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Mike G on Music Festivals, Touring, Young Thug, and The Kid LAROI

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Mike G and The Kid LAROI (via @mikeg_nitevision)

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Mike G is a music and touring agent for United Talent Agency (UTA). He joins me on the podcast to share what it has been like for him since COVID broke out, especially the big things he did recently. He talks about The Kid LAROI and Young Thug, the trajectory of their careers, and the projects they’ve worked on. He looks back on how he went from sales rep to full-time booking agent, revealing what it was like to manage Chris Brown. He also weighs in on what music events will be like when the pandemic’s over.

Tune in to this episode to get an update on some artists, and see what things will be like for future concerts and tours from an agent’s perspective!

Episode Highlights:

[00:21] The opportunities that Mike G saw during the pandemic

[05:18] The recent trend in tours and concerts

[07:00] On working with The Kid LAROI and increasing the demand for him

[12:00] About Young Thug and the challenge of getting him to the level where he should be

[16:35] What music festival promoters look for in artists

[22:13] On rebuilding artists

[26:16] About Mike G’s background and why he decided to become an agent

[30:00] On managing Chris Brown

[34:42] His smooth transition to UTA

[38:20] His prediction for music events post-pandemic

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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

Guest: Mike G, @MikeGNitevision

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Transcript

Dan: All right, so we got Mike G who is a music and touring agent at UTA here and, Mike, I gotta say, I mean, as a booking agent, the pandemic has probably just been a very fascinating time that’s probably been unlike any other time in your career. How’s it been?

 

Mike G: You know, I’ve always been brought up to really see positivity when negative things happen and that was pretty much the mindset that I had throughout the entire pandemic. I’m like, how can I, as like a music touring agent and executive, get better during this time? Like what can I do to myself and my career to enhance my career? So, it had a lot of challenges, more mental, but I think, you know, we came away on top at the end of the day.

 

Dan: Yeah, I’d say so. I mean, looking at some of the names that you were able to land during the pandemic was really impressive. I mean, you have a really strong record of artists. I mean, most recently, you got Demi Lovato signed to UTA. What has it been like getting big name artists while there’s so much uncertainty in touring itself and everything going on right now?

 

Mike G: You know, in the agency world, we’re always selling potential clients and preaching about our 360 model so not only in music but TV, film, brand opportunities and I saw this as a real opportunity to really focus on everything outside of touring, everything we always discuss, so I really just kinda zoned in, I attended a lot of TV and film lit meetings, music crossover meetings, and really worked on developing my TV and film relationship skills as far as with different studios and production companies and, you know, those were like great talking points when I started pursuing some of these clients because I knew, at that time, a lot of touring agents are not gonna be checking in with their clients like that so I saw an opportunity to stay close to my clients, to talk about and bring different types of opportunities, which I’m really proud of, and, you know, to pursue some clients that I really wanted to work with so it really just put — that setback became a real opportunity, you know? In my eyes, so, you know, we just have to get better and I think we did.

 

Dan: Do you find that the uncertainty made anything challenging in that type of way? Because I’m sure the next question that artists have after they’re able to reevaluate is like, “Okay, well, when can I go back on tour?”

 

Mike G: Yes and no, in a sense that because no one really knew when touring was coming back. We knew in ’21 by that — because everybody thought we were gonna be back in the office last June and when we weren’t in the office last June, everyone knew that touring wasn’t coming back in ’21. I was always optimistic that it’s gonna come back in ’22. I was of that mindset, summer ’22.

 

I’ve been saying that for about a year, “Summer ’22, we’ll be back, arenas would be back in the fall,” and it’s happening right now, you know? As vaccines roll out and you see these festivals blowing out early, like everything’s just going on sale, you know, on the festival side and selling out. It’s happening so I kinda always stuck to that and always told my clients what I really felt but no one really knew but I was close.

 

Dan: I’d say you were pretty close because I think that there were a few artists and festivals that were aggressive and I think timing didn’t work out where they planned it fall, winter, or fall 2021 at least they were able to get it there and the early 2022 ones, most of them at least look like they’re still good so, yeah, I do think that your summer ’22 prediction was good there.

