“Tiesto” is a name that requires little introduction, as he’s been occupying the upper-tier of DJ personalities for over a decade. Given that this position of his has remained as solid as ever, even into 2015, we were excited to get the chance to speak with his manager, Andrew Goldstone. Our conversation spans Andrew’s experience in the music industry, his work with Tiesto, and his thoughts on things like streaming and today’s electronic music scene.
Hi Andrew. We’re thankful that you’re taking the time to talk with us, as we know you haven’t done any interviews with websites in the past. Can we start by asking about your background in the industry?
I’ve been in the business for a quite a while. I started in the dance music world in the mid-90s by doing A&R work at Astralwerks. I was lucky enough to be there at a seminal moment in the development of electronic music in the USA. I signed a guy from Brighton called Fatboy Slim, and that turned into something spectacular. In addition to that, we worked with The Chemical Brothers, Photek, Future Sound Of London, and other things that were commercially and critically successful.
Off the back of my work with Fatboy Slim, I was approached by Warner Bros. and started an imprint called F-111 with a friend of mine named DB who was running a label called “Sm:)e“. We signed some things that I’m very proud of, like Green Velvet and Faze Action, but it wasn’t a good fit for me in the long run. They weren’t ready for what we wanted to do, and we weren’t ready to be in that kind of system. It lasted a few years, and then I went on to do A&R for Ministry of Sound when they set up in the States around 1999.
Dance music in the States kind of fell off a cliff in 2001, leading to Ministry Of Sound pulling out of America, and I went to law school. Upon graduating, I was lucky enough to get a job at an big entertainment law-firm called Grubman Indursky. So I was working on deals like the Madonna and U2 deals with Live Nation, which were great learning opportunities. I was there for about 6 years, and developed a dance music practice which including representing Porter Robinson, who I’d reached out to upon hearing one of his tracks. He very quickly blew up, and my practice continued to grow. I ended up representing Seven Lions, Audien and a few others. Currently, I’m still a lawyer for Porter and Audien.
Two and half years ago, a good friend of mine asked me to meet with Tiesto about possibly managing him. The talks went well, and we’ve been working together for over two years now. I co-manage Tiesto along with Coran Capshaw, who runs Red Light Management.
Was there any reason why you chose to work in the dance music genre when the business may have been more lucrative elsewhere, such as in pop or rock genres?
It’s the only thing I cared about. It’s what I loved from an early age, when I was into new wave stuff like Depeche Mode. I also got into music that was a part of early sampling culture like stuff by S’Express and Bomb The Bass. I was actually working in alternative rock music before going over to Astralwerks, and was asked to take a 50% pay cut for the Astralwerks job, which I did willingly because I knew it was the music that I wanted to be involved with.
Given than dance music has had a resurgence in the USA, do you see any differences between what it is now and what it was in the 90s? Have you had to adapt to any of the new developments?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve had to adapt, but rather that I’ve evolved along with it. The primary difference now is that an enormous fan-base of kids whose lives revolve around dance music. Back in the day, it wasn’t like that. People might have liked a band like The Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers, but those people were actually into alternative music, not electronic music. Now it’s a lifestyle. It’s what people listen to at 9am in the morning when they get into work. You don’t need to be at a party or club to enjoy it.
Would you say that managing dance music acts differs from managing artists in other genres?
What I think is interesting about this community is that it’s a pretty friendly world. Everyone knows and talks to each other. So whilst there may be some competition, it’s much more supportive than I would imagine the pop or rock world is. I can pick up the phone and call the manager of any other Top 10 act, and we can have a good discussion. I can ask if they have any recommendations about specific brands or people in the business, and people are open to sharing their information. I feel lucky to work in this area of the business.
As a lawyer, what are some of the things you’ve found that DJs need to be mindful of from a legal perspective? Do you find yourself having to have discussions about things like sample clearance, label contracts, etc?
Yeah, every single day. In many ways, the dance music world has gotten a pass for a lot of things, but given the narrowing of income streams, that pass is eroding. That includes things like Soundcloud and Youtube take-downs. We need to shift to a world where rights holders are properly compensated for the use of their material, which includes paying royalties on podcasts and mixes. It’s important because so many people benefit from creating podcasts, and the artists whose music is included get nothing financial from that. We’ve just started working with a company
called Dubset Media, and they have a technology that allows for the monetization and proper payment to rights holders for the use of their music in podcasts, online mixes, etc. So I believe that the entire music ecosystem is going to shift to that, since people don’t want to lose income streams. The other thing I’d say is that, it’s amazing how many DJs don’t have lawyers. They’ll get managers before they play their first gig, but they have no lawyers. I’ve seen so many guys in bad situations because they signed whatever was put in front of them, and they continue to suffer from those deals years afterwards.
