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Lucas Keller: My Manifesto – Music Enterprise Worldwide


When Lucas Keller moved to L.A in 2009, having minimize his music business enamel in Chicago, he had goals of constructing it massive.

Ultimately, he did simply that: Keller’s Milk & Honey is at this time one of many world’s pre-eminent songwriter, producer and DJ administration corporations, repping expertise that’s created/co-created international hits for everybody from BTS to Lewis Capaldi, Ed Sheeran, Doja Cat, Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa.

Milk & Honey’s songwriter/producer roster consists of expertise together with Jenna Andrews, Oak Felder, Jamie Hartman, J.White Did It, Stuart Value, Sir Nolan, David Hodges and plenty of extra. As well as, Milk & Honey additionally represents Triple-A sporting stars, and it hasn’t been overlooked of the music catalog acquisition goldrush, both: Keller not too long ago informed the Los Angeles Enterprise Journal that his purchasers have offered over $100 million in publishing property over the previous two years.

However 12 years in the past at LAX, contemporary off that airplane from Illinois, none of this was precisely mapped out. Keller started a four-year stint working at The Collective, a large-scale L.A expertise enterprise that introduced collectively swathes of entrepreneurial younger managers below one roof.

There, Keller was sandwiched between the places of work of Linkin Parks’ supervisor and Enrique Iglesias’s supervisor. Regardless of taking care of expertise as majestic as Jimmy Cliff and different legacy artists, Keller struggled to search out skilled fulfilment being a cog in another person’s machine.

But, crucially, he says he wouldn’t have been capable of construct Milk & Honey and its spectacular roster of writers/producers with out placing his time in at The Collective.

“You be taught a lot of what to do, and likewise what to not do by working for different individuals alongside the best way,” he says. This reality informs the primary of Keller’s 5 factors on his Manifesto for change within the music business.

Every of those factors is a rallying cry for the enterprise to shake up prehistoric practices and to quash injustices that threaten the long run prosperity of artists and songwriters. Keller based Milk & Honey in 2014, working initially from a desk in his then small condo in Hollywood.

As we speak the corporate employs 28 individuals globally, throughout places of work in L.A, New York, Nashville, Dallas, London, Amsterdam, and Sydney. Wisconsin-raised Keller’s perspective on the business is a singular one. And, as his five-point Manifesto is about to show, the person doesn’t maintain his tongue. Over to Lucas…


An absence of govt mentorship – inflicting a tradition of Gmail entrepreneurs

There are lots of people with actual companies operating across the business at this time who’ve made it massive with one shopper, a laptop computer and a Gmail account. However once I discuss to those younger executives, none of them appear to have any heroes on the enterprise aspect of issues.

All of them have music heroes, however no person has actually studied the historical past of the music business. Do these guys know who Ahmet Ertegun is, or David Geffen, Jon Landau, Clarence Avant, Miles Copeland? Do they give the impression of being as much as them?

Possibly a few of them know who Irving Azoff is as a result of he’s nonetheless working. However I imagine to actually love and respect the material of this enterprise, it’s a must to be taught the historical past of this enterprise. Possibly I’m an oldster earlier than my time [Keller is 37].

“There are lots of people with actual companies operating across the business at this time who’ve made it massive with one shopper, a laptop computer and a Gmail account. However once I discuss to those younger executives, none of them appear to have any heroes on the enterprise aspect of issues.”

But it surely simply appears like there’s this tradition of managers, particularly in L.A, that began breaking one act, they don’t actually have any coaching, and it might probably get tedious. I can’t let you know the quantity of conferences I’ve sat in with ‘significant’ managers or executives and I’m sorry, however they’re simply not that spectacular in a room. Possibly that’s as a result of they have been by no means really taught find out how to promote something. Somebody as soon as stated to me, ‘Keller, I feel you simply want you have been alive within the ‘70s and ‘80s music enterprise,’ and perhaps they’re proper.

However what I do know for positive is that with the tales and the historical past of these bygone days… there have been far more spectacular conferences and executives! Maybe to be an excellent supervisor at this time you solely actually have to know digital and never fear a lot about ‘performing’. However I let you know this: that makes you lackluster to be round.

I don’t blame these guys for that; what’s at fault is the entire lack of mentoring for brand spanking new music enterprise guys coming by. A few of my finest mentors have been individuals I used to be one workplace over from or guys that allow me sit on their sofa, simply listening to their cellphone calls. And I undoubtedly realized what to not do from among the individuals I’ve labored with down the years.

That’s mentorship too; should you’ve labored with people who find themselves bullies, and even colleagues or purchasers who have been difficult to take care of, you’ll be able to be taught an enormous quantity from these experiences on find out how to carry your self while you arrange your personal store. We have to have executives keen to ship the elevator again down. I bear in mind the primary time Linkin Park’s then-manager [Rob McDermott] – who I used to work for – sat down with me and stated, ‘No Lucas, you’ve bought all of it mistaken.

You’re going to name each single competition [booker] 90 days after their festivals shut, and also you’re going to work in reverse on a 24 month plan.’ As quickly as I sat down and wrote that out, it actually helped me create plans for the bands and artists I used to be managing, and I nonetheless use it as a system at this time. Any shopper at my firm has a 24 month plan.

