• backstage

Artist Management and Touring

Jonathan Shank is a senior management executive and tour producer for Red Light Management and also manages MAGIC!, Victoria Justice and Sam Tsui. Jonathan has been a driving creative force, producing countless successful tours including Peppa Pig Live!, Fresh Beats Band, Octonauts and the recently announced, all-new Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour, a show that reflects the emotional connection generations of consumers have to Disney storytelling and Disney characters, both classic and contemporary. Since 2012, Jonathan’s tours have sold in excess of one million tickets and grossed more than $40 million in box office sales.

 

 

Jonathan talked about his career trajectory in the music industry and the key elements of artist management. He also talked about the process of putting together a major tour and shared some advice for artists looking to build sustainable careers in the music business.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Thanks much for taking the time to answer some questions, Jonathan. I’ve read that it was a ticket to the Jacksons’ Victory Tour in 1984 that kicked off your love of music and that passion lead you to an internship at the House of Blues. From there you wound up working for legendary producer Kim Fowley. How did these experiences lead to becoming a manager and how did you come to be at Red Light?

 

JS:

 

First off, thanks so much for including me in your blog. I was always passionate about music and was very keen to learn about the various facets of the industry. Live music became part of my life that night in 1984 at the Michael Jackson show and after that, I was hooked!

 

When I lived in New Orleans, I pursued various internships and ended up working at House of Blues and then for Kim Fowley after that. In 1997, I went to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music and landed a job as an assistant at American Artists working with Ron Rainey, Peter Sheils and Michael Gaiman. I was initially connected to them through Paul Kantner of Jefferson Starship/Airplane. While there, I had the opportunity to book some great artists like The Marshall Tucker Band, Dave Mason, Jefferson Starship, Robby Krieger and then I signed Sally Taylor, AJ Croce, and Backbone. I ended up running the agency from 1999-2001.

 

During that time, I met Jeff Kramer from OK Management. He had an office down the hall and invited me to come by and soak in what I could. I would listen to him chat and ask questions. It was a very generous gesture allowing me to come and hang in his office and learn about management.

 

After that, I made the move into management but still with affection for the touring business. There were stints at Avenue Management, Direct Management, Velvet Hammer and AGP/Frontline prior to my landing at Red Light. I worked with artists of all genres, and no matter the genre, I was constantly striving to create more fan friendly experiences. Certainly having a baseline understanding of the live music business from all of these gigs helped pave the way.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Being a music manager always involves a very broad job description that differs from person to person and seems to vary from project to project. How do you see your role, and what do you spend most of your time doing as a manager?

 

JS:

 

Great Question. I tend to lean away from the term “music manager” because so much of what we do goes beyond music and management into other verticals and mediums. The foundation is built on sharing a vision with an artist and or brand and then trying to look at how to best build a team and execute a plan around the artist or brand. Our jobs are so broad and diverse, which requires us to tap into different skill sets at various times. Prioritization is key to success when juggling multiple projects. Most of our time is spent building and maintaining relationships and working with others to create unique platforms for our artists to have a voice. The other part of the equation is communication with your artists and team members.

 

Music Consultant:

 

It seems like your projects are very focused on live experiences and yet you’re not at an agency. What is your specific role when it comes to supporting an agent who is booking the dates?

 

JS:

 

I did come from an agency background. so I have a deep understanding of the system. It is so important to support the agents we work with, and I must say, we work with some of the best in the business. I probably have high expectations, but the guys I work with are constantly raising the bar. I’ve worked closely with Mario Tirado at CAA for 15-plus years, and he is one of the best. He’s one of the only guys I know that can book in volume and still be incredibly strategic. I still like to dig in on the routings and find markets to fill in the calendar. I tend to be very strategic when we are building these tours. The best support you can give an agent is to help provide structure to the touring plan, but to also give them space to do their job and create opportunities.

 

Music Consultant:

 

You work with some well-known artists like MAGIC! and Victoria Justice, but it seems like you are also producing shows based on some big brands, like Peppa Pig and Disney. It seems like managing an artist vs. managing a tour based on something established in a different medium would have you doing vastly different things. Is this the case?

 

JS:

 

 

I like to think of it that each artist and or project lives in it’s own bucket. Each bucket is planted with different seeds but all the buckets require water, light, and a lot of love to grow. I actually try to treat the brands more like artists when it comes to planning their tours because it seems provide more sustainability. At the core the business, skill sets are the same but it does require someone to tap into different creative outlets for each project or artist. The goal is to have each bucket flourish.

 

Music Consultant:

 

 

Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour just launched. How did it come to be, and what can people expect from the live experience?

 

JS:

 

I started working on the idea of this tour about a year ago. There was a huge hole in the marketplace, without any dance or live action concerts for the family audience. I knew that hole needed to be filled. Simultaneously, Disney was looking to create a touring property based around their marquis shows, so we had a shared vision. Our goal with this tour is to create the most interactive dance party for families that showcases all of the Disney Junior characters. The production value of this show eclipses anything else out there in the family market at the moment. The show features Mickey & the Roadster Racers, Sofia The First, Elena of Avalor, Vampirina, Doc McStuffins, The Lion Guard and also includes new interactive elements with The Puppy Dog Pals and Muppet babies that are incredible. We don’t want to give too much away! I’m so excited to get the dance party started.

 

Music Consultant:

 

What was your biggest challenge in putting this project together?

 

JS:

 

We are still putting the finishing touches on the production, so I don’t want to speak too soon! I think the biggest challenge is launching a new brand (Disney Junior Dance Party) that no-one has heard of yet and selling that idea to promoters and marketing partners without any real assets and before you have even sold a ticket.

 

Although people are familiar with and love all the Disney characters, putting together the overall concept and then having partners buy into that idea was a challenge because the show itself is an unknown entity. Disney has been an amazing partner and is running TV spots to help raise awareness and educate people about the tour. On-air marketing really tends to help drive demand for family entertainment.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Do you have any advice for people who want to manage artists and projects like you do?

 

JS:

 

My first advice is never stop believing in yourself. Find your passion, follow it, and listen to your gut. Always respond to emails, calls, and try to engage and help others around you that are working on like-minded clients or projects. Try to build relationships from the outset and never feel like it’s too late to start. Find an artist or a project that you are excited about and learn about their business. Follow their model and try to build upon it. Become an expert on the industry and learn the various players and facets and try to understand how the market is changing. Above all, be yourself and express your ideas.

 

For more information about Jonathan Shank and the work he does with artists, tours and music, check out the Red Light Management website. Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour will launch its 50-show national run on March 14, 2018 in Thousand Oaks, CA.