Interview with TYRONE HINDS, manager for Ms. Dynamite - July 7, 2008
"HitQuarters is the source of a lot of my information"Tyrone Hinds was introduced to the music industry while working as a car salesman. His interest was therefore always led not by profit-seeking but the love of music and passion for a positive message.
When taking on Ms. Dynamite, all he was interested in was having fun pushing an artist he appreciated. The breakthrough success he had with her - Top 10 and Top 20 UK albums, Mercury Prize, MOBO and Brit Awards - were, as he tells HitQuarters, just a bonus.
Could you tell me a little about how you began working as a manager in the music business?
I first started out back in the year 2000, after a friend of mine, Veno Joseph, introduced me to the music industry. I used to work in car sales, so I had nothing to do with the industry. But Veno introduced me, and thatís how I became involved.
He used to do a lot of promotions, bringing acts like Mobb Deep and DMX over to venues like the Stratford Rex. Thatís how I got into the music world, and it was through those connections that I met the first artist who I managed, Ms Dynamite, who went on to achieve some great things.
How did you first hear about Ms Dynamite?
It was through a mutual friend, who recommended that we listen to a song that she had at the time, called ĎBoo!í They personally introduced us to her after that, and she happened to be looking for management, so my partner and I at the time decided to take her on and manage her.
We didnít really enter into it as a management firm, we just went into it with the idea of having fun. We believed in what she had to say, in the message that she had in her music, and it was something that we wanted to get behind. So we just pushed it from there.
So without any professional background in music, how did you begin to develop your management skills? Was it a steep learning curve?
To be honest, I didnít have any qualifications in management at all. I didnít go to school to learn anything about management. Obviously, Iíve always known how to manage my own life. But itís almost like a fairytale with something like Ms Dynamite.
You just have to believe in what youíre doing. If there was anything that me or my partner didnít know about at any particular time, if we didnít have an answer to a particular question, then we would go to our lawyer and ask him and he would guide us in the right way.
As for specific management skills, I think theyíre just something that I picked up along the way. Everything that you learn Ė and itís the same for any manager when you get into this business Ė you learn from others, by watching other people. You act like a sponge, soaking up as much information as possible.
Thatís how I got by at first. Itís just common sense Ė if youíre a doctor and you want to be a better doctor, you hang around with other doctors! Same for musicians, lawyers, etc. In our case we just spent a lot of time hanging around a lot of other managers and musicians.
What were your first steps towards trying to get a deal and take the Ms Dynamite project to the next level?
To be honest, a record deal was the last thing in our minds at the time. We really didnít go into it expecting one. She was the first artist Iíd ever managed, she was my number one, and I wasnít thinking about looking for a deal. Mainly because I didnít really know how the whole system worked or what the logistics of it were.
All I knew was that we should be having fun, we should be getting out there and doing a lot of live PAs, a lot of gigs, because she had something really good to say. So we spoke to a lot of promoters and we found some agents. I think that, generally, if the music is good, itís going to speak for itself.
We were just out on the road all the time, doing up to 3 to 4 gigs a night. We would go from places like Manchester down to Birmingham, to finishing up down in London, all in one night. You just go out there and you gig and you put a lot of hard work into it, and itís all fun.
What eventually got Ms Dynamite noticed was her being on the road with good songs. From there we were approached by Sony (before it turned to Sony/BMG), then we were approached by Virgin Records, then by Polydor.
How do you decide what record label you want to work with when you have that level of interest?
With a record label the most important thing is that you have to find the right A&R, who sees the same things as you do and who shares the same vision as the artist, the manager, and the whole team. If you donít see the same vision, then it isnít going to work out.
The reason we chose to go with Polydor in the end was because they allowed us freedom of expression, which allowed us to be who we wanted to be. They werenít looking to change Ms Dynamite in any way. We were very adamant about that, arranging it so that the artist stayed as real and as organic as possible without being changed in any way, or tarnished by any brush.
We wanted to keep it real and we wanted her to be able to say what she wanted to say, in an articulate way. We wanted Ms Dynamite to be Ms Dynamite. Polydor was the most understanding record label at the time, with the most understanding people, who were Simon Gavin, Colin Barlow and David Joseph. The head man who gave the Ok to everything was Lucian Grange.
When it came to making the first record, ĎA Little Deeperí, how involved were you with the songwriting and/or production and arrangements?
Every time she was recording I would be there in the studio with her. I was very much involved in the production side. For example, when she was doing vocals, she would consult me on the lyrical content. With the studio and production side, thatís a part of me that Iíve always wanted to learn about properly. I really enjoy that side.
Do you prefer to establish artist-management relationships which are that close and mutually creative?
Yes, totally. Iím not saying that I work differently from any other manager, but you know, these are the things that I really enjoy doing, so Iím not going to miss out on them.
With Ms Dynamite, if she was due to be performing on Top Of The Pops Ė which sadly we donít have any more Ė or if she was doing a show in South Africa Ė like the Nelson Mandela show we did, then as a manager I wanted to be there, and be involved with everything.
And I loved it, basically, travelling from Miami to Jamaica, to New York, Sweden, everywhere, having fun. Thereís a lot to learn in the business, but itís better when youíre not only learning but youíre enjoying it too. You have to have some essential form of enjoyment in what youíre doing.
Ms Dynamite won the 2002 Mercury Music Prize in the UK. Was that one of the most enjoyable experiences?