 

I’m interested to see what it’s still gonna be like though, because I feel like even though they haven’t happened yet, there may be a bit of a squeeze where there are just so many big acts that wanna tour at the same time and I think it’s great, so many of us wanna see everyone that’s out there, but I wonder at any point like is the demand for everyone at once going to impact anything for those artists?

 

Mike G: That’s a great question. I think, look, when you look at summer ’21, there’s a lot of big hip-hop tours going out. You know, we have Lil Baby and Lil Durk going out, you have Trippie Redd going out. There’s just a bunch of — Rod Wave, I believe, is going out. There’s a lot of tours going out so there’s a lot of competition in the marketplace. You know, avails become a problem but I’ve always felt like if a promoter — when I mean “avails,” like availability on the venue, if the venue is available because there’s so much traffic, but I’ve always felt like if a promoter, whether it’s a Live Nation agent or independent, if they really want a show, they’ll figure out how to clear that date for you. So, a lot of competition. We’ll see how all these tours do at the end of the day. Some of them are doing better than others and that’s just a reflection how everybody is excited to get back to go see a show or go see a concert.

 

Dan: Any trends that you’ve noticed in terms of the shows that are doing better right now versus the ones that aren’t?

 

Mike G: That’s a good question. I don’t get everyone’s ticket counts, tougher to tell, but I just feel like since, you know, historically, when you go out to the amphitheaters, primarily most of the tours right now are in the amphitheaters, you know? Live Nation owns primarily most of those amphitheaters. Those tours tend to sell quicker as the show comes up. There’s a lot of walk-up business.

 

So, you know, it’s very rare like something sells out on presale, like we put up Wizkid on presale sold out, New York sold out, LA sold out, like within the first hour, sold out presale The O2 in London and — but that’s an indoor tour so it’s just — it’s, you know, he’s hot right now so the market, there’s a demand for him, he’s never toured in the US, but like when it comes to the amphitheaters, usually the reps are a lot stronger as the show comes, as the show date comes closer.

 

Dan: I can see that, especially now just given the comfort of people wanting to be outdoors and the size of artists that are looking for that and, yeah, I know you mentioned Wizkid, I know that timing obviously works out well for him. I wanna talk about two of the artists that you have that have been doing really well and I think things are working out pretty well for them: Kid LAROI and Young Thug. What has it been like —  let’s start with Kid LAROI first. What has it been like with him just because he’s someone that’s been rising so fast recently in the industry and being able to both expect and meet the demand for where his interest is from a fan perspective, I’m sure that must be exciting but it’s also a bit of a good guessing game too just getting a sense for, okay, we see what the streaming numbers look like, how does that translate to ticket sales now?

 

Mike G: You know, it’s been amazing just seeing his rise. You know, Kid LAROI got on my radar I think around February of 2020 and I was watching him very closely and by the time November, December came around, I’m like, “I gotta work with this guy,” you know? And I was really excited because I saw where it was going and, as soon as we started working together, by February of 2021, we got him in the building, we met with him via Zoom, obviously, and I just knew this kid just had something really special on him.

 

He was very funny, very charismatic, and, you know, just — you know when you draft someone, you know, when you’re going to the league and you know this guy is gonna be the one? That was always the feeling with him and, you know, he hasn’t disappointed, and when you meet with his family, his mom was a talent executive in Australia and his dad was signed to Simon Cowell in Australia and his brother’s a 15-year-old phenom producer, it all makes sense. You see why this kid is so special and the talent he possesses.

 

For the most part, you know, the ’21 strategy was we just kept saying no. When festivals were offering on him, we just kept saying no, no, no, and it just increased the demand and when we got an offer for playing Reading and Leeds in London third to closing to Post Malone, I’m like, “Wow, this is real,” and he has not disappointed. He definitely has not disappointed.

 

You know, we did a pop-up show at the Palladium last Tuesday, 8,000 people registered, he announced it the same day, 3,000 people showed up. It was like a 2,000-cap parking lot so, you know, you get to be a part of that and you get to witness it. It’s just something really special and he’s very special and he works extremely hard and he definitely deserves all the success he’s getting right now.

 

Dan: So, talk to me about turning down those festivals, because I’m sure there’s some trade-off there, right? On one hand, you’re holding out and things have worked out but, in the moment, I’m sure you also were like, “Okay, well, if we did take this festival, what’s the benefit of that?” What was that decision like?

