WISDOM: A PORTRAIT SERIES
S E T H K A L L E N
TALENT MANAGER + CO-FOUNDER
NEW YORK CITY
Photograph by Robert Nethery
I. When I first started managing artists, someone said to me “You work for the artist, the artist does not work for you.” Ten years later, I apply that to everything I do every day - my role as a manager is always to help the artist achieve what they want to achieve. I’m lucky enough to work with brilliant people and musicians, and if I can help them on their journey, I’m grateful.
II. Running my own business, I’ve learned that making decisions is exhausting. They call it decision fatigue, I believe. It’s hard not be a control freak but the more I let go of the reigns, teach and let my team make their own decisions - I find that the right decisions are made and can use my mental energy elsewhere.
III. Artists and friends always ask me the same question - “How do you decide to manage an artist? Do you need to see a Facebook following, or do they need to be signed to a label?” For me, if I fall in love with the music first, then I fall in love with the people involved. Being a fan of the music and being inspired by it every day is the most important thing to me. I have been with all of my artists from day one and because of that, the successes feel that much bigger, but the failures and struggles feel that much more intense from the time and care you put in.
IV. About two years ago I was at a major crossroad in my life. I had left my old job at MCT Management, and had thought my next move was joining a new management company, or plugging myself into an existing structure somewhere. I had options on the table, and on paper, I saw no reason not to do it. Why wouldn’t I want a salary, benefits, and some structure? Why wouldn’t I want to be comfortable? I ended up at the Summit Series in Utah, and met an amazing woman named Angie - an astrologist and in that conversation she said to me, “Seth, there are some people who will not be happy unless they are building their own vision. You are someone who at your core, needs to be building something for yourself.” She was absolutely, 100% right. I left that day, called my now business partner Josh, and we formed our management company This Fiction. Once the decision was made, I became very self aware, knowing that at my core I’m an entrepreneur.
V. Artist development is dying. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. The music and talent are out there, and the avenues to exploit and grow these artists are growing every day. Yet the executives with pockets deep enough to invest in the talent are afraid to take risks and afraid to spend the time with an artist. We need people to nurture talent, and put the time and energy into supporting artists from the early stages.
VI. We need to be putting more time and energy into educating the global music community and fans on how to support the arts. I get it, people will no longer pay for music. We need to teach the next generation that there is value in supporting the music financially, because if the artists can’t feed themselves, there will be no more music. No art. With that education, perhaps people will pay a premium for unique live music experiences. The thirst is out there, as people are consuming music more than ever. We just need to find creative ways to inspire people to support the music.
VII. We need to talk more about entitlement. There are too many record labels, producers, brands, and more who feel that the early support they’ve given to an artist means they are entitled to owning and controlling everything the artist does. Many young bands do owe a lot to the people that have invested and supported them early, but with the profit margins shrinking as the music business suffers, greed is driving partners to push for too much.
VIII. I’m starting to think about building small, boutique music festival properties. Festivals like the MECA Festival in Brazil have the formula - they create an amazing, intimate experience for the artists and fans, and inspire something special for those who attend. I want to build a live music experience for people who remind us why we love music and why we connect.