Is it more expensive to have a lawyer than a manager?
You can look at it in a variety of ways. It depends on who your lawyer is and what relationship you have with them. But I will say that it often costs you more money not to have a lawyer, because of the problems you can run into and the contracts you’re held to when you could be earning money elsewhere.
In addition to a superstar like Tiesto, you manage Seven Lions, an established EDM artist, as well as up-and-comers like Dzeko and Torres and MOTi. How do you find yourself applying your expertise to these artists that are at different heights in their careers?
So much of any producer’s success in this area of dance music is about having hit records, and much of one’s ability to become popular is dependent on those tracks. Because many of these guys aren’t signed to major labels, it’s about us getting them the right tracks to produce, or finding top-lines, or figuring out the right labels to release on, etc. Seven Lions is signed to a big label, and Republic have been very helpful in finding people for him to work with. Our job is to make sure that those records are as impactful as possible, and that those releases provide them with as much exposure as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s someone like Seven Lions, who has done very well for himself, or someone like MOTi, who’s now hitting his stride, and is going to have a massive 2015. The needs are the same: it’s about helping them make great records, putting them out, supporting their touring schedule, and helping them be successful in as many areas in and out of music as possible.
Given that you take care of arguably the biggest DJ in the world, which must be a heavy task, do you ever consider adding up-and-coming artists to your roster? What does it take for you manage a new artist?
That’s a conversation I’ll have with Tiesto. It’s about who we think has potential, and who he believes in and wants to work with on a mentor/production basis. That’s what happened with Moti and Dzeko and Torres. With Seven Lions, I used to be his lawyer, and brought him in when he decided to change management, even though he’s not necessarily the right fit to go on tour with Tiesto in the same way that someone like MOTi is. So Tiesto and I have to feel like the artists are good guys, are ready to do the work and really want to succeed.
What have been some of the key points of focus for managing Tiesto, given that he already had a successful career before coming to you?
When I came in, it was about taking stock of his different assets, and making sure we were maximizing each one. We’ve made significant changes to his social media presence, and have made sure that we’re working well with Spotify and Youtube. We try to make sure that all the different content partners are being given everything they need to make Tiesto’s audio and video content successful. You need to be releasing content consistently, so that’s what we’re working on. His agents, AM Only, have the touring side running like a Swiss clock, so we focus on creating partnerships and promotions that support that side of his business. We’ve also worked on making sure that the production in Hakkasan is completely different from anyone else’s.
At the time when Tiesto changed management teams in 2013, he said that his reason for the switch was his desire to be more ambitious and do bigger things. What are some of those things that you guys have focused on helping him achieve?
Certainly what we did with Universal on the his last album was big, not only in terms of the commercial performance of the album itself and the singles, but also the process of getting him working with great songwriters and singers, and making the process more collaborative than in the past. That bore some great fruit, as he’s had 2 of the biggest singles of his career, and just got nominated for a Grammy for his John Legend remix. Again, it really comes down to the music, and if that’s working well, then that opens the doors to lots of other possibilities.
In keeping with the subject of the commercial side of music, what are your thoughts on streaming services? Would you say that someone like Tiesto benefits from that?
Yeah, no question. It helps more than it hurts. I do appreciate the argument that a service like Spotify has a lot of free subscribers that aren’t really contributing to anyone’s bottom line, but given how global Tiesto’s reach is, the ability to have his material available to the whole world that would not have otherwise purchased or accessed his music has been really amazing. When his album came out, the performance on the album and singles charts in so many territories on Spotify was incredible and included territories where he wasn’t selling many records. Naturally, I’d like to see the underlying agreements with the streaming services be renegotiated, so that labels and artists can make more money. But even as it is today, it’s still an incredibly valuable tool for us.
Social media has clearly played a big part in Tiesto rise to stardom in today’s music scene, as his following is massive. Given the service that JustGo provides for managing your different social media pages, do you think it would useful for Tiesto and his team?
We have a company that we work with on the social media front, so JustGo wouldn’t be right for us, but I can see how it would be amazing for other people.
Wrapping up, can we ask what does 2015 have in store for you?
I think it’s going to be pretty amazing. I’ve heard a lot of music that our guys will be putting out, and I’m excited for it. It’s really epic stuff, and I have enormous hopes for 2015, on all fronts.