Too many managers are reactive as an alternative of being proactive. I feel we’re in a bit extra of a egocentric enterprise now; persons are simply targeted on their very own shit. So for somebody to sit down down and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to assist this youthful govt…’, it’s far more of a uncommon factor.


2) Placing all of it in the course of the desk

You’ve gotten this disproportionate scenario the place the artists and labels are taking far more than the publishers and songwriters from streaming. That’s completely out of whack, and it’s one thing the place I actually respect the campaigning that Merck [Mercuriadis] is doing for songwriters being on the desk when their very own offers are made.

The large factor for me is that we additionally must get all individuals to the desk, and determine, ‘Okay, how can all of us share on this?’ As a result of it’s not simply songwriters who’re annoyed. Within the US, a report label would be the first to let you know, ‘Wait, we spent all this cash on radio promo, however we don’t get any share of your ASCAP and BMI checks?’

[In the States, radio plays result in a payment for songwriters via their PROs, but – unlike in Europe – artists get no performance royalties from such a broadcast.] So it’s like, properly, okay, let’s have a dialog about it. These [songwriter] checks will not be small – BMI and ASCAP pay out over a billion {dollars} yearly. But when we’re going to speak about sharing that with the labels, then let’s even have a dialog about what revenues are coming of their aspect that my purchasers deserve a minimize of.

“There’s bought to be a greater manner for everyone to share, the place the labels don’t really feel ripped off and neither can we.”

There’s these imperfect techniques which have been occurring for years, and it’s like: Why does this [model] must live on? I’ve one shopper who believes that if we don’t get songwriters on the desk with the labels, and we don’t begin to share our royalties with them [and vice-versa] within the subsequent few years, then a rebalancing of the economics of this enterprise won’t ever occur.

I feel that’s correct. There’s bought to be a greater manner for everyone to share, the place the labels don’t really feel ripped off and neither can we. Whereas I’m with reference to ‘imperfect techniques’, by the best way, the reside enterprise is on one other degree.

If you happen to take a look at a few of these outdated guidelines, these granular particulars of, say, how you compromise a live performance, the back-end promoter revenue and bills, simply the nuanced manner that world works, you assume: These guidelines most likely return to vaudeville or one thing, or the very early days of touring. And also you’re like, Who created this shit?

The ‘age outdated’ brokers gouge the promoters, after which promoters lie on the settlement sheets; these things wants fixing. The music business wants to start out being much less egocentric and work as a group, and actually share, with transparency.


3) ‘No battle, no curiosity.’

For some time there, it appeared like practically each senior label particular person I handled within the US had a aspect publishing firm, or another aspect hustle. And I used to be all the time amazed, as a result of I used to be like: how is the enterprise permitting this to occur? It’s primarily labels, however not simply labels: I bear in mind sitting down with one senior man at a big publishing firm, and realizing that the entire publishing executives reporting to him have been additionally managing writers and producers on the aspect.

We’ve all gotten used to that form of factor, nevertheless it’s an actual slippery slope, and barely leads to favor of the writers and artists. The executives get motivated to assume like: ‘Hmm, how do I get my individuals on this report?’ which turns into unhealthy for the [writer] neighborhood. Additionally, by some means these execs appear to have this means to skirt each unique employment settlement in California! However the actual factor to the touch on right here, which no person ever needs to the touch on – and I’m not afraid to say – is the three main music publishing CEOs. They’ve nice salaries, good titles, however every of them additionally wears a pair of golden handcuffs.

“I don’t understand how they’re advocating for us our songwriters when the foremost publishers are owned by the businesses who profit from [the recorded side of the music industry] getting the vast majority of the cash.”

I don’t understand how they’re advocating for us our songwriters when the foremost publishers are owned by the businesses who profit from [the recorded side of the music industry] getting the vast majority of the cash. The three heads of the largest publishers must be the loudest individuals within the enterprise combating for songwriters to be paid extra, and so they’re not as a result of everyone needs to maintain their job.

There’s different particular issues that get irritating in that dynamic: I’ve had songwriters make data with a significant writer, and the artist [performing on the record] can also be signed to that very same writer.

Then there’s some cut up dispute, and the writer calls me or my group to try to muscle us as a result of the opposite author they’ve – the artist – is an even bigger shopper for them than we’re. And I’m like: ‘Huh? Are you our writer? Or are you another person’s writer?’ In so some ways, so many instances, individuals on this business are conflicted. As a rule, at Milk & Honey we attempt to keep as unconflicted as a administration firm as potential.

That’s powerful as you develop, however we imagine there’s an moral obligation there. We’ve created publishing ventures with a couple of of our larger songwriters and producers, and that permits us as an organization to personal [shares of] publishing property. We offered a kind of publishing property earlier this 12 months, and have been each a supervisor and a writer in that case – which is a battle if ever I heard one! So we didn’t take fee as a supervisor, and attempt to maintain issues as pure as potential.


