As I transition more and more from the sidelines to the playing field, I hope to still share my thoughts on the music industry. With trailblazers in artist management becoming increasingly visible, I think more and more people will want to become managers and hopefully aspire to be good ones. Growing up a music industry nerd and idolizing people like Larry Rudolph and Johnny Wright, I knew this was something I wanted to do, but felt like no one around me had any idea what I was talking about. Although I’m no expert, I hope I can provide some informal insight through detailing the very beginning stages of working with a particularly exciting new client, Atlanta-based girl group Amor Kismet.
In April 2012, I wrote an entry on here titled, “Where Have All the Girl Groups Gone?” Since then, a few have broken out to various degrees of success (Little Mix, Fifth Harmony), some have reunited (Danity Kane, TLC), and others have attempted to recreate a model that’s broken (G.R.L.). In the entry, I said, “…good things come in 3s,” and predicted the next group girl group would fuse many genres to allow for multi-format radio support. A year later, I stumbled across a YouTube video by Amor Kismet.
While prefab groups can sometimes work, it’s clear that these three sisters have been singing together their entire lives. Some things can’t be manufactured—and those harmonies are one of them. Based on the huge success of incredibly talented groups like Destiny’s Child and TLC, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that’s the type of group Amor Kismet should be. It’s been the knee-jerk reaction of many people we’ve considered working with. But, this is a girl group for a different time. With all due to respect to Tina Knowles, there are no cheesy matching outfits or synchronized dance routines here. Even today’s successful boy bands, who are marketed to the same demographic as *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were a decade ago, stay far away from that aesthetic. In short, this is not a paint-by-numbers girl group.
So far, the girls have written all of their own music and play guitar, congas, and tambourine. Still, they are the kind of act that could hit top 40 with the right song and capture a young audience. After all, they are 19, 21, and 24 respectively, and are by no means old souls, with some of the most vibrant personalities I’ve come across. However, their music is of the sound and quality that could also appeal to a more mature, record-buying audience. A blend of pop, R&B, neo soul, jazz, and even Latin music (they name Selena Quintanilla-Pérez as one of their biggest influences), creates a sound that’s contemporary, but classic. With an image that leans more trendy and modern, but music that sounds organic and timeless, we want to strike the balance somewhere in-between. It’s that dichotomy that initially drew me to the group. Artists like Sade and Norah Jones captured the Barnes & Noble/Starbucks demographic and Adele really raised the bar, by not only successfully doing that, but also expanding far beyond it with 21. Although lofty, I believe Amor Kismet is the type of act that could create a soulful, acclaimed body of work, while still scoring radio hits and shifting units.
In June, things really started to take off for Amor Kismet. Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director, named the group the winners of his #FlashUnsigned Twitter competition, saying, “3 gorgeous sisters sing like angels w ton of personality. Unsigned? Not for long.” His endorsement and continued support has been a huge source of fuel for the girls. In many ways, he’s been the Clive to their Whitney (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYRLlbUJcPo). Using his influence on a new form of mass media, he not only introduced them to key players in the music industry, but also to a much wider audience. Since then, things have taken off more quickly than any of us expected.
On the heels of their #FlashUnsigned win, we launched Amor Kismet’s first website and revamped all of their social media pages. While they’ve always had a strong YouTube presence, when I first started working with them this spring, they had no more than 500 followers across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram combined. We now have over 35K followers across those channels. However, social media is about so much more than just the numbers. When used smartly, an independent act can garner the right attention from the right people. Social media has led incredibly talented band members, Grammy-winning songwriters and producers, and invaluable feedback our way.
Social media also brought the girls to their super savvy lawyer, Martin Frascogna, who has worked to protect their music and get everything in order before we take the next steps. In addition to my gig as an artist manager and once-every-six months blogger, I’m also a law student and can’t stress the importance of making sure all that (and by “all that,” I mean many of the things artists never consider—from band agreements to trademarking the group’s name) is taken care of. Having a strong legal team around the girls has also been incredibly important in working to secure partnerships and sponsorship opportunities. All three girls have been dedicated vegans for the greater part of the past decade, and simply looking at them and seeing the energy they have has made me seriously consider it. Right now, our attention is on engaging partners that make sense with who the girls are and what they’re already doing in their everyday lives.
Beyond everything else, the most important focus has to remain on the creative product. The girls have been working with vocal instructor Jan Smith (Usher, Rob Thomas, Justin Bieber) and that’s been almost as exciting for me as it has for them. She’s kind of a legend in this business and has worked with so many artists that I’m a fan of, so it’s pretty cool to know she’s investing her time and energy into Amor Kismet’s artistic development. The past few months have also brought many other creative firsts in the development process: photo shoots, video shoots, performing with a band, and spending time in the studio with some very talented producers. Although some of the aforementioned projects have been completed to various degrees of success, I’m confident we have a stronger vision than ever before—both musically and stylistically—and are this close to getting it right. Collectively, we do not want to put anything out there that’s not up to our standards or the standards of those who support us. Based on some of my previous posts, you can see how easy it is to call out flaws from the outside. But, it can be much more difficult when you’re so closely attached to the project (except for the girls, who are harder on themselves than I ever could be). It’s something I’ve become much more acutely aware of during this process and makes me very appreciative of other perspectives that have been offered along the way.
For the first time since winning #FlashUnsigned, we will be shooting and premiering videos for new original music in January 2014. With a very commercial group, we want to show off everything they have to offer as performers, as opposed to just releasing recorded music. However, we do plan to follow the video series with a (free) EP later in the year. I’m a believer in not putting anything out for sale until the demand is there, so the product will not be about making money, but rather building interest. While being transparent as possible and not sounding too much like a third party observer, there are a lot of other things in the works that I can’t reveal just yet. What I can say, is that moving forward, we want to make sure that everything is completed with purpose and strengthens Amor Kismet’s growing brand.
In addition to their obvious talent (which is truly only half the battle), I can’t say enough about how dedicated to their craft, eager to take on new experiences, and open to collaboration, these girls are. Without those things, none of what is written above matters. Luckily, we’re all on the same page when it comes to the creative vision and business strategy, and their mom, who co-manages them, provides support in ways that I never could. Although so many exciting things have happened in a short period of time, I’m most thankful for the communication and rapport I have with the girls. Very rarely does a day go by when we’re not in touch multiple times and that’s the way it should be. It’s been a wild second half of 2013 and I can’t wait to see what we can do with a full year ahead of us. For more on Amor Kismet, visit www.amorkismet.com.