While covering the revolt Music Conference in Miami, The A&R Report got the chance to sit down and talk with one of Billboards 40 under 40 and agent at AM Only which boasts a dynamic roster of the most talented and influential DJ/producers and live acts in the music industry. Introducing Lee Anderson. Gems were dropped in in this interview take a listen below.
Jeff Smith: What do you love most about being an agent in the music industry?
Lee Anderson: There’s a few answers here. I’ll say the most rewarding thing for me is taking an artist, young guy, young girl, young band, whatever, who have a dream, and helping them realize that. ZEDD is a fantastic example. Three years ago got to us, and was very persistent, had gotten to know one of my other clients, Skrillex brought him in. The kid was coming in for $250 and would just open and was happy to be part of the show. I remember the first time he came to America, I actually met him in Miami.
It was on the beach and he’s like, “There’s America!” It’s this young kid, and now he’s arguable one of the biggest producers in all music and Djs in the world, and headlining the massive stages at the Lollapaloozas, and Coachella’s, and I got to help him do that and get there, right? Who else gets to do that? A teacher maybe? A coach? That’s the most rewarding.
I’d like to know if my artist stats were good or bad. Right? Data is data and that’s something you can use, and you can’t ignore data and any time that we can get it and utilize it, it’s great. Whether you know that your set was huge and you’re like, “Next time we need more money and this is why,” or they’re bigger, right? Or, “We need a better spot because this is the audience and this data shows it.”
Jeff Smith: Right.
Lee Anderson: Or if you get the negative feedback, and people clear out of a tent, it’s like, “You know what? We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, we have some work to do, let’s rebuild. Let’s figure that out. Why did that happen? Are we competing with somebody? What do we think that was, or was it just us?” To me, I encourage any way to get your hands on data and use data. With the touring industry, you don’t have a ton of this data as to why you’re going to go play a show somewhere. Right? Why do you need to go to Minneapolis and play for 12,000? What’s telling me that? I would love more information, right? How well does a show do that’s priced this way?
Jeff Smith: What do you think contributed to ZEDD selling 2500 to 6,000 per event?
Lee Anderson: He’s a talented musician, first and foremost. He’s on top of his own career, and he controls his own career more than most people I’ve seen out there. Right? He’s really engaged, and on it, and makes decisions, and goes with them, and looks at fine details. He’s not just sitting there. He’s got a great team around him, and he trusts us to do these things, but he also wants to check in and know what we’re doing, and why we’re doing things. That’s great. Really hard worker. The music resonated, right? Interscope’s been a big force in that. From the radio department to the setting up of things for him to work with Lady Gaga, which is obviously a big break.
Jeff Smith: I’ve become extremely appreciative of the EDM ever since I reported on the VELD Music Festival if you’re familiar with that.
Lee Anderson: Nice, yeah totally, my boy does that, the ink guys, yeah.
Jeff Smith: Yes yes yes.
Lee Anderson: I have a bunch of clients that were on there the past few years.
Jeff Smith: ZEDD was actually there.
Lee Anderson: Yup. I had Tommy Trash up there, I’ve known a ton of guys there. Yeah, it’s a good one.
Jeff Smith: It was an awesome festival. I got goosebumps watching the crowd because there’s so much people there, so you feel so small.
Lee Anderson: The energy is infectious.
Jeff Smith: Yeah.
Lee Anderson: Right? It’s … Looks like a sea bouncing with the moments, right? The pyro, the confetti’s going, then it gets dark and the lasers, oh yeah it’s …
Jeff Smith: It’s an amazing experience.
Lee Anderson: It’s an experience.
Jeff Smith: So yeah if anyone hasn’t been to a EDM Festival, definitely go.
Lee Anderson: Shout out Ink, go hit up VELD
Jeff Smith: I see a lot of elements in EDM that were present in the early days of hip hop.
Lee Anderson: Yup.
Jeff Smith: Where do you see EDM evolving in the next 5 years?
Lee Anderson: You don’t know, because the exciting things are the things you didn’t know were coming, that is the point of evolution, right? I grew up going and buying DJ Clue tapes, right? It was, I grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut, and I was very influenced by 90s New York hip hop, things out of Queens Ridge, and your Brooklyn’s and your Biggies and everything, right? That was my ear, right? I would love and I would get tapes, and that was a way to dump content out freshly as well, right?