 

Mike G: You know, the model — okay, so I’ll be completely honest, in January, February, and March when offers were coming in, we didn’t really know if festivals were really gonna come back, even though we were optimistic so I was of the mindset with the team, let’s just turn down everything, focusing on the music, and come back in ’22 with a bigger demand. That really was the mindset. The power of no and the power of walking away creates a demand and I know it’s hard for a lot of artists and a lot of managers and agents to have that strategy.

 

With him specifically, it worked and we’re having — we’re still utilizing that strategy. We’re not gonna confirm anything for ’22 as far as like festivals are concerned because we wanna put out this headline tour and sell it out and really build a headline artist. So, it’s been a very disciplined, strategic approach that we’ve had and everyone’s on the same page and it’s working. It’s definitely working.

 

Dan: So you had mentioned that there was that 8,000-person event or venue size, is that roughly like what you’re looking for as he’s touring and, you know, building out where you want the size of the venues that you want to reach in different cities?

 

Mike G: 8,000 was the verified fan registration. 8,000 people registered to attend a pop-up show at a parking lot which held like 2,000 to 2,500 people. About 3,000 people showed up. You know, I think, as far as capacities are concerned with an artist like that, we’d almost rather leave some tickets at the door so we’ll announce something really special and you’ll see the type rooms and, you know, like, in Australia, we’d probably be doing arenas and, in the US, you know, think of, you know, 3,000- to 4,000-cap rooms right now, which is a great starting point and I think we could probably go even bigger but, you know, we definitely wanna approach this the right way, especially in Europe as well so we’re gonna be strategically aggressive for a first-time tourer.

 

He’s skipped a couple steps. He skipped the 500 caps, he skipped the House of Blues, and we’re gonna go right into theaters and ballrooms and, from there, you know, probably amphitheaters and arenas in the foreseeable future.

 

Dan: Yeah, holding out worked out well. I think that’s the beauty of this era, right? Folks like him that can rise in such a fast time, you’re able to see something like that.

 

Let’s talk about Young Thug, because you were able to get him to headline a bunch of festivals this year and it’s impressive. Obviously, he is a very proven star but what was that process like? What is it like making sure that you’re not just booking him for one but you’re getting him on as many slates that makes sense for him as possible?

 

Mike G: Absolutely. You know, when you look at the history of Young Thug, he’s one of the most polarizing artists of our generation and he’s an amazing human being. I’ve never met a hip-hop artist that really kind of really puts his friends over like his label mates. It’s rare to see that and he’s got a great manager and a great team and, you know, this process actually has been since 2018. We really had to be working this project for the last three years and he has never missed a date since 2018 since he signed with us and I just think, like anything else, you know, when you’re talking to festival promoters and concert promoters, you know, you have to remind them of the success this guy’s had the last couple of years.

 

I mean, the last couple projects have gone number one on the Billboard 200 so it’s constantly selling them what’s proven, you know? Like as far as like, “Hey, this guy right here, he should be in the conversation with Travis Scott, he should be in the conversation with Post Malone,” like he’s at that level. Now, how do we get him to this level, you know?

 

It’s definitely been, you know, a great challenge but it’s getting there, you know, Lollapalooza, this past weekend, I think Thug’s set proved who he is and what he’s capable of and, you know, we just gotta keep pushing, you know? And I think the biggest thing with him and his team now is, you know, really gonna focus in on our headline tour for 2022, focus on selling out all these dates and really getting him to that level where we think he should be because I believe he should be in that conversation. He’s that good. He’s great.

 

Dan: And he inspired a lot of the people that you mentioned and that I think a lot of people would think to be in those spots as well, like they all reference him as the person and their inspiration and so many of their projects I think speak true to that. So, yeah, that’s good to see. I mean, I’m happy for him. I’m curious, do you also coordinate some of the other things he’s done, like, for instance, booking him for that Tiny Desk concert that he had had on NPR, which I thought was amazing. It just came out a couple weeks ago. Are you involved with that piece of it too?

 

Mike G: We helped connect some of the dots. That was his manager’s idea, in all honesty, and we just helped connect some of the dots but they quarterbacked that. We made an intro and he took it from there so — but, you know, again, we love when our clients come to us and they allow us to help them connect the dots for certain things, but that was his team and I thought that was fantastic. He was really, really amazing on that so I loved that.

