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Today at the A&R Report we have the pleasure of introducing to you one of my friends and associates fellow Canadian, Mr. Justin Stirling. I first met Justin through one of my colleagues who was mentoring him. When we first spoke, Justin had dreams and aspirations of meeting Scooter Braun and making moves within the music business. Fast forward a couple years later, 20 year old Justin is now living in LA and is currently working with Cody Simpson and his management as his current Road Manager. Check out the latest A&R Talk below and gain some insight on Justin’s journey and plans for the future.
How did your journey in the music industry start?
My journey in the music industry started when I was 14 years old at a radio station called The New Hot 899 in Ottawa. I was literally the youngest person to have ever been on NewCap Radio’s payroll across it’s [at the time] 80 stations nationwide. Before I got hired I used to convince the DJ’s to let me sit in on their shows and watch. Gradually I gained an understanding on how to work the board and was hired as a board operator. I used the next four years at HOT to better understand the world of radio and it’s monstrous importance to an artist’s career. It also became the first place that allowed me to begin interacting with artists, agents and label executives. After my stay with HOT I moved to Toronto to intern for The Agency Group, attend York University, and continue to pursue my dreams of becoming an artist manager.
How did your working relationship with Cody Simpson camp come about?
I was 18 years old and hating my first year of school from an academic standpoint (everything else was unreal). We were learning about myspace and facebook in a world where twitter was dominating and Instagram was emerging as a promising new social platform. I was dying to become a part of an artist’s team, their inner circle, their touring crew. I looked up to people like Scooter Braun and Kenny Hamilton who were the big players in Justin Bieber’s camp. They were the first highly publicized individuals I started to follow who had their own stories built around them being such an integral part of an artist’s career. I eventually became so desperate to kick start my career with an artist that I hustled my way into a meeting with a brilliant artist manager by the name of Matt Graham. I initially had a mutual friend contact him and set up an interview between the two of us for a non-existent music blog I said I was working for (sorry Matty muahah). My plan worked and Matt, after 8 unread facebook messages, finally sat down to talk with me and so began the start of my journey with the Cody Simpson camp.
What’s your relationship like with Cody now? What does your job entail?
We have an awesome working relationship and an even stronger friendship. I spend 7 days a week with him on tour and off. I’m on call virtually 24 hours a day and I certainly would not be as happy with my job if there wasn’t such a mutual respect between us. It’s not every day your best friend is also your boss but we’ve found a great way of making it work. I can honestly say he is one of the most genuine and down to earth people I’ve ever met, he has a huge heart and an unprecedented work ethic. On a daily basis my duties include everything from his schedule, travel arrangements, press/publicity to private outings and of course a million emails. In the bigger picture I strategize alongside his manager Matt to create methods for better fan engagement and mobilization, and ultimately work to protect the identity and longevity of Cody’s brand.
Who’s been your mentors coming up in the music industry?
It’s so tough when you’re young and hungry to find someone who will believe in you, yet alone take the time to listen to you. I think I probably sent over 500 emails to music industry execs looking for advice between the ages of 15-19. Cody’s manager Matt Graham was the first person to give me a real chance. He saw something in me the first time we met and immediately took me under his wing. It took a year for me to graduate to becoming Cody’s road manger, but combined with a lot of hard work, he is the reason why I am in the position I am. I really look up to Matt and owe him a massive thank you for everything he has done for me. I’d also like to thank Moe Arora of Bukonvict Records and Keith Brown from Cash Money Records for always taking the time to talk to with me and sharing your advice.
If you weren’t in music, what else do you think you’d be doing?
Most likely working in another form of entertainment. I’ve always been awed by large scale productions like the WWE and Cirque Du Soleil. I’m also a part of an incredible collective called The Young Astronauts. We’re an interactive media production company that specializes in digital creative work. We’ve created some truly inspiring art over the past few years with much more in store for the future.
How do you feel about the current state of the music industry? What are your future goals as an aspiring music executive?
It’s no surprise the industry is seeing a drastic shift away from the commodification of music, most notably in its physical form, but also in its digital state, and has begun to rely heavily on the impact of live music. The thing with live music is the experience can’t be duplicated effectively whereas sound recordings and digital media formats can be. Once these are replicated they can be re-distributed cost free. The convenience of free music downloads especially amongst teenagers is realistically inevitable, why would a demographic of highly active music listeners with low incomes choose to spend money on something when it’s being offered free of cost? Thus I wish to look towards live forms of entertainment in hopes of creating innovative consumer based experiences that will generate new streams of revenue. I also believe the future of live entertainment will grow beyond musicians, athletes and actors. Current social platforms have birthed so many new types of content creators who have yet to crossover from the digital space to real world. We’re looking at a multitude of untapped talent on Instagram, Vine, Youtube and Twitter whose means of monetization have not yet extended beyond view counts, subscribers and online ad sales.
What do you think it takes to break an artist?
I think new artists break successfully when they revive a certain sound which has lain dormant, or they create a new sound by experimenting with or merging pre-existing genres. Take The Weeknd for instance, he’s become the archetypal mogul for indie RnB, a dark genre of music he brought to life based of the assimilation of hiphop, RnB, rock, and EDM. Or there’s Jake Bugg, he successfully revived the beloved sounds of Bob Dylan and Oasis, sounds which haven’t been globally renowned since their respective artists stopped making music. Artists should really focus on differentiating themselves and their music to bring diversity to an ever so competitive market.
Connect with Justin via Twitter @jstir