4) An excessive amount of music… and 45 flavors of label providers corporations

At some point, once I was bored, I wrote down all of the distribution and artist/label providers corporations I may consider and I bought to about 45. That may very well be the whole lot from the easy turnkey, ‘we add your songs’ guys, all the best way to corporations who say they provide all of the providers of a significant report label. You recognize what I consider these corporations? Booooring!

This entire sensationalist: ‘You’ve been getting robbed by the majors, we’re going to provide you 85%! We’re going to allow you to maintain your copyrights! We do 50/50 internet offers!’ Wow, these guys do the whole lot! Besides that one factor: really breaking artists. I like the mannequin, I actually do – we’re simply not breaking stars in these techniques. Let me be clear: I feel it’s nice {that a} very under-celebrated a part of our business – the profitable artists who don’t belong on frontline main report labels – have choices within the market and companions to work with. I bear in mind getting a name from Jeff Value the month he began TuneCore; it was an incredible idea.

This concept that distribution can turn into a fairly-priced commodity for no fee may be very thrilling. What I’m not enthusiastic about is label providers corporations hiring a number of nice workers, then signing manner too many issues and turning into corporations which can be all about combination, the place there isn’t any service.

“There’s all the time an artist that desires the large advance, and there’s all the time a supervisor that desires their fee. And as everyone knows, main labels would a lot sooner offer you more money than actually bend on the royalty price.”

It’s turn into a bloated and uninteresting enterprise. It’s a implausible enterprise for the proprietor, and it may be good should you’re a really proactive administration firm keen to take action a lot of the work. However the reality is, these providers corporations typically aren’t nice for the artist or the supervisor; as a result of when [the services company] is taking such a slim slice of the revenues, they should scale, so that they signal tons of of artists, in some circumstances hundreds of artists, and that mannequin – ‘we’ve 300 lackluster purchasers caught in the course of the enterprise!’ – may be very hardly ever the place you wish to end up.

The corporate which may win in that house, and there are extra of them being born daily, is the one that claims: ‘We’re going to have 10 or 20 artists, not 300; we’re going to remain boutique, we’re going to focus and spend correctly on the artists we do signal, and we’re going to interrupt stars.’ One great point the [services] corporations have achieved is to place continued strain on the majors to do extra aggressive offers. However there’s a little bit of a fable occurring there too.

Sure, Taylor Swift has a sweetheart take care of Common Music Group, however [young artists] are nonetheless going into these main corporations and signing 16 or 17 level royalty offers at this time.

There’s extra leverage in these negotiations than there was once, undoubtedly, and I’m grateful for it. However with each one of many only a few impartial artists that does break at this time, you watch them like: ‘They’re gonna keep impartial! They’re gonna keep impartial! Oh wait… they signed to a significant.’ As a result of sooner or later, it’s all the time in regards to the cash.

I don’t see an entire lot of change in that paradigm coming. There’s all the time an artist that desires the large advance, and there’s all the time a supervisor that desires their fee. And as everyone knows, main labels would a lot sooner offer you more money than actually bend on the royalty price.


5) Songwriters are crying out for a pacesetter

The dearth of group and management within the songwriter neighborhood at this time retains inflicting all these fragmented teams, these fragmented actions, who’re all advocating for his or her particular calls for quite than actually banding collectively. After which these fragments individually go up in opposition to the majors.

The majors can’t take these teams significantly in the event that they’re not united. It’s an enormous enterprise, however I’m captivated with the truth that all of us – songwriters, songwriter representatives – want to return collectively as one, and solely then go in and have these tough conversations with the foremost music corporations.

Merely acknowledged, songwriters must receives a commission extra, and shouldn’t be considered to this point down the worth chain. There are [legal] points round songwriters unionizing in California particularly, however there are nonetheless methods we may come collectively.

“There are some nice individuals within the US songwriting neighborhood who’re actually collaborative, after which there are others who I feel are actually lazy, and/or simply targeted on their day job.”

But it surely wants to incorporate everyone; I’ve heard too many conversations that go, ‘I attempted to carry everybody collectively however these 20 individuals didn’t present up…’ We’ve had it as an organization; we symbolize a number of songwriters and a number of producers, and there have been instances once I haven’t gotten the decision a few sure songwriter concern as a result of individuals have tagged me as a ‘producer supervisor’ and go, ‘You’ll be able to’t advocate for the songwriters should you’re additionally advocating for producers.’ Bullshit. I’m advocating for equity.

There are some nice individuals within the US songwriting neighborhood who’re actually collaborative, after which there are others who I feel are actually lazy, and/or simply targeted on their day job. We want the neighborhood as an entire to take this significantly earlier than it’s too late. That is the fantastic thing about the Hollywood [film & TV] Writers’ Guild.

In L.A final 12 months, simply on a random Tuesday, you learn: ‘Writers all fireplace their brokers.’ And also you’re like, wow, that is actually highly effective! After which everybody got here again to the desk and made a greater deal for Hollywood’s writers. In music, no person on this house, singularly, is highly effective sufficient to go up in opposition to the majors. However collectively? If the majors discover out their hits are going to run dry? No extra massive songs? That’s a unique dialog. It’s a levy that may quickly break, I do imagineMusic Enterprise Worldwide



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