 

Dan: Yeah, he really was. He really was. I’m curious, from a broader music festival perspective, one of the things that I often see and I think Bloomberg actually had just put out an article about this, it talked about how each year, there are, in many ways, the same acts that end up being constant in festivals, right?

 

So, obviously, that’s good on you all for getting them out there, whether it’s Young Thug, I think we’re seeing Megan Thee Stallion do a number of festivals. How much of that is purely the coincidence versus, you know, the hustle of you all as the agents making sure that you’re working certain people to get them there? Like how come that I think sometimes some fans may think, “Oh, these festival lineups do look quite similar”?

 

Mike G: I think it’s both. I think it’s, first of all, I think most big concert festival promoters or most festival promoters, they have an idea of who they want to headline. It’s our job to continually educate them on everything that’s going on with the artist at all times, you know, whether it’s new music releases, anything that’s happening with the artist career wise, like I find myself always educating our promoters what’s happening with all our acts.

 

I think some of the bigger hip-hop festivals, I think, you know, it’s getting to the point where they’re gonna need new headliners, you know? You kinda see the same few headliners every year and that’s gonna happen, you know? There’s only so many superstars in this game but, you know, it’s a little bit of both, I would say. Festival promoters usually have an idea who they wanna headline and it’s really the agent’s job to educate that artist that’s on the second line that may not be on the first line on why he should be the next headliner.

 

Dan: And on that point, specifically, how much politicking is there to make sure that an artist gets on a particular line on that music festival poster?

 

Mike G: Yeah, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know if it’s politicking, I just think it’s pushing. Pushing and selling what you see. The politicking comes in — let’s say if I get a headliner booked on a festival, how can I leverage my younger acts to get on that festival to make sure they also get a look since I have the headliner? That’s where more of the politicking begins, in all honesty, but as far as the headliner is concerned, you know, it just depends, you know? It’s like I feel like every festival promoter, even if they’re owned by Live Nation or AEG, operate independently on who they want as their headliner.

 

Dan: That makes sense. Yeah, in a lot of ways, I’ve never played a festival, but it does remind me of planning a conference where, yes, your keynote speaker helps set the tone for everything else that you’re doing and I think, in many ways, can help bring in others, depending on how they’re lined up so that does make a lot of sense.

 

But, yeah, I asked the question about the name placement on the posters because I always hear that being this discussion, right? Someone feeling like, “Oh, how is so and so on the fourth spot and this person is in the second spot?” and, sometimes, of course, you know, fans can assume that it can be for a number of different reasons but maybe it is a bit more of the push and it’s a bit less, you know, indicative of the things people may think it is.

 

Mike G: I’m gonna go ahead and go on record and tell you the biggest challenge for any agent is when their artist sends you a flyer, whether how they’re billed or why they’re not on the festival. I get DMs, text messages from artists all the time and, the reality is, when you — like I think this is important for all artists to understand, when festival, and we’re talking about festivals, when festival promoters are booking you, they’re looking at a couple things. Does the artist have a massive hit record? That helps. Or how many tickets is that artist worth in the marketplace? So, if I’m playing a festival, let’s say, I’m playing JMBLYA in Texas, how many tickets am I worth in Dallas, you know?

 

Like those components play a big factor on festival building because if you’re an artist with a hit record and I can do an arena, most likely you’re a headliner, you’re not going to be on the second or third line. So, if you’re on the fourth and fifth line, you might be worth a thousand tickets in that marketplace and you may just be buzzing online so, you know, those are always a little bit more difficult conversations to have with artists and the teams — but the ones that get it get it. They understand and it should be used as motivation, you know?

 

So, it all comes down to touring and how many tickets you’re worth in the marketplace, that really is what’s gonna elevate your career on the festival side or anything else.

 

Dan: Right. And I could imagine, too, that there is this pyramid aspect of headliners then everyone else based on their billing, right? And they obviously know that there’s only so many headline spots at the four or five biggest festivals in the country so if you wanna perform and there’s already someone else pushing for them to be a headliner, then you may have to wait until 2023 to get there, like, for instance, I just saw that Frank Ocean was named the headliner for Coachella 2023 and now we’ll probably start to see even more 2023 announcements, I feel, because that’s where it’s at and people are trying to just plan things early in advance but if you’re Frank Ocean and people believe that you can headline a festival, everything’s already booked for 2022 so you gotta go that far in advance.

