Interview with RICK DEVOE, manager for Blink 182 - Oct 30, 2000
“Unsigned bands really need to be aggressive in seeking knowledge in every aspect of the business.”
Rick Devoe is manager for Blink 182, the new-school punk trio from California, USA. Their latest album, “Enema Of The State”, has sold an excess of four million and included the worldwide hit “All The Small Things”.
How do you find new talent?
Through going to shows and talking to the kids.
Do you work actively to search for new acts or do they usually come to you?
Well, I don’t really look for acts. I only manage two bands. I don’t like to spread myself too thin. Lately, they have been coming to me quite a bit, looking for management.
Do you consider unsigned bands to have a good general knowledge on how to approach the business?
I think unsigned bands do have a good idea at a lower level, but definitely not the whole picture. Unsigned bands really need to be aggressive in seeking knowledge in every aspect of the business. For instance, promoters at clubs, ballrooms, arenas and sheds; merchandise rates; attorneys, who can explain how publishing works and what to try to get when negotiating and when you re-negotiate deals; the record label, within which there are so many categories; international marketing, and how this works in all the different territories around the world; how to be thrifty with your money, i.e. don’t take tour support if possible; and remembering when you sign to a label that your band are partners with the label and not enemies!
What are you currently working on and how were you approached by these acts?
I am currently working on Blink 182 and Fenix TX. I was approached by Tom from Blink 182 back in 1994 when I was a promoter. I promoted all the types of bands he liked. He asked me if I would help out his band. I said yes because he was cool. Fenix came to me from Mark Hoppus who was managing the band. He could not handle it anymore since his own band was taking off.
What made you take on Blink 182, what qualities did you see that were lacking in other artists?
Tom was really cool. They also had a different sound to a lot of the other up-and-coming punk-type bands. They seemed to court the girls of the punkier guys, while everyone else was trying to be `hard´ and aggressive. It worked out well for us.
Who did you approach with Blink 182 and what strategy did you use?
We approached anyone who listened. I was not scared of approaching major labels, because the key to worldwide success is "distribution". The cool punk labels did not have the ability to get records out the way a major could. I just told the majors what we wanted. Also, majors like to be hip. So we sold ourselves on the fact that we are really `cool´.
What were you most proud of in the release of "Enema Of The State" and what would you have wanted to do differently?
The thing that I really am most proud of is the growth of Blink 182 as musicians. I would have done nothing differently. Maybe more jokes.
Do you work only with finished productions or do you take part in their development?
I have very little to nothing to do with the production as far as the artistic side of things goes. My main job is setting up all the people who are involved in the whole process of creating an actual record. My theory is to let the musicians do what they do best and let me do what I do best.
How important are your contacts with producers, studios and musicians, in comparison to those with record companies and the media?
All of my contacts are very important. Contacts are everything in this business. The more you have the more you’re worth!
How do you build a good network of contacts?
Be cool, follow through with things, let people do the jobs they are paid to do, have faith in people, remember we are all only human, be proactive not reactive, smile and laugh a lot, make people feel important. Treat them the way you would like to be treated.
How many songs do you receive from unsigned acts per week?
I do receive a lot of music. I don’t actually have the time to listen to any of it. When I’m looking for a band, I will obviously listen to a lot of music. When I do listen, I usually go by word of mouth from the kids I talk to at shows.
Do you still accept unsolicited material?
I do accept it, just in case I do want to listen, but time is usually against me.
Can you offer some words of advice to unsigned artists, with regards to submitting material?
I think that most bands who send demos are looking for a quick way to get one step closer to the dream. Bands really need to work on their street vibe, so that they can develop a story from the street. Make it `organic´, not `overnight´. Work on being a better musician. The label people will come if you’re working hard and people are talking. Network with your local clubs and promoters, work your way up by getting on great shows. Once you do, network with the bigger bands. They attract the industry.
How long is the process of signing an act?
I would say it could take a while. I don’t just say yes on the strength of a song. I like to meet the band and hope the chemistry works. Image has a lot to do with it for me, as well as how hard they are willing to work.
What qualities are needed to be a successful manager and in what aspects do you believe that these apply to you?
The main quality is that managers need to remember that they are not band members, that they basically work for the band. So they need to go the extra mile, don’t flake, don’t spend their money, always be there to answer a question, always have 6, 12, 24 month goal strategies. All of these apply to me.
Can you offer some words of advice to unsigned artists, with regards to contracts?
Get a really good attorney.
Do you follow what the A&Rs are doing?
"Only really a couple. These are guys I know. I keep up to date by asking promoters which local bands are working hard."
What do you do differently to other managers?
I really live the lifestyle that I promote through my bands - and I don’t live in LA
What is your attitude to MP3s, Napster, the lawsuits and the future of digital downloads etc.?
They really hurt the artist. It takes money out of their pockets.
Which act would you have liked to work with most?
NOFX, keep working with Pennywise, Deviates, Will Smith - he seems really nice.
What do you think of HitQuarters, and how much do you value it as a resource for unsigned artists?
I think it is really cool. If bands are smart they will really use it as a tool.
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