Matt Emsell has been managing 5 Seconds of Summer and Matt Corby since the beginning of their careers
He says 'Determination and empathy are great skills for an artist manager'
His advise is to make sure you have great understanding and confidence in your artists’ vision
Matt Emsell began managing both 5 Seconds of Summer and Matt Corby in the early days – before the world tours and festival headline slots, UK, US and Australian #1 albums and the ARIA and J Award wins. He has helped guide them on their own unique globally successful career paths.
What are the skills that have helped him in his own career?
"I’d say determination and empathy are two things that have stood me in good stead," Matt said.
We asked Matt six more questions about his management outlook and approach to the business.
1. How did you get your start in artist management?
I moved out from London to Australia when I was 23 years old on a whim having been working at MTV in London. I interned at Sony’s RED Label (for free!) for six months working under Simon Cahill, Ian Grady and Sarah Jones.
I met Rebekah Campbell who ran Scorpio Music and hassled her for a job for six months until she finally hired me as marketing manager for her artists. I learnt under Rebekah for two years (she was truly the best) before we agreed to part ways and I started Wonder Music with my first two clients: Matt Corby and Amy Meredith.
2. At what point in 5 Seconds of Summer's and Matt Corby’s careers, respectively, did you start working with each?
When I first moved to Australia, Matt was on Australian Idol and I was blown away by him. After the show finished, Matt wanted very little to do with the music business but I used to drive down to Cronulla every few weeks and hang out with him. After what felt like six months but was probably shorter, he agreed to me managing him.
With 5SOS, I had just moved back to London after eight years living in Sydney. 5SOS had been a band for about four months and Adam Wilkinson, who was running Studios 301 and managing the guys, shared a video online of a song called 'Gotta Get Out.' I had the same feeling I had when I first saw Matt (I HAVE TO WORK WITH THIS ARTIST).
5SOS had already started to build a very meaningful fanbase online with pockets of fans around the world when I jumped on board. It grew very quickly from there.
3. From a manger’s point of view, what are two or three essentials to have in place with an artist from the get-go?
A strong connection between artist and manager. An understanding of and confidence in the artist's vision. And you should get along, because you're going to be spending a lot of time together.
4. In your career how have you seen the global opportunities change and grow for Australian artists? And, how have you adapted to an ever-changing marketplace?
The landscape has completely transformed. You used to see one Australian act break through every few years and now there is a regular stream of Australian artists achieving phenomenal success globally. I love working with Australian artists and despite the fact I'm not Australian and no longer live in Australia, I plan to continue doing so!
5. With the disruption that COVID-19 has had on the music industry, how are you adapting your artists’ plans and/or coming up with new strategies?
First and foremost, the loss of life and loss of livelihoods is devastating and my heart goes out to everyone suffering right now.
The US started shutting down around March 12th and the fourth 5SOS album was released March 27th. So, the short term was figuring out how to release an album without the traditional promo strategy and without leaving the home. It was challenging but it pushed all of us to get more creative and we saw some cool results and discovered plenty of opportunity; particularly in the D2C space where we broke all our previous records.
The long term is obviously still playing out. But there is so much still on the table outside of playing shows. Write and record great music, keep creating compelling content and continue to build your relationship with your fans.
6. What are you looking for when considering working with a new client?
I went through the experience of building up a big roster, but it didn’t work for me. So, I'm looking for a resounding “HELL YES" when I ask myself if I want to work with an artist. From my experience, to make this work you have to give your artists absolutely everything (and a little bit more) and be willing to do whatever it takes, so they have to be damn special if you're going to give up a part of yourself.