Christen Greene is the General Manager and Head of A&R at Onto Entertainment and owner of Faux Pas Productions. She curates and is in charge of a diverse roster of independent artists in many genres including indie rock, folk/singer-songwriter and even a slam poet. In the last 8 years, she has signed Hey Marseilles, The Lumineers, PHOX, Chris Pureka and Andrea Gibson to management deals and led them all to subsequent record deals and releases and tours worldwide. She currently resides in Seattle, Wa but used to call Brooklyn, NY and before that Washington, DC home. In 2013 she was nominated and graciously accepted a position on the Pacific Northwest Board of Governors for the GRAMMY organization where she is also a voting member. She really hates cold calls but really loves swimming in lakes.
What inspired you to want to be a manager?
Well, I wanted to be the person who, “found bands and made them big” and I didn’t know what “A&R” was when I was a kid. I got more involved in the music industry scene while finishing college and my documentary film thesis was a juxtaposition of independent artists vs. major label acts. I needed live footage of one of my indie subjects and she didn’t have any shows on the books. So I booked her a few from contacts I had made while going to shows. I made a press kit and got the bug. Never finished that documentary, but I booked her a ton of shows, moved to Western Mass signed another act (Chris Pureka) and developed her, booked her tours, and so it began. I also really liked the idea of wearing jeans and going to shows for a living – so, you know, it all worked out. J
What was your first industry job and how did you get it?
I was a jack of all trades at Merriweather Post Pavilion in the DC/Baltimore area in High School. I took tickets when Pearl Jam was fighting Ticketmaster that was pretty cool. I cleaned up after shows, I worked security, green room, etc… where ever I was needed. I got it because my sister was working there and they needed hands one summer. It was great. Ozzy Osbourne shot me with a water cannon once. I also worked as a Street Team Coordinator at The Iron Horse Music Group (Northampton, MA) when I finished school and was getting my management company off the ground. That company and those people -- I can’t say enough positive things about them. Smart, smart folks up there. Taught me a lot about music, buying, booking and promo.
What determines your desire to work with an artist?
I have to love the music first and foremost. The kind of love where I listen to it endlessly, nothing but that for months. I usually end up listening to it so much that my friends start to hate me for it. All of my clients have that in common. J But after that I want a work ethic. The artist has to be the hardest working member of the team until they’re big enough where they have a team who works for them. Bottom line: they have to want it and work for it.
In your opinion, what makes a great artist “great”?
In this order:
Great product/songs/albums – it all comes back to the art. After that:
Great work ethic – on stage and off
Timely, relevant releases
What is your greatest professional challenge today?
Truthfully? Staying focused on conference calls where more than 4 people are involved. J But on a more serious note our company is juggling a lot right now and is expanding. We have small arena and shed tours going out and mid-size club tours going out – we have bands in development and going into the studio – and juggling all of that, and all of the people involved in that is challenging. We’re steering a lot of ships and there are a lot of people involved. Managing all of the people, the crews, the band members and our employees is a daily challenge. I’m constantly working on communicating with all of them effectively, efficiently and with patience so that all pistons are firing the most effectively.
How did your business transform over the last several years?
It’s grown a lot with the success of The Lumineers of course. We have a small staff now, which is great. We have junior managers signing bands and starting to make waves which is a great environment to be around and to foster. It’s been A LOT of fun these last few years, that’s for sure. I moved to Seattle from NYC 4 years ago and partnered up with some cool people and we’re making things happen out here in our little corner on a worldwide level. That feels really good. I’ve definitely moved into more of an “upper management” world, where most of my day is no longer routing club tours, but looking at spreadsheets, marketing plans and big picture stuff. That’s new and different.
Where do you see this business 5-10 years from now?
Well, I hope the dust settles soon and we all stop saying, “…the business is upside down,” that’s for sure. But seriously, who knows – it seems we’re moving into all streaming everywhere which is changing revenue streams for a lot of people. It’ll be interesting to see who does it best. I also feel like we’ll see the indies thrive more in the vein of the Macklemore’s and The Lumineers: hand-picked teams, around projects rather than packaged label staffs with long terms. I think we’ll see some good reunion tours and I think we’ll see the output from bands being more multi-media and not just recordings.
What is the best advice you have received over the years as a manager?
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. Ask questions. Listen more, talk less. People want to tell you their stories. Learn from them. And consider the source!
What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today?
Well, if you’re working with un-established acts, you’ll need to learn how to book small club tours. Know the guys and gals who book those rooms. They will help you develop the acts, you’ll work with them for years. Go on tour, meet them. See the rooms. Know where you’ll be asking your bands to perform. See and work in sides of the business so that you know how you’d like them to run when it’s your turn to hire people for those positions. Smile more. Go to more shows. Support and root for your local scene and its bands to their core and help develop and build the community.