Manager Spotlight - Justin Goldberg
Justin Goldberg is an American music industry executive, artist manager, writer and graphic artist. Goldberg is the manager for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and has worked with the group since their album Nothing But The Water was recorded in 2005. He is the author of The Ultimate Survival Guide to the New Music Industry: Handbook for Hell (Crown Publishing Group / Random House). An outspoken critic of the music industry's traditional business model, he is an early advocate for online marketing and distribution.
Goldberg founded the Online Music Channel in 1998, and held key posts at major online music companies such as iMesh, Tonos, and Riffage.com. An accomplished graphic artist, Goldberg has had several gallery showings, including a benefit for the City of Hope at the Patricia Correia Gallery in Santa Monica in 2001. As a music executive and manager, he has worked with a wide range of artists and producers, including Mos Def, Dee Dee Ramone, David Foster, Martin Sexton, T Bone Burnett, Mark Batson, Willie Nelson, Mick Taylor and Rage Against The Machine.
What inspired you to want to be a manager? Meeting Andrew Loog Oldham and being impressed with his swagger and fearless mix of business and adventure. He explained how he and Keith Richards chose new material by the level of "orgasm" reached in the chorus. I thought, "Cool. I can do this - law school can wait."
What was your first industry job and how did you get it? Sony ATV Music Publishing as an assistant in the International Dept. I had met the President of the company trying to get a record deal and he convinced me to work there instead (I guess he didn't think I was a very talented singer-songwriter).
What determines your desire to work with an artist? It's just that feeling in the pit of one's stomach, like falling in love. You're in the middle of something else you thought was important, and then all of sudden something hits you and leaves you with no rational choice.
In your opinion, what makes a great artist great? I suppose sharing a point of view that adds a spiritual kind of value for audiences. Having great hooks doesn't hurt, but longevity is really the true test, and for that being musically fearless and having a dedication to growing AFTER certain kinds of success is probably the key there. As a music executive and fan I've always gravitated towards independent acts but I suppose I'm strangely agnostic in terms of music genre and an artists' mainstream success. For example, in my mind Martin Sexton is a great artist because he's never allowed a lack of mainstream success to keep him from innovating on his own terms and making his audience feel a unique experience. On the other end of the spectrum is someone like Lady Gaga, also a great artist for the same reason in reverse - she doesn't allowed her domination of mainstream success to keep her from innovating on her own terms, yet also making her audience feel they belong to a unique group.
How did your business transform over the last several years? I came into management after being very involved in the digital music business and publishing, so I didn't get into management until after the business had already been transformed by recorded music largely becoming free, which in turn focused revenue flow on the live music experience. Nevertheless, synch fees have gone down, sponsor related fees have gone up, and development money has vanished along with most a&r people. A&R is back to being A&R in many ways; gone are the days when being on the vanguard of the gate keepers was an art form unto itself. Blame Andy Lack and the dual disc.
What is the best advice you have received over the years as a manager? Waylon Jennings was the first person I met in the business when I was just becoming a teenager. I made a demo and he told me "The trick is, you gotta get them to come to YOU not you go to THEM."Still living by that I think. What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today? Go to law school.