That’s sort of the way dance music started, the song on the beat board, something on the SoundCloud, a YouTube video, these same ways, right? It’s different, you’re not going and buying a tape at the urban clothing store or whatever, that’s dubbed over so many times that Biggie sounds like Mickey Mouse or whatever, Alvin and the Chipmunks or whatever, but … So that’s there.
Then hip hop became mainstream, right? Then you had your Ja Rule area, era, and Jay-Z, and Money Cash Hoes, and the Hype Williams video and stuff. That’s what dance music is now. It’s big budget, it’s huge, it’s crossing to the mainstream. I think it’ll evolve. I think you’ll continue to see sub genres. With electronic music, right, you’ve got deep house, progressive house, techno, minimal techno, electro, dub step, all of these things, glitch, all these things. Look at hip hop. You’ve got West Coast, you’ve got underground, you’ve got gangster rap, right? All these things, so you’re going to see different genres go, and within those there’s going to be waves.
The thing that’s interesting with dance music is, it’s not geographically as much. With hip hop, it’s like the south got hot for a minute, right? Now it’s like right now the West Coast is having a run. YG, I represent DJ Mustard, who’s sound is everywhere. All the TDE guys and then the things that they’re doing, Kendrick and Schoolboy Q. We won’t see that with dance music. Right? Because it’s not vocally driven language or things. It’s sonic, and it’s in sounds, so it’s more specific to certain sub genres having a wave rather than a region.
Jeff Smith: You guys look for in an artist before you decide to represent them?
Lee Anderson: Different agents are going to look at different things, and we collective A&R meetings and discuss stuff, and just have a process of sounding things. A lot of times you’ll find people through trust and resource. An A&R label, a manager you know, our own artist telling us about somebody that’s coming up. I can speak on me personally, somebody asked me this question after the panel today, and what I said is I look for a team, right? Because I’m one piece of this, and I can’t do everything.
I want it to be good music, right? You make it, you get better there, the music’s good, and I think aesthetically there’s something there, and you’ve got a good brand going, and it’s like I’m looking at how many people are engaged in the fans, and that’s there. I’m like, “Who’s the team?” Right? Because the team matters so much. You don’t have to be Irving Aesop managing it, it might be your friend that’s learning, but he’s really passionate and organized and driven, doesn’t take no for an answer and they’re on it, right?
Is there a publicist in place. If they’re only about who’s that team, because the whole team around an artist is so important to getting it going. I’m just one slice of the pie, right? I’ve got to make sure that the rest of it is built out properly to work on, and that’s me speaking. One of the other 15 agents at the company might have a different answer, but that would be my reply.
Jeff Smith: Something you love?
Lee Anderson: Yup.
Jeff Smith: Something you hate, and something you’ll never forget.
Lee Anderson: Oh man. I love my fiancée who I’m marrying in a few weeks. I hate the fact that all kids are not born with equal opportunity in society. That’s not something that’s your choice, your just created, and it doesn’t matter if you’re born into a single family household, or you don’t have a ton of money, or if you’re 7th generation of old money and have things, every human being should be an equal playing field and should have it. I hate that the world isn’t that way.
Jeff Smith: Right.
Lee Anderson: Something I will never forget is there’s a lot of things I’ll never forget.
Jeff Smith: That’s a tough one.
Lee Anderson: There’s a lot of things I’ll never forget. To pick one just related to the business, something I talked about tonight, the Super Jam thing that we did at Bonnaroo. That me work wise, that’s something I’ll never forget. With Skrillex and what we put together with all these other artists at one place. It was this crazy energy and a moment. I’m big on moments, right? Because you don’t forget that. There’s a lot of things that it makes it easy not to forget with technology and when we record it and stuff, but I like to think that those moments where you had to be there, they were there and that was always fun.
Jeff Smith: Cool. Thanks a lot, man.
Lee Anderson: Awesome man, yeah you too, man. Good luck and love it. The A&R Report, Toronto.