 

Mike G: Yeah, yeah, they’re already booking their headliners — they have — they’re actively booking. That is the reality. Frank Ocean is a good example of always saying no, no, no, no and now he gets the headline offer so it just shows you that strategy works.

 

Dan: Right, pays off well. It pays off well, especially him with just his brand and everything, I think he can get away with a lot that even some of his peers probably couldn’t from that perspective.

 

Mike G: Absolutely. He’s an absolutely anomaly and congrats to Frank and all his success.

 

Dan: Yeah, definitely. So, switching gears from festivals, talking more specifically about touring again, one of the things that I’m interested in, it’d be great to hear your thoughts on, is there have been a number of — not a number, there’s been a few bigger artists that have canceled tours in recent years and it’s been due to low ticket sales or they’ve given other reasons why and I remember there was this clip that T-Pain had shared, talking about, “Hey, if any artist cancels a tour, it’s because they have low ticket sales,” right?

 

And it’s been this thing, because I remember we had seen recent things with Nicki Minaj or Chance the Rapper or even Justin Bieber who had ended up postponing one of his more recent tours and I’m wondering, from your perspective, is that common thing, like would you say that, hey, like when artists that are, let’s say, once they were big and they may not be as big as they were maybe three or four years ago when they’re still trying to capture maybe that arena size that they may have had a few years ago, is that a common thing, would you say, and is that a challenging conversation?

 

Because I can imagine that some of that too, if it is, is baked into this relative thought that, “Hey, you may have been an arena act three, four years ago but we may no longer be there,” and how do we adjust in a way that can still have everyone feel like they’re being taken care of?

 

Mike G: Yeah. Look, I think this is where great agents and great managers separate themselves, where ego is not in play, like how do we get there? Look, there’s a number — to answer the first question, there’s a number of reasons why an artist can cancel. It could — and, you know, low ticket sales, absolutely, you know, can definitely be a major factor and hopefully you have a good PR team and a good management team know how to spin that.

 

As far as rebuilding an artist, I think, as executives, we have to protect our artists and as agents so we can’t always listen to what we know that’s gonna hurt the artist. Like if the artist wants to do arenas and they’re set on doing arenas, then we gotta figure out a great, fantastic package because that’s where the package is gonna have to be worth real tickets, first thing.

 

Second thing is I always encourage artists, if you can leave tickets at the door, leave them at the door. Like if you were at one time doing 10,000 and 12,000, why not do 5,000 to 6,000? Maybe you don’t need to go play Barclays in Brooklyn, maybe we go do a Radio City and market it in such a unique way it looks bigger than life. Maybe we go do two Radio Cities, you know?

 

So, it’s our job to protect the artist and I actually think if the music is timed and what we call it under plays, it could be an under play, like a 4,000 cap is not necessarily an under play for one artist but it could be for another artist, it’s okay to do that and create demand and leave tickets at the door and start rebuilding it and figure out what’s the right strategy to get back into arenas.

 

Because that is common, you know? It is common. It’s just the world we live in. It’s like an actor making four or five hit movies and then they have a couple bad movies, you know? You gotta find the right script just to get that actor or actress, you know, back in those conversations.

 

Dan: Yeah, that makes sense and I do think that the actor analogy is key, I mean, there. I imagine it’s tough but, at some point, it’s real and this is a business and there’s ways to do it up whether, yeah, you mentioned it’s a Radio City, we can make it something really unique instead of just trying to go for the arenas. I’m curious, though, you mentioned it’s good to leave tickets at the door. Is there like a rough percentage, like how many tickets ideally do you like to leave or like how do you normally look at that from a capacity perspective?

 

Mike G: You know, that’s — we always use that term, “We like to leave tickets at the door,” but if, let’s say, for instance, if I sold out a 3,500-cap venue right away within the first hour, you know, I’d love to have another 3,500 out the door waiting to see the act, because it’ll — you know?

 

It will only create that much more — you always want what you can’t have, it will only create that much more anticipation, whether it’s on the next run or whether you’re holding a second night at the same venue. So, I don’t know if there’s like a real number. I mean, the more the better, obviously, but, I mean, that’s definitely — you know it’s growing and it’s headed in the right direction when that’s happening, you know? 

 

Dan: Right, that makes sense. It’s kind of like the restaurant, right? You wanna have people see that there are people in line waiting outside and that’s how you’re able to just generate more demand and keep the buzz going —

 

Mike G: That’s what all the hot nightclubs do, right? They like leaving people out the door, even if there’s like two people going through, they just — it’s optics, it’s perception, you know? You know, perception is reality in our business.

 

Dan: Exactly, exactly. So, switching gears a bit again, I wanna talk a little bit about your background specifically because, prior to being a music agent, you had managed Chris Brown. I’m curious, not just how that was, but what drew you to, you know, leaving that to then being a music agent?

 

Mike G: You know, you gotta go back — I’m gonna age myself. Right out of college, I started working in radio and I did radio sales for nine years so I sold advertising sales for nine years. I did it for Clear Channel, which is iHeart at the time, then CBS, and then the last two years of my career, 2007 to 2009, I was working at a radio station in Los Angeles called Power 106 which is a massive hip-hop radio station in LA, equivalent to Power 105 in New York, KMEL in the Bay, and I used to go out so much, I used to start — 

 

I started managing DJs on the side and booking DJs in LA and Hollywood and the Hollywood area and it’s funny because I had my day job but I was just doing that on the side just for fun and then, one day, the L.A. Leakers brought me an artist at the time, his name was Ya Boy and he had a record called “We Run LA” and they played me the record, I’m like, “Yo, this record is fire,” and I had no idea how to manage an artist. I’m like, I guess we could try this, you know?

 

At the time, I was watching Entourage, I was a big fan, I was like enamored with the Hollywood agent manager lifestyle so I’m sure that played an influence and we started working with this artist and that record blew up ’til today. It’s one of the most played records in LA history and, at that time, I decided, you know, I’ve been doing corporate America for nine years, radio for nine years, it’s okay for me to move on and kind of bet on myself. I’m like, you know, if I ever were gonna do something right now, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna bet on myself today. 

 

And I took a chance and it was a grind and a struggle and did a good job with Ya Boy and, lo and behold, one day, Akon calls my phone and this is at the time when Akon was just on fire. He was everywhere. And that changed everything, you know? So from working with Akon, you know, I started — he put me on his management team and I was doing a lot of bookings for him on the live side and helping him relaunch KonLive Distribution so I really learned about the label side, going on tour with him and it was an amazing experience.

 

It was a big gamble at the time. It was a big gamble at the time but I bet on myself and it worked out and I never looked back and I always had the mindset, “I’m not gonna fail,” like I’m not gonna go back and work a corporate job in that sense, I’m gonna really bet on myself to this music, so that’s how it all began and then I just started managing and I just learned all the tactics and strategies and techniques I’ve learned as a sales rep, you know? 

 

It’s pretty much using that as a manager and dealing with promoters and labels and publicists and, honestly, I was learning on the go and it was — you know, the best way to learn is to be thrown in the action. That really is the best way so it’s a real non-traditional background, especially being an agent now, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because you see things from a macro perspective and then getting a chance to work with Chris for like four and a half years, five years, his comeback years, I wouldn’t have traded that either because it really elevated all my relationships and it’s something I would never trade and it was one of the greatest runs any artist has ever gone through as far as like making a big comeback and, you know, those memories will live forever.

 

Dan: Talk to me about those Chris years specifically, because I’m sure, coming into it, you knew that this was gonna be a challenge. You knew that this wasn’t gonna be an easy thing just given where it was. Talk to me about that and what it was like from the start of it and then ’til the end of that four and a half years.

 

Mike G: You know, when I was brought in working with Chris, there were a couple other managers in play and, eventually, Chris wanted to work with me and I think, for the most part, you know, we spent so much time together, it became more of like a brotherhood so, you know, you always wanna fight for your brother —

 

Dan: And what year was this, by the way?

 

Mike G: This was 2012. I met him August 2012. So, 2012, we started working together and literally by, I wanna say by 2013, I’d taken over solely by myself as the manager and we were just focused. We were focused on putting out great music, we were focused on rebuilding all his relationships.

 

I had great relationships with radio at the time so it was, you know, I started tapping back into iHeart and CBS and rebuilding those bridges and it was fantastic, you know? It just — we caught some big records, you know? “Loyal,” “New Flame,” put out two arena tours and amphitheater tours in the same year, it was, you know, the business was there and I think, at that time, he was like the biggest artist in the world, to be honest with you so it was great, you know?

 

A lot of hit records, definitely good times, but definitely a lot of challenges, you know? I just always felt with Chris that I knew him on a personal level and, you know, I just always felt that I’m gonna fight for this guy because I see someone different than what the media puts out so, you know, and I think it worked out pretty well for him at the end.

 

Dan: I would say so. I imagine you also probably had to have a similar type of conversation over and over because I’m sure once you had started to try to have some of those conversations where you’re using your connections to vouch for him and given their impressions of him, you probably faced some pushback —

 

Mike G: Every day.

 

Dan: — I would imagine.

 

Mike G: Every day, there was pushback. There was never a day of no pushback so that’s why I’m — it’s always been — I’ve always felt like I have the ability to have a very uncomfortable conversation with an artist to do something that the artist doesn’t wanna do and I’ve always said the great execs can convince artists to do what they don’t wanna do. 

 

If an artist — if you know an artist should play a radio show or go sit with a programmer but the artist doesn’t wanna do it, it’s your job to convince that artist and let them know the big picture, “This is why you wanna do it, because when we’re going for a number one record, they can help,” because — you know what I mean? Because you played this show, because you have this personal relationship, because, at the end of the day, we’re in the relationship business. It’s all about relationships.

 

And, yeah, of course, he didn’t wanna do a lot of the stuff like, you know, like PR and media stuff and, you know, we were very strategic and we had a great team at the time as far as like picking and choosing the right people we wanna partner with but, yeah, every day, there was always major pushback. It was my university in the music business.

 

Dan: And I’m sure, over time, like once he saw the results, he was probably more willing to play ball and be like, “Okay, you know, I get why you’re making me do this.”

 

Mike G: Yeah. To be honest, he was very coachable when I worked with him so it was great. Like he was very, very coachable at the time and I appreciated that, you know? And he understood the big picture. He understood that, at the end of the day, “This is in my best interest,” so, you know, it worked out well.

 

Dan: Yeah. And for him specifically and “Loyal” because that was 2014 —

 

Mike G: Yeah.

 

Dan: — when that dropped and when you were getting ready to drop that, did you know that that was the one, like, “Oh, this is gonna be the biggest record of this year,” and I forget if it was specifically but just from a feeling perspective, when I think about 2014, it’s like that and maybe two other tracks that I think about.

 

Mike G: That — what took that record over the edge is when the video dropped because the record had been out for like a month or two but the record really didn’t take off ’til the video dropped. Once the video dropped and I still remember we shot that at CityWalk I think past midnight, like that was like a special night, and when it dropped, that’s what really took it over like to that next level and became like the anthem that year.

 

Dan: Yeah, yeah, it was a moment. It was definitely a moment. Was it tough letting that go to become a music agent?

 

Mike G: You know, at the time, I left in 2016, took nine months off and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, to be honest with you, you know? The management thing ran its course, I left on my own terms and I took nine months off and I was talking to everyone, you know, I was interested in TV and film, I was talking to some pretty prominent managers at the time, probably maybe going in there and starting a new venture and, lo and behold, I had a relationship at UTA because, at the end of 2015, top of 2016, I had met a couple partners there and they ended up signing Chris so I was actually a client of the agency so I was very familiar with some of the bigger partners and board members so the transition going into UTA was a little bit smoother just because of my relationships in that building but, as far as like adjusting to becoming an agent, I’ve always looked at, hey, whether you’re booking shows or festivals, I have a certain mindset with an artist and I necessarily didn’t come up in the mailroom but I think I can help other agency things from a broader perspective, you know?

 

Because, you know, I’ve been in this business for a while, I’ve seen a lot of different aspects of it so, yeah, you know, everything is transitional, you know? But I also think the nine years I did in radio and working in corporate America helped me transition into becoming an agent, to be honest with you. It just — I had that discipline where I could go into the office every day and attend staff meetings and do all the company stuff so, yeah, you know?

 

Dan: I hear you on the experience from other areas that are still transferable here. I mean, I did not work directly in music when I first started my career but there are so many things related to what I do now that are related, whether it’s how I’m breaking down things, how I’m doing things as well so I hear you.

 

I think, in a lot of ways, the people that have that alternate experience, especially at some point in their career, can often bring that fresh perspective that gives them, you know, that unique take that the mailroom-to-executive may not necessarily always have in that same type of way.

 

Mike G: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s good to bring a different perspective and just as I bring a different perspective, I’ve learned a lot from a lot of my colleagues and peers that did come up through the agency system and I respect that, you know? Like I don’t think I could have come up through the agency system, to be honest, because it’s a tough system but, in all honesty, I respect that, you know? It takes a certain kind of person to go through that.

 

Dan: Definitely, definitely. Well, going back to touring quick, I’m curious, like what has been — what do you think, once the post-pandemic buzz that we’re in right now kind of wears off and there’s less of the squeeze to get everyone to tour that there is right now for the next 18 months or so, what do you think things look like? What does that future look like? 

 

Because I think that there’s probably gonna be a continued mix of what you already have now but you also have some of these one-off type of virtual events that I think could be an interesting play for a lot of your artists too, looking at what Travis Scott or Lil Nas X or what Ariana Grande and what they’ve done with their virtual events in these digital environments, I feel like that’s a whole ’nother aspect that will probably be just as competitive as some of the work you’re doing now.

 

Mike G: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think that post — the pandemic has made us think outside the box so you’ve seen a lot of these outside-the-box opportunities with these major artists and I think that’s only gonna grow, you know?

 

Look, live is never gonna go anywhere. The demand for live and we’re live was, pre-pandemic, was at an all-time high and I think it’s just gonna continue to escalate. It’s — and I think you’re gonna see more of those type of opportunities with, you know, with Roblox and Fortnite and I don’t see that going anywhere, you know?

 

I think it’s just gonna eventually continue to grow and we’re gonna continue to see different ideas, different virtual ideas, possibly have both worlds collide and meet together, and it’s gonna continue to grow and I think that’s gonna be only beneficial for the artists, you know?

 

The goal of an artist is to be everywhere so I could be somewhere virtually and I could be in your city the same night, you know? That’s what the artist wants. They wanna be everywhere. They wanna be on every station, every blog, it’s good press. Yeah, they definitely wanna be everywhere.

 

Dan: Yeah, definitely. I’m excited to see what that front looks like. I’m also excited to see what these virtual artists look like too, like Makaela and I know that she’s been signed to one of the big agencies but I feel like there’s only gonna be more of those and them also performing, whether it’s alongside or in there with actual artists themselves, I think that whole world is gonna be unique too so there’s a lot. I’m excited to see what it all looks like.

 

Mike G: Yeah, same here. It’s gonna be an exciting rest of the year, ’22 going into ’23. Well, stay tuned.

 

Dan: Definitely, definitely. Well, Mike, this was great. We talked about a lot of projects that you have and a lot of some of the big things that you’ve done recently but is there anything else that the Trapital audience should know about or tap into before I let you go?

 

Mike G: Look, I’m excited about the roster I’m working with this year, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Demi Lovato, Kid LAROI, all these great artists that I’m working with. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to work with some great talent and I just appreciate you taking the time and speaking with me and hopefully we’ll be back in the shows sooner than later.

 

Dan: Likewise, likewise. Yeah, and we’ll have to get an update. I think you got a lot of good stuff going on. We’ll have to get an update. Let’s check in next year some time, let’s see how things are going with the artists and everything.

 

Mike G: Sounds good. Hopefully, we’ll see you at a show.

 

Dan: Yeah, I’m hoping. I have not been to a show yet. I mean, I give credit to everyone that went to Rolling Loud but I gotta get to one soon so hopefully I can get on one of these —

 

Mike G: I was at Rolling Loud and Lolla the last two weeks.

 

Dan: Oh, nice. So, what do you have next?

 

Mike G: I was at Rolling Loud and Lolla and then we have Hive Festival in Utah this Friday and Saturday so we have a couple artists playing.

 

Dan: Nice. Nice. Good stuff —

 

Mike G: Then off to Reading and Leeds in London, Lyrical Lemonade. It’s packed. It’s a busy schedule.

 

Dan: Oh, yeah, you got a slate. You got a slate, for sure. For sure. All right, well, Mike G, this was great. Thanks for coming out, man.

 

Mike G: Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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