Yes, that came from ĎA Little Deeperí. She was nominated for the award on the back of that release and she went on to win. She also won 3 MOBO awards, 2 Brit Awards, and a few other accolades. I didnít expect all of the phenomenal success.
As I said, you just must have a real love for the music. If you believe in something, you put 101% into it, and if the product is right, then what comes after that is all a bonus. Even if we had just sold one record weíd have been happy, because one person would have heard it. We definitely had more fun creating the project rather than from reaping the rewards.
You run your own management company now, is that right?
Yes, I started it up last year with my partner, Chad Mehmit. His background is in distribution and music sales. We formed this company together, CT Management, CT for Chad and Tyrone.
What kinds of projects are you working on right now, and what artists do you have on your books?
Weíve got a young artist, Matt Heanes, and we work with Chyna Soulstar. We also work with Jenny Bae, who is a classical violinist. She has had a very successful career in South Korea, and she just moved over to the UK last January. She has performed with a lot of stars, from Pavarotti to Eric Clapton and U2. Sheís the priority act weíre working on right now.
Thatís a diverse group of artists, from urban to rock/pop to classical. Is that deliberate?
What attracts me to any artist is their message, what they have to say, rather than genre. If they have something good to say, something that is inspirational for other people to pick up on, then thatís what Iím really interested in. I deliberately look for those kinds of artists.
Obviously where Jenny Bae is concerned, she isnít using her voice; sheís a solo artist who uses the violin and the strings to do the singing. So thatís a different challenge for me. But itís the kind of person she is that attracted me to take her on board and sign her in the first place.
How do you discover new music and new talent? Do you accept Demos?
Well, HitQuarters has helped a lot! Thatís the source of a lot of my information, and a lot of people have found me through HitQuarters. Or else Iíll find them Ė I recently found a young girl called Hashel through HitQuarters.
People find me through word of mouth as well; they hear about me and I get a lot of demos sent over. I do accept unsolicited demos. But Iím very selective about who I manage, because there are a lot of artists out there nowadays who are, well, Iím not saying theyíre pro- violence, but whatever theyíre rapping about or singing about seems to me to just be adding more fuel to the fire.
I would rather work with an artist who is providing water to put the fire out, if you know what I mean. I want to work with artists who have something that is genuinely good to say. Thatís what appeals to me the most, that positive attitude. If itís adding to the fire, I wonít work on it.
Plus I like to develop artists properly as well. Thatís a crucial part. Iíd rather take on and develop a new artist than take on an established artist. Itís more of a challenge, and it involves more hard work, more painstaking, but the rewards are ten times greater.
Are you mostly interested in artists who have their own songs, or do you look for songwriters or co-writers as well?
I like to have artists write and perform their own material, but I always welcome people who have written material for others as well. I am actually looking for songs at the moment.
What impresses you most when youíre looking for new talent? Is a certain level of production quality necessary on demos?
It starts with the music. If they present themselves well, then thatís a bonus. Obviously their attitude has to be right, as Iíve already said Ė thatís so important, and so very rare right now too.
Because as you know, with music and the kind of success you can have with music, a lot of ego can be involved. But artistic potential is really all there within the music: if the music has something in it, then that is what initially attracts me.
What kind of things do you discuss when you first make contact with a new artist?
We talk about the artist. What do they want to achieve? What message do they have for people? Where do they want to go? What do they want to do? You have to get to know your artists well in order to fully understand them.
As a manager you work for the artist and youíre there to help them, not take anything away from them. Youíre not there to tell the artist what to do, youíre there to advise them. So you sit down and establish an understanding with them.
And you yourself as a manager have got to be feeling exactly the way that the artist is feeling about whatever direction they want to take, because if youíre not both feeling the same about which way you want to go, then youíll never get there. First things first, you have to have that understanding.
Thatís the relationship Ms Dynamite and I had, which is why that project worked out so well. We communicated, I was 101% behind where she wanted to go, and thatís what made us all go the way.
You said your success with Ms Dynamite came initially from playing a lot of live shows. Do you still think that going on the road is the best way to develop an artist, or do you use other strategies?
Regardless of whether youíre signed to a record label or not, I think that going on the road is crucially important. The Beatles probably did 1,000 gigs before they got signed. Going on the road is a vital part of developing your own music and talent. Plus you have to build up your fanbase.
Thatís exactly what I did with the whole Ms Dynamite experience. I didnít have any understanding of what record labels were thinking, all I knew was that the music was good, and I wanted to get out into the clubs and I wanted to go on tour with it and promote those songs. Thatís what we did, and it worked.
Do you have any releases planned for 2008?
Iíll just say watch out for Jenny Bae. Sheís working on an album at the moment, with Al Stone, the producer who worked with Jamiroquai and Bjork.
Do you have any views on the current climate of the music industry, and the way that it has changed during your time as a manager?
To keep it short, I think itís a totally natural thing. Changes are always going to happen. Weíre always going to have to change one way or another, and we canít stop that. Change will always come, so I expect it.
How would you describe your style or attitude as a manager?
I donít have that Ďmanagerí title name. Iím Tyrone. A manager is just a title that we all have to fall into, because weíre all given a title and bracketed. But itís deeper than that. Itís about having respect for one another, really. Not letting egos get in the way. Itís hard in this industry, but you canít let it break you down. Youíve got to be the person that you are.
Whatís the best aspect of your job?
The best part is being able to achieve an artistís dream. That puts a smile on my face. The worst aspect is waiting around for that to happen.
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Interview by Denny Hilton
Next week: Interview with Jonathan Dickins, manager for Adele, Jack Penate
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