the look out for new artists so I tend once or twice a week to get around to bars or clubs to check out emerging acts. I like to keep my finger on the pulse and ensure I don’t pass up on something that could be incredible.
What would you say was the most challenging part of your week?
The most challenging part of the week… well as I said you always come up against a lot of challenging scenarios in this business. Sometimes you’ll have situations where the problem solving needs to be really quick or it will trigger a new set of problems if not enough attention is given to the initial problem. It may be that there’s a problem with a tour, there could be a problem with the production of a tour, you may have an issue with a release date and the record label because that record label is dropping an album from another artist on the same day which would weaken the media attention and hype you will attract.
There’s always a challenge, and every day is a challenge because you don’t know what’s going to be thrown at you as there are so many outside influences that factor into what your artist’s needs may be for the week. Challenges are a constant and without them you can’t survive in this business because you’ve got to be able to find a strategy at all times. It’s an unpredictable business and you need to be ready to make a move or switch positions because there’s generally no time for pondering. A fast move is a good move.
Do you find your “quick instincts” to solve these challenges when they arise are getting better over time?
Yeah! I mean I’ve been doing this for a long time and I think problem solving for me is all based on instinct, going with your gut feeling and knowing what move to make. Sometimes you are wrong, sometimes you are right, but the most important thing is that you do make a decision, rather than not. So it’s actually one of those things where you have the instinct to manage or you don’t. Knowing what to do in certain situations comes from experience and that’s something you can work on over time. Eventually you’ll get challenges and you’ll know exactly how to solve them. Trying to best understand what is right for your artist is a combination of instinct and experience.
What are the highlights of your week? Obviously going to LA would have to make the list!
Yeah it’s exciting, but it’s all part of your job and your responsibility as a manager. It does sound glamorous and from time to time going to LA it is, but when you’re there you’re basically working and transplanting your office from Melbourne to Los Angeles. You’ll do the same things you would have done back at the office, but from a different city. It’s fun to travel, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see other places and meet new people but at the same time, when you go to these cities, you’re actually there to work.
The highlight actually was seeing a full room for Vera’s opening show at The Bootleg Theatre in LA. Seeing a full room of people singing along to all the songs gives you a bit of a spring in your step knowing that you and your team have made that happen. It really signifies that you’re starting to make inroads into a new territory and market. It’s a sense of accomplishment. By no means are we there yet, we haven’t “broken America” yet, but, to have a full room on your first show in a new country is a pretty great feeling for the whole team from the artist to the label and everyone in between. Because it’s tangible and you can see the work that we’ve been putting in for the last 2-3 years is now starting to pay off in a new territory. It’s exciting stuff.
What would be the lowlight of your week?
Ahh! Lack of sleep! Haha! Because this is a 24/7 job and you find yourself sometimes working quite late and you find yourself waking up at three in the morning going “Shit! I’ve forgot something!”. You are constantly over thinking, or just thinking in general and it can make it feel like a long week for want of a better word. So the lowlight would be the lack of sleep you get when you can’t wind down. And you’ll launch three records, three different tours at the same time and having to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything can be draining. It’s all go go go and by the time the weekend rolls around you’re just dead to the world. And then it all starts again…
What would be your words of wisdom for someone considering a job in your field of management?
Grow an Armadillo skin! I’m serious you need a lot of patience and a thick skin. A lot of hard work and if you’re not prepared to put in the work and develop a strong work ethic, you’re not going to make it. It’s that simple. Be prepared to be disappointed more often than not. Be prepared to take knocks. Be prepared to hear “No”… A lot! The most important thing is to have that kind of resilience. Share a vision with your artist to make sure you’re all running in the same direction. It can be a thankless task, being a manager, but when something works, it’s incredibly rewarding on many levels. Not just financially but rewarding spiritually and in every way possible. If you want to be in this business, work hard, take the knocks, dust yourself off and push on. Have that tunnel vision, that real eagerness to make something work. Easier said than done, but you just need to focus, the whole time.