Hello 20something reader and welcome to our first ever installment of Behind the Beat, a new monthly series that will spotlight those who work behind the scenes in the music industry, in every capacity. Our reason for this is two fold: One, we want to show our love for those whom music, as an industry, would break without. And two, we want to connect our readers with these trailblazers as a means of helping them realize their professional dream, by providing insight and words of wisdom on how to get there.
So without further ado, here is Behind the Beat, episode one:
I first met my friend Jake Berstein two and a halfish years ago when I was attending TomorrowWorld as a member of the press. My friend, fellow press member and hotel roommate, asked if I would be okay if a friend of hers, Jake, crashed with us for a night.
“He’s only here for one day and has an all access band for the rest of the weekend that he can give you in exchange for letting him sleep on our floor.”
Considering my boss was paying for my share of the hotel room, I figured this was a pretty good deal.
At that time, Jake was working as an agent for Bond Music Group, and since I was a total newbie on the music scene, I was entirely overwhelmed with how awesome my new friend’s job seemed to be. Suddenly, I was backstage at one of the biggest music festival in the country, rubbing elbows with the who’s who of the dance music community, and peeing in the exclusive bathrooms of the Artist’s Lounge.
Two years later, well, I’m still kind of awestruck by his profession; mostly because he’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing — work with in music every day at a job he really likes.
It’s the kind of human-job relationship that makes me want to hit the rewind button on my life and revaluate my career options.
Of course there’s more to this coveted job than the perks. At the end of the day, it is also a job.
So how does one become an agent, exactly? And for those who don’t really know, what does an agent do?
Well, to find out, I asked Jake.
20something: How did u get here? Not this life, but your job. Was it what you always wanted to do?
JB: Yes, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. To start, I worked at Tower Records when I was 14…so I guess it all began then. From there, I worked in countless music/entertainment marketing jobs and landed here. I worked for a company called UG Strategies, started out as an intern at 19, and within a year became an account supervisor. I oversaw our LiveNation, Fox, Asics, Paramount, and Glaceau accounts. After that, I worked for Wanderlust Festival, a yoga and music festival owned by C3 Presents as the digital marketing director. Finally, I became an agent at a small boutique DJ centered agency called Bond Music Group. After a little over two years there, The Agency Group acquired us, and after about a year at The Agency Group, UTA acquired that.
It’s been a good ride.
How do we know you? Who are some of your clients?
JB: I oversee a few things. Louis The Child, MOTHXR, Dreamers, Brazilian Girls, Moving Castle, Uffie, Breakbot, Avan Lava, Jody Wisternoff, Way Out West, Danny Howells, it goes on and on.
Which one of your clients would win in a mud wrestling fight?
JB: I would have to say one of the guys in Brazilian Girls. They are tough old school New Yorkers.
When looking for prospective talent, what do you consider an “it” factor?
JB: I have to really love the music. It’s not just about what they have going on behind the scenes, it’s my own personal liking. I have to believe in it first and foremost. Then it has a lot to do with the team. Do they have a manager, label, or publicist? That’s an important question.
Have you ever had to work with an artists whose talent you believed in but personally couldn’t stand and how did you handle that situation?
JB: One of the first pieces of advice I got when I started was to show no emotion, almost ever. That’s how to handle it. Show no emotion.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
JB: Coffee. Five cups, by noon. I usually get in at 9 a.m. or so and have a good amount of emails to answer that build up from overnight/different time zones. First goal is to get through those emails hopefully by 10 a.m. The rest of the day flies by. Calls, meetings, challenging holds and more coffee.
What’s your advice to artists seeking representation. How should they approach you?
JB: I’d say let me find you.
What’s the most rewarding and most frustrating part of your job?
JB: I think the most rewarding part of my job, and why I got into this whole thing, is that I get to make people’s (usually life-long) goals come to life. The most frustrating thing? Not getting to make things happen that I want to.
Have you ever been star struck meeting someone?
JB: Not star struck really, but honored. I was fortunate to meet Patti Smith a few times at this point, and she was incredibly sweet each time. Not sure if you want to consider her a “celebrity,” but I look up to her greatly.
Have you ever used social media to search for potential clients?
JB: Of course. Facebook is a big thing, but honestly what’s even better these days is Soundcloud, Google Trends, Twitter and Instagram. I feel like there is a lot of turnover on Instagram and Twitter. Tracking acts on Google Trends is also insightful.
How do you feel about today’s music industry? what are your hopes for the future? fears?
JB: I feel good about it. I think it’s going in a good direction and feels pretty stable. My hopes for the future? That people become more honest with their actions and promises. A lot of people talk nonsense and don’t follow through in this industry, and that’s something that just sucks.
What did you study in school? Where did you go?
JB: Just being upfront, I dropped out. I couldn’t afford school, rent and living. I went to community college in Poughkeepsie for a minute, studied music, film, etc. I also went to a fashion school quickly. Then finally Hunter College, and studied anthropology. My advice? Go to school, study whatever you want, and then figure it all out. Whatever you study is not going to really apply to what you want to do afterwards, unless it’s something super specialized.
What advice would you want to give young 20somethings in school hoping to do what you do?
JB: Be aggressive, show up early/stay late, listen, and again…pay attention to detail. Pick up the phone, not everything has to be done over email or text. Call whoever you want to talk to. Not everyone is going to answer your emails or pick up your calls. Call again. Make real connections.
What has been the proudest moment of your career?
JB: Beginning it. I still have a long way to go.
Have someone to nominate for this series? Shoot an email over to [email protected]