Ask any producer, artist, songwriter, label professional or independent entrepreneur that has enjoined any level of success in this business and the one common theme you will find amongst them all is perseverance. There are no short cuts to the finish line and when you finish the race you have to splash some water on your face, take a deep breath and prepare to run again...the grind never stops! One rising star in the game that knows a thing or two about sacrifice and commitment is Family Tree Entertainment
manager Tiffany J.
From handling the daily management duties of top producers in the business to overseeing the careers of major artists to even putting in A&R work, this Phoenix native is poised to set her permanent mark in the business.
Welcome to the PMP. Let's start off with an introduction.
My name is Tiffany Johnson and I work for Family Tree Entertainment which handles artist and producer management.
How long have you been with Family Tree?
I've been with Family Tree for almost three years. The company's current roster includes Nas, Nick Cannon, Shereefa, Keith Murray, Aaron Carter and Xzibit. I'm what they call a "hybrid" because I handle both artists as well as producer management. Under my watch I have Bangladash, Ez Elpee and Rico Love. I also have D Y out of Detroit and a 12 year old girl by the name of P Star out of New York.
When did you develop a passion for the music business?
I always wanted to be in the business in some form or fashion. I started doing TV commercials when I was four and then I was a backup dancer from 13 to 18. I auditioned for Soul Train as well as for Janet Jackson as a backup dancer but I got passed that phase once I realized dancers weren't making a lot of money. Then I stumbled into the radio game by calling in for a concert in Phoenix and the guy I spoke to said I had a great voice and in a couple of weeks I landed a promotion job at the station. My first assignment was a George Clinton show and when I met him he looked at me and said "if you ever want a job in the music industry call me and I'll have you come work for me". From that moment I knew I was going to be in this business for the long run.
Anyhow after a couple of months a homie of mine at the station started sneaking me in over nights and taught me how to run the board and produce my own commercials. From being at the radio I was able to build relationships with different people at the record labels so I started a promotional company since nobody at that time out in Phoenix had the streets on lock. I had like 30 street teams so it was crazy. We we're booking acts such as LL Cool J, Ginuwine and were the first ones to bring Ludacris to Phoenix so we had it popping.
How did this lead you to Family Tree Ent?
After a while I felt there was nothing left for me to do in Phoenix so I jumped in my car and moved to L.A. in search of a management gig and I told myself I wasn't coming back home until I did. I hooked up with Damien Young at Baby Ree and ended up working with Nockturnal and DJ Lady Tribe and went on the Chicken n Beer tour. After the tour I worked for Petey Pablo for a while and then I met Blue Williams at the Impact conference in Orlando. Approximately five months later he called me inviting me to come down to Atlanta and help him manage some of his artists as well as producers. Once I moved to Atlanta I was able to learn as time went by, and it doesn't hurt to be around groups like Outkast and witness projects like the Love Below/Speakerboxxx come together. I went back to my hometown and snatched up Willy Northpole and within 6 months I landed him a deal at Disturbing Tha Peace and its been great motion ever since.
Take us through the average day of Tiffany J from sunrise to sunset...
Usually I get up around 10:00 am and after getting myself together I check all my emails and voice calls to make sure everything's looking good. After that I start making some calls to the record labels and follow up on the things they promised us as well as going over what's the next move to be made. Then I check in with my producers and see what they have planned and if they need my assistance with anything. I don't eat at a planned time, its pretty much whenever I feel hungry. The good thing about this business is you have more control of your timetable and its pretty much up to you to make the most of your 24 hours. Sunday's are reserved as my "music day" which I take the time to listen to all the music that has been sent to me whether its tracks for one of my artist or music that my producers are currently working on. Besides that my typical day consists of phone calls, emails and follow-ups through out the day and holding meetings during the evening.
What are some of the challenges you face being a female in this business?
There is actually a lot of upside to being a female in the music industry if you know how to play your position and not become engulfed by the game and the nonsense that can come with it. What's funny is a guy would quicker let a woman into their circle than a next man, but once you're in it's a matter of whether you can hold your own as a business person and not just somebody's girlfriend. My advice would be to never date your clients and be about your business because as a woman you have to be 50 times more focused than your male counterparts.
