We are excited to introduce our new series: Manager Spotlight. This is a way to get a small insight into the heads of incredible managers. This week in the spotlight is Sumit Bothra, Director at ATC Management.
How long have you worked in Management?
I have been a professional artist manager for two magical decades!
Who do you manage now?
I (along with my esteemed colleagues) manage the careers and well-being of PJ Harvey, Katie Melua, Fink, The Boxer Rebellion, and Nathan Nicholson.
What inspired you to become an Artist Manager?
Prior to becoming an artist manager I worked at Sony Music from the age of 20, where my role there gave me access to all of the front-line weekly label planning meetings – Columbia, Epic, S2, etc. I learned so much from an incredibly talented array of people, across multiple genres, and too many campaigns to mention. This was also my first exposure to artist managers – a very special breed of human. I only ever tended to meet them twice though: once when they’d come in with passion and enthusiasm to present a new artist project, and then – usually about 6 months later – to bang their fists on the table in fits of rage. I was always taken aback by how polarised this relationship could quickly become despite the fact both parties were aiming for collective success. This “us vs them” mentality between managers and labels seemed, back then at least, to be industry-standard. I left the label system as the introduction of à la carte digital music consumption started yanking the rug three years after I had arrived.
I was inspired to become an artist manager because I felt I could take my experiences from the major label system and use them to promote a healthier understanding between ‘the artists’ and ‘the machine’. At Sony I had worked side-by-side with pluggers, publicists, sales executives, production teams, and product managers. I knew first-hand how hard these people worked under immense internal pressures and insanely tight deadlines, and all whilst enduring a daily internalised battle between passion for music and professional obligation. I saw many men and women break under these conditions, and witnessed artists lose complete faith in their abilities as their ambitions failed to materialise. So, I thought perhaps I could help right the balance. As an artist manager I work hard to promote a stronger understanding between the creators and those in the wider eco-system so we can all retain our passion for great art, while rejoicing together in our delivery of meaningful results.
What’s a good/bad day at work look like for you?
A bad day at work is one where I have to let someone go – whether that be a team member or an artist. Regardless of what might have prompted the decision, I’m very mindful to not crush anyone’s spirit even if I know that the parting of ways is ultimately the right move for all. Soon enough, however, that person finds the right type of soil under the right weather conditions….and flourishes.
A good day at work is when an idea I might have been working on quietly for months or years comes good. The truly great managers I know work with their left and right brains equally. They are passionately creative and commercially astute in equal measure, so when these two worlds collide perfectly it becomes a thing of true, world-changing beauty! Any manager you speak to will know this feeling – it is ELECTRIC!
What has been the highlight of your management career to date?
Honestly – way too many to mention – as every success on any level is a career highlight. But the one that always stays with me has to be when I received a request for The Boxer Rebellion to create an end-credