Name: Seth Faber
Company: Primary Wave
Role Title: Partner & VP of Artist Development
How did you get started in the music business?
I grew up as a classically trained percussionist and studied music privately for a dozen years. When it came time to apply for college, my parents gently steered me toward NYU’s Music Business program. They wisely assumed a business path might offer more long-term security than a performance path. A series of internships at RCA Victor and Arista records led to my first job as an assistant for James Diener at J Records.
Name three people whom have been critical to your career?
My dad is an incredible musician and fervent consumer of music. He passed that passion on to me. Adam Lowenberg, also profiled in these pages, has been a dear friend and mentor. We’ve worked together at three different companies, and I’m forever in awe of his creativity and diplomacy. Justin Shukat, Primary Wave Publishing’s President has also been a champion of mine from the beginning. I’m envious of Justin’s work ethic, he’s unafraid of stirring the pot.
What does the Primary Wave brand stand for?
Partnership. Our relationships with our management and publishing clients are notoriously transparent and symbiotic. We aren’t interested in working with artists that expect to play a passive role in their own development. When we strategize with our clients, even during blow-out arguments, there is an underlying spirit of partnership.
What workplace values are important to you?
Intellectual and cultural curiosity! I’m an adjunct professor at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute – something I do in part to surround myself with young & diverse thinkers who challenge me to stay relevant. I want to be surrounded by colleagues who have interests outside of the business, because those interests often spark ideas that can be used in the business.
Tell me about the last year you’ve had personally and professionally?
It’s been an exciting year on multiple fronts. Professionally I’ve been hard at work with my colleague - Hosh Gureli - on developing our management clients in the electronic dance space. Our client Audien started the year with a record deal at Astralwerks/ Capitol and a Grammy nomination. His current single, Something Better, which features Lady Antebellum, is climbing the US Top 40 chart as we speak with airplay on stations including Z100 in NYC and KIIS in Los Angeles. This is an artist development story that I’m incredibly proud of. Prince Fox is an artist we just signed to Casablanca/ Universal Republic. He’s an incredibly unique talent and genre-bender.
On the personal front, my wife Leore and I are expecting a baby in ’16. It’s amazing news for me, and unfortunately for my clients, my number one priority!
What challenges have you faced this past year?
In the electronic dance world, we’ve definitely reached our saturation point. One constant challenge is to help our clients separate themselves from the pack. We challenge our clients to uniquely define themselves sonically, aesthetically and behaviorally.
How would you describe the culture at Primary Wave Music?
Our culture is entrepreneurial. Our CEO Larry Mestel gives us the ideal combination of autonomy & support. We pursue clients and platforms that excite us individually, and the company wins as a whole.
How does this impact on the kind of talent the company seeks?
The talent is diverse because we all have different tastes. Moreover, we end up with clients that don’t want to partner with overly structured and bureaucratic firms, but with a company that shares their desire to break the precedent.
Looking into the future, what excites you most about the potential of the music business? What are the areas where we can improve opportunities for growth?
I’m not clairvoyant but I’m certainly excited that much of the power in our business has shifted toward young entrepreneurial minds. The digitalization of our business has left the old guard caught with their pants down over and over again. The most experienced executives in our business now face direct competition from kids who interned for them a year ago, and often those executives are too blinded by ego to realize what’s happening. Quite the show.
What are your talent priorities at the moment?
On the publishing side, Foy Vance is a killer songwriter & artist that I signed two years ago. He’s our new Van Morrison. On the management side, Audien is a locally grown talent that the world is now recognizing as a brilliant melodist, producer, and performer.
From your perspective, what are the issues facing the music business in today?
One thing I’ve realized is that a lot of contemporary artists are entirely uneducated about the business. Not only do a lot of artists skip high school and college, but they think it’s a waste of their time to educate themselves. Education is so empowering. Artists should understand what a P&L sheet looks like; how a radio campaign works; the difference is between the master and composition; what a radius clause is, and so on. Sure it’s great for artists to be able to focus on making music, but artists who don’t ask their teams to inform them are doing themselves a great disservice. I love to educate aspiring artists as an NYU instructor, and I love to do it as a manager. I want my clients to be empowered and smart.
What are the Implications that these kind of issues have for the local and global music industry? How we can play a part in addressing them?
Artists get taken advantage of, and it perpetuates a lack of trust within the business. Those on the business side are conveyed as villains, and artists as meek.
If you could provoke change in any area of the music business, what would it be?
It would be nice to see less A&Ring with eyes, and more A&Ring with ears.
How do we learn more about the global workings of the music industry? What specific recommendations can you make?
Networking is key. There are so many amazing conferences around the world that are incredibly inspiring and informative. These are often worthwhile not just for the panels, but the individual conversations and social hangs. Spend quality time with some people from another country and you’ll learn a lot about how they discover & share music. In a few weeks I’ll be heading back to ADE in Amsterdam. Every year I come back incredibly enlightened and inspired – and I don’t even smoke.
*Photography by Zackery Michael