Talk about the producer grind versus the artist grind
The producer grind has way more longevity than the artist grind because it's more difficult for the artist to reinvent themselves. A producer can purchase some new equipment and get a new sound that can take them to a new place. In the end you have to have the music because nobody's going to a club to listen to lyrics without a beat.
Is your approach the same when it comes to managing your artists as opposed to your producers?
Producers are easier to deal with. As long as their equipment is available and they have their little drink, smoke, candles whatever sets the zone then they're good to go. With the artist you have to deal with photo shoots, interviews, radio appearances, etc...so there's a lot more to managing their careers. Once the producer is finished with his part it's up to the artist to bring the song to life so I deal with both the birth and the after life.
With Family Tree are you assigned acts to manage or do you scout and bring in the acts you manage?
When I first started at Family Tree I came with one client from my previous gig so I was signed a couple of people. I brought in Bangladesh, Willy Northpole and P Star to the company. At Family Tree we all help manage the talent because realisticly you can't manage more than 5 or 6 people effectively at any one time. I have more weight going into a meeting with an A&R because I have more producers I can present to them than just the ones I directly manage. As a company we look at what's the work ethic and skill potential and once we're all in agreement we go in and attack.
Staying with that, talk about some of the criteria you set as far as taking on new clients
Whether it's an artist or producer they have to want it more than me. Some people think once they have a manager they don't have to do nothing but show up and that's the wrong attitude to have. If I'm a manager at McDonalds and you're a staff worker and you refuse to flip the fries then what is there for me to manage? I normally don't gravitate to producers that work a 9 to 5 because I know for myself I left Phoenix for L.A. with nothing but $300, a car and a computer. So if you believe in yourself then you need to go in all the way because I can't deal with a part-time producer.
What is it about your approach that allows you to maintain key relationships in this business?
I was once told that it's a good thing to go shop your records but don't bother the hell out of people. If you know what you're doing and you do it well the right people will take notice and they will reach out to you. In this business it's all about your word. If I tell someone I will get the package to them by Tuesday then its going to be there by Tuesday. Reliability is the key to getting people to deal with whatever you're bringing to the table. You can have the hottest tracks in the world but if you're always late on something you're going to kill your chances because it's all about how that person feels about YOU that will set the mood when they listen to your music. You have to be on point but at the same time don't over-sell yourself.
As a manager how do you keep up with the latest trends going on in the music business?
Blue Williams once told me as a manager you have to be able to see around the curve so anything that's industry worthy you can get involved with try to. It can be the red carpet at a major award show or a talent show at a local pub the point is to be in the know. I also read a lot because you have to have the right information before you move forward on anything in this game. Even if you're not in one of the major markets you can access one of the many blog sites on the Internet, My Space or You Tube and see who's popping out there. At the same time you can't be too open because then you just become a follower and your brain will get warped because you're now caught up in someone else hype.
How has the emerging technology change your approach as a manager?
With the Internet there is so many new ways to make money and all you need is a Pay Pal account and you're good to go. It comes down to taking the time to research and follow through and put your product in the mix of as much legit situations as you can. As a manager you need a telephone line, a blackberry for communication management and access to the Internet through a computer. You have to be able to work with the technology or else you're going to be ineffective. Learn how to use a firewire and send music to someone across the room from you. Don't have your clients running circles around you when it comes to using technology because then why do they need you as their manager?
What's in the future for Tiffany J?
I would like to get more into the A&R side of the business. I recently A&R'd Gucci Mane's last album "Hard to Kill" and from that one of my records that I placed from a producer I managed named Cyber Sapp landed the single "Freak Gurl". We just did the official remix feat Ludacris. We just broke that to radio last week. And the video is coming next. Take a label and completely change the sound coming from their artists. I'm the type that would travel to Japan and see what kind of sounds are cracking out there. I want to keep bringing new innovation to the game as well as help put my home town of Phoenix on the map. I got my artist Willy Northpole bubbling right now and I'm looking to take it the next level.
Any last words of wisdom?
Producers get your drums right. You have to buy a drum kit because that's the bottom bass that they're looking for. Also don't believe just because something isn't happening for you right away mean it won't happen. This industry is funny because I can sell a record and it may not reach the radio for 2-3 years so take every meeting that you can. Build your relationships up because the little person now is the big boss in the future.