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Interview with DANIEL GLATMAN, manager for Blue (2 million debut album sales) - June 7, 2002

“Unsigned artists need to learn how to network.”

picture Based in UK, Daniel Glatman manages the boy band Blue, who have sold 2 million copies in Europe of their debut album, "All Rise", released in 2001.

How did you get started in the music business and how did you become a manager?

When I was at university, one of my flatmates was an aspiring singer, and was looking for a way to get into the industry. I had a contact and tried to help him. That recording project didn't go anywhere, but it introduced me to the business, and things have literally snowballed from there.

What experiences have helped develop your skills as a manager?

The only way to learn how to be a manager is on the job. The more you do something, the better you become at it, although I do believe you need to be a certain type of person to be a good manager.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to be a manager?

Just keep trying! Find something you believe in, and then go and bang on as many doors as possible until one opens. Your tenacity, coupled with the artist's talent, will improve your chances of success. Be advised that, sadly, in this business there are no guarantees. It's an incredibly complex industry and you need to learn it. Exercise common sense and pragmatism at all times.

How did you find Blue?

When I started my company, I was looking for an artist to manage and set aside a considerable amount of time to give the search some real focus and energy. I had no idea what I was looking for, and so I decided to just let myself be guided by what I found. Several weeks into this search, I received a call from a boy called Duncan James, who contacted me via a mutual acquaintance. He proceeded to feed me the biggest “hard luck” story that I'd ever heard, to the point where I felt compelled to meet him. He'd been in several management-led projects and none of them had ever gone anywhere. In short, he'd had his dreams built up and dashed on many occasions, but he hadn't given up, which seriously impressed me.

Duncan came to see me with his friend, Antony Costa, who was also in the same position, and they told me that they wanted to do something together. When I asked them if they had anyone in mind to work with, they said they had a friend, Lee Ryan, whom they wanted to invite to join their band. The three of them came in a couple of days later and I was completely blown away by the incredibly talented stars that stood before me. We all agreed that we needed another member, so Lee brought in his flatmate, Simon Webbe, to the party, and that was it.

What did you see in them that made you think they were stars?

People can talk for hours about what makes a star, but ultimately you know when you see one. It's that special something that you don't see every day, and if it's not staring you in the face, then it never will. In Blue's case, you not only have four artists with that incredible star quality, you also have an incredible pool of talent, unrivalled chemistry, a real team mentality, and an enormous hunger and desire that gives them a brilliant work ethic.

Did they go through vocal coaching, dance classes or similar?

No, none of that.

How did you find songs and producers for them?

Hugh Goldsmith, their A&R at Innocent records, takes care of the music. We are all extremely privileged to be working with such a talented and well-respected man. The boys are also starting to develop their writing skills, which is something we wholeheartedly support and encourage.

What was the key to breaking Blue?

Many things were key, but if I had to pinpoint one thing, I would say that it was our first single, “All Rise”, a truly infectious hit record that played a massive role in the breaking of Blue.

How do you find new talent?

I pride myself on running a company that is very proactive in that department. I have designated a new artist manager here, who spends the whole of his working day hunting down talent. As well as all the incoming calls he takes, he makes outgoing calls in a similar way to a detective. If we find someone we like, we will always encourage him or her to tell us about appropriate people they know, or have met along the way.

Do you accept unsolicited material?

Yes, of course. We want to hear everything. We receive sacks full of mail every week and we take the view that if someone has taken the time to send something in, then we will take the time to listen to it. I firmly believe that the harder we work at finding talent, the more we increase our chances of finding the stars, as I want the standard of artist to be really high. And the higher that standard, the more I increase the chances of success. Great artists are a really good place to start.

What do you look for in an artist?

Star quality, supreme talent, personality, and a hunger/desire that will make you willing to put the hours in, because this business is all about hard work and pressure. It takes over your life, and you need to have tunnel vision and be completely driven in order to succeed.

Would you work with a non-UK artist?

Of course.

How sure do you need to be about the market space available to an act before signing them?

Quite sure, but this is an illogical business. If I work on the basis that there is always room for a quality artist with a quality record, then that is usually a good place to start.

Do you work with the artist's image? How important is it?

Yes, an image is important, but it is only one part of the overall artist proposition. An image isn't just about aesthetics, it's also driven by personality. An artist's image isn't just about how they look, but also about what they are trying to say about themselves and the type of person they are. Ultimately, people buy people for whatever reason, but music is key, as is the amount of expertise and priority being plowed into a release campaign and how much support you get from the media.

Do you think unsigned artists are knowledgeable about the music industry, or is it something they need to learn more about in order to stand a better chance?

Judging by the number of “My managers promised me the earth and I'm still waiting!”-type calls we receive, I'd say that unsigned artists do need to be more knowledgeable about the industry. Saying that though, some are extremely switched on, usually because they've been stung before. There is an argument that it's not the end of the world for an unsigned artist to go through the mixer, as only then can they appreciate, grasp and recognize an amazing opportunity if ever presented with one. It's called character building. I'm extremely sensitive to the fact that we are dealing with people's dreams and aspirations, so I don't believe in hyping to an artist, opting to tell them about the lack of guarantees and how you can increase their chances instead.

How would you advise unsigned acts to approach people in the music business, once they have material?

They need to learn how to network, as this is a very important skill. Try and educate themselves on how the industry works, then exercise pragmatism as well as caution. Don't be scared to ask for advice from as many people as possible.

What do you think of the UK Singles Chart, which is so fast that a single is dead if it doesn't enter in the Top 5?

That's a bit of a generalization, as you haven't taken airplay into account. Blue's last single, “Flyby II”, charted at 6, but went on to be our biggest airplay hit to date. Singles drive albums, and airplay is so important. In some cases, with certain types of acts, there is an argument that early singles shouldn't chart that high, so that you can build a story, a fan base, a momentum, in an organic way, and move forward.

What do you think about the radio situation in the UK?

I believe that radio support for a record should never be taken for granted. In Blue's case so far, we have been extremely privileged to receive great support for our records, but we need to maintain quality at all times. There is no room for complacency.

Considering the difficulties UK artists face when trying to break in the US, who do you consider capable of making it there?

If there was a tried-and-tested formula for a UK artist to break in the US, then there wouldn't be any difficulties. A UK artist can increase his or her chances in the US if they are prepared to give up a large amount of time to really focus over there. They need to be prepared to start all over again, take a hit on their earnings from an opportunity cost point of view, work really hard and raise their game to compete with the Americans, who I have so much respect for. The American record company also has to be into the project. Even then, most don't make a significant impact for whatever reason, as history indicates, so I don't wish to make predictions for UK acts breaking America.

How do you think the Internet will affect the music business?

We could spend all day on this subject. There was a lot of hype surrounding new media when it first came to the attention of the consumer. Since then, the bottom fell out of that market and a lot of people lost a lot of money. If I had to sum it up in a sentence or two, I would say that the global public really need to be educated on how to use the Internet before it can be as sociologically significant as a traditional high street. I'm not in a position to comment on the time it will take for these changes to take place.

When it comes to music downloads, they're not something we can't afford to ignore, so we should be keeping an eye on all developments in that area, and work to keep up with technology.

Speaking about the present rather than the future, I find our current website invaluable for collecting consumer data and giving our fans a communal forum. This gives us instantaneous reaction to events, so that we have an overview as to how our fan base is feeling at any given time, which is so important. Consumer knowledge is invaluable in any business.

If you could dramatically change any aspect of the music industry, what would it be?

In a utopian music industry, all new artist projects would be guaranteed success. Sadly, this isn't the case in reality.

What has been the greatest moment of your music career?

I think it was when the boys won their Brit Award for Best Newcomer. They'd worked really hard and I was so proud of them.

What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?

Moving the company forward, making it grow, extending the roster, and exploring other areas of entertainment. I just want to get out there and develop some really cool projects that connect with global audiences.

Interviewed by Kimbel Bouwman