Industry Spotlight » Manager Spotlight - Paul Geary
Paul Geary always gravitated towards management. Even while drumming for multi-platinum Grammy Award nominated rock juggernaut Extreme, Geary pulled double duty by immersing himself in numerous managerial duties for the group. In many ways, the Boston native was eternally meant to guide the careers of artists, and he continues to do so with a prescient perspective, inspiring work ethic, and infectious passion.In the early 1970s, Geary became obsessed with rock 'n' roll. Influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd, he got his first drum kit at 13 and dove headfirst into learning the instrument inside and out. Diligently crafting his percussive style, he formed Extreme with his friend Gary Cherone out of a Medford, MA garage. Extreme quickly became a fixture on the local club circuit as Geary assumed the roles of the band's manager and drummer. Through his knack for networking and deal-making, Geary raised the group's profile on a national level, and they eventually signed their first record deal with A&M in 1987. After that, he sought outside management for Extreme, but he never truly left that role throughout his stint in the band.For Geary, success as a musician intrinsically informs his management style. "In my years of recording and touring, I learned a lot about the music business," he says. "While we were a local band, I completely supervised our career. Even after we did sign to proper management, I was always the guy who dealt with business on a daily basis. I absorbed so much at that time, and that's where the roots of it all began."Geary saw Extreme rise from the garage to stadiums. During his time in the band, Extreme performed live in 35 countries and sold over 9 million records worldwide. Their iconic single "More Than Words" became a #1 hit in 30 countries, and the band spawned 5 top ten rock hits and 2 top 5 hits at top 40. However, after recording Extreme's fourth album Waiting for the Punchline in 1994, Geary made the jump to management full-time.He goes on, "I realized that I was more interested in orchestrating deals, posturing the band to be in a better place, and planning than I was in playing so I had to make a break."While running a providence rock club called The Strand, Geary formed PGM—Paul Geary Management—and commenced working with Godsmack in 1997. He secured them a deal with Universal Republic Records during early 1998, and the group became a dominant force in hard rock, completely taking the genre by storm. Geary brought the band to local Boston radio station WAAF where their single "Whatever" quickly infiltrated airwaves and eventually swept the entire country. Godsmack's self-titled 1998 debut exceeded 5-times platinum status as Geary's company morphed into Global Artist Management, which would become a home for other gold- and platinum-sensations such as Cold, Fuel, Afroman, and many more.In 2005, everything evolved once more for Geary. Global Artist Management attracted the attention of industry pioneer Irving Azoff. Geary folded Global Artist Management into the Los Angeles-based Azoff Music Management, and he partnered with Jared Paul. Together, the two signed alternative rock legend The Smashing Pumpkins. Given how quickly the company collectively grew, a new division was born in 2008 called AGP Management—Azoff, Geary, and Paul. Between Geary handling Creed, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Godsmack and Paul working with New Kids on the Block and touring productions of Glee and Dancing with the Stars, AGP proved to be a multi-genre powerhouse representing some of the world's most successful and important acts.Geary's personal approach to management ultimately separates him. "I work for each artist and take direction specifically from them," he reveals. "The goals differ for each act, and I try to hear them in order to help achieve their version of success. I was an artist, and I can empathize with their experience. You learn what each artist is looking for and you work together toward actualizing their dreams."Geary continues to help make dreams come true. To date, Godsmack has garnered four Grammy nominations and sold 12 million albums worldwide. The group also had more top 10 active rock hits than any other band in the history of BDS. The Smashing Pumpkins are firing on all cylinders, pushing boundaries and paving their own path with unique online releases and sold out shows worldwide. Alter Bridge is a burgeoning international phenomenon, while Creed packs arenas everywhere. Another AGP client, Steel Panther is in the throes of breaking into TV in a big way while the firm has expanded to include Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Geary also fervently seeks new fresh talent, hoping to give the world even more quality music.The future looks just as bright. Geary concludes, "We're focusing on company and brand building. A big part of our business is being a content provider for venues. We're looking to diversify even more." That's been the name of the game for Geary since day one, and it's why he's so crucial to the ever-changing musical landscape.— Rick Florino, July 2011
Manager Spotlight Q&A
What inspired you to want to be a manager?
As a young drummer, I helped form a group of musicians that were each very motivated and committed to get to the next level as professional performers. I was not a gifted writer or musician as my band mates were, and none of them were really interested in engaging in the business side of what we were doing, so I stepped into the manager role which became a way for me to make a contribution to our goals beyond playing drums. Simply as a necessity at that time, but it led me on a path of learning and experience which made the transition to full-time manager a natural one for me after reaching many of our goals as the group Extreme.
What was your first industry job and how did you get it?
Our group Extreme landed a recording contract with A&M Records in 1987 by building a loyal fan base in New England and attracting the attention of several labels.
What determines your desire to work with an artist?
That answer has changed over the years. In the early days of full-time management I was seeking out a developing act that I felt had all of the core ingredients to be successful, but lacked the organization to make that happen. One of the first acts I signed in 1997 was a local Boston group, Godsmack, that fit that bill completely. These days as part of a much bigger organization, it's more likely that we'll take on established acts that require the broad level of resources and service that we have to offer.
In your opinion, what makes a great artist “great”?
There are obviously many forms of greatness; sometimes it's just the shear awe that one inspires when they've mastered their instrument to a stand-out level. I'm most impressed with melody making and creativity. The Beatles are the premiere example of an act that did not have extremely technically advanced players, but they inspired many through their prolific songwriting, undeniable appeal, and their ability to evolve creatively.
What is your greatest professional challenge today?
Breaking new artists is a bigger challenge than ever. With consistently declining record sales, the record labels have reduced staffing and have much smaller budgets than they did 10 years ago. Most of us complained about the old record company model because the artists were given such a small share of profits; however, the system did provide for the next artist in line to be developed and the general public was consistently discovering new music.
How did your business transform over the last several years?
Consolidation. One of the upsides is that it creates a union of sorts; the leverage of many artists being housed under the same roof allows us to negotiate better deals through high volume/low margin deals... Also, with the decline of record company staffing we've had to staff up to plug those holes, and consolidation has helped to provide those resources to acts that may not otherwise be able to afford them.
Where do you see this business 5-10 years from now?
Ask Irving Azoff :)
What is the best advice you have received over the years as a manager?
Most of the best advice I've been given has come from reading self-help books. One bit of advice that comes to mind is not to make decisions during emotional states. If I become really angry (or really happy) about a particular situation, I try to wait a day before responding. I usually regret the decisions I've made otherwise...
What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today?
There are several ways to break in if you have talent, but I have witnessed several entry level people at our company graduate to assistants, then day to day managers, and in some cases senior managers with their own roster of clients. If you have smarts and are motivated you have a very good chance of being recognized and promoted. So don’t be put-off by accepting a low level job (or even internship) if it puts you next to experienced managers.