• backstage

Managers and the Power of Relationships

Celina Rollon is an artist manager from the UK and the founder of Rollon Ent, a boutique entertainment company providing artist management, production and tour management, marketing consultancy and Independent Record Label Services.

 

She started her career in Manchester at Galaxy 102 Radio (now Capital Manchester), quickly working her way through the ranks to become a Radio Producer for the Galaxy network at just 19 years old. She then moved to London to work for the first wave of UK dot com 1.0 plays, online radio, arts magazine Ammo City before landing the role of Junior Product Manager at Sony Music, where she worked her way up to Marketing Manager. During her six-year tenure there from 2001-2007, Celina coordinated and managed product releases from Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, John Legend, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Tony Bennett and more. Since its foundation, she has managed and coordinated worldwide tour and production logistics for artists and hit productions such as Paloma Faith, Gabrielle, The X Factor, Sean Kingston and others. Celina also released records under her indie label by artists such as Laura Steel and X Factor finalist Ruth Lorenzo and has provided worldwide product, artist and brand management for independent artists and management companies as well as huge global independent campaigns by Darren Hayes (Savage Garden) and Taio Cruz. Celina now represents worldwide management and record label services for NYC alt rock trio FOXTRAX and songwriter / producer Nomero.

 

 

Celina talked about how the management side of the industry has changed since she got started. She also talked about why it’s important for artists to cultivate relationships with fans and other artists in order to build sustainable careers.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Thank you for taking some time, Celina. You started out in radio. What drew you to the management side of the industry?

 

CR:

 

My greatest love when I was at Sony Music was developing artists. I had a great career at that company, and I was able to work on some really small developing artists as well as some humongous superstar artists. To be honest, I always felt the most rewarded when I got to work with tiny artists, building, working and developing from the ground, up. When major labels started to change and have fewer Product Managers and bigger rosters, I stopped being able to focus as much on development.

 

At the time, I was talking to a manager of a big artist in the UK that I was working with, telling them my frustrations. They said, “You should be an Artist Manager.” A light bulb went off, and I asked, “How do I do that?”

 

It honestly started there, about ten years ago. I’m still working on the development side, and it’s very rewarding.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Well, and you have artists with real businesses.

 

CR:

 

I haven’t broken anyone in the traditional sense, but I do have artists that have created real careers. The theory is that 95-percent of the artists make five-percent of the income and five-percent make 95 percent. I’m definitely not in the position I was in when I used to have a full-time job working with some superstar artists, but I am more rewarded.

 

Music Consultant:

 

And how do you view your role as an Artist Manager? What does that look like on a daily basis?

 

CR:

 

It never looks the same. When you are working with a developing artist without an agent, a label or a publisher, you are wearing many hats. On any given day, I can go from booking a whole tour, to being tour manager, to promoting the tour and marketing it alongside marketing the record … to A&R and making a record, finding video directors … There are just a lot of different threads I have to follow.

 

Music Consultant:

 

One of our mutual friends sings your praises and has said often that you are able to seemingly create an opportunity out of nowhere. What you described is the very nuts and bolts, and it seems as though you have been able to find opportunities for artists who are not yet household names. How do you source these opportunities?

 

CR:

 

My approach depends on each artist and what they want to achieve. As an example, I once worked with an artist that was heavily influenced by ‘90s R&B. So, I worked with her to create a list of ten producers and songwriters that she wanted to work with. It could’ve been anyone, and we came up with nearly eight people from Atlanta. So, we went there and sourced people, did a showcase and recorded an album. One of the artist’s biggest dreams was to work with Jermain Dupri/So So Def and Da Brat, and she ended up doing a track with Da Brat. This all started from one conversation and a wish.

 

Another example is a band I’m working with now, FOXTRAX. They wanted to tour and be in rooms across the U.S., so I looked for opportunities for them to support bigger artists on tour. They just got back from a two-month North American tour.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Getting on real tours where you are not just playing to wait staff is the Holy Grail for a lot of developing artists right now.

 

When you are looking for artists to manage, what qualities do you seek out? Obviously, you have to love the music, but I imagine there are other elements.

 

CR:

 

Being a manager is one of the biggest commitments anyone could ever make, especially when you’re dealing with an artist who doesn’t have a full team. It’s a 24/7 role. Therefore, any artist I work with has to have so much more than talent. They have to have an ambition and a drive to stop at nothing in order to succeed. I am definitely a driver by nature. Finding someone who is more driven than I am is very rare. When I find that, it becomes a perfect partnership.

 

Beyond that work ethic, I look for so many things, many of which are indescribable. It’s kind of like falling in love when I find the perfect artist – it’s something I can’t describe. I see them on stage, and I have an epiphany. I think, “These guys are incredible.” Then I look beyond the performance and see that they are also hard workers and nice people. I only want to work with nice people, because life’s too short.

 

So, an artist I work with has a combination of positive qualities. And also, there has to be mutual trust. That doesn’t come right away. Sometimes I won’t commit to an artist for several months to give us time to build that trust. It is the only way to make it work for the long haul. It’s like a romantic relationship, and I don’t want to get divorced.

 

Music Consultant:

 

It really is a romantic relationship, and I completely agree about the work ethic. There have been so many times that I’ve found myself killing myself working with an artist, and the artist seems to not be putting as much effort into it, when in all honesty, people artists work with can only care as much about their careers as they do. If you want to be successful, you really have to view being an artist as the most important thing in the world.

 

That being said, what have you seen change in the music industry for artists in the past ten years? In particular, what has changed about your role as a manager?

 

CR:

 

The digital era has made the industry much more complex. There is a lot more admin, because there is so much uploading and downloading, so much editing of bios across several different platforms.

 

There are so many communities you can reach with just a click that you couldn’t previously reach. As a developing artist especially, it’s really important to have a one-on-one relationship with your community of fans. And it takes as much work from the management company as it does from the artist to cultivate those relationships, to build those lifelong super fans.

 

I definitely have to wear a lot more hats to do my job.

 

Music Consultant:

 

As a marketer, I’ve found there are a lot of relationships I can build with people in the industry, but they’re never going to be as good as the artist building relationships with other artists. Do you find that relationships that artists cultivate themselves not only help your efforts but also directly drive their careers?

 

CR:

 

Of course. I think it’s really hard to break an artist, and you definitely can’t force a relationship. In fact, it’s pretty impossible. For example, I was given the opportunity with one of my artists to open one date for Barns Courtney in September 2016. He’s signed to Capitol Records and has had some massive sync success. I met his manager at SXSW in March of that same year. I created the initial engagement and the initial relationship and booked the first date in L.A. And the band blew Barns away from the first moment he met them backstage, even before the show started. He noticed the way they conducted themselves in the dressing room, during the show, after the show. They were people he really wanted on tour with him. He requested they go on a two-month tour. That didn’t come from the manager or the agent. That came from the band and the impression they made and the relationship they built with the artist themselves.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Do you have any parting words of advice for artists looking to build careers? What do they need to do to before they hire a manager?

 

CR:

 

There’s so much to be said about letting the artist be the artist, however times have changed thanks to the digital world. An artist needs to understand what a manager does before they get one. And also, they need to research online and find opportunities to speak to fans one on one. If you have three or four conversations with a fan, she’s more likely to buy a t-shirt than if you don’t talk to her at all. That can get you a profit of around $15. It takes you way less than an hour to convert a fan threw a social conversation, which is more than some people make from their day jobs. That’s how I look at it. I know it’s on a small scale, but it’s important. I don’t think artists think about it because it’s not instant money that they can physically see, and they have rent to pay. However, if you just spend a few hours a day cultivating relationships with fans, they can turn into a sustainable living.

 

To learn more about Celina Rollon and the work she does with artists, visit the Rollon Entertainment website. You can also follow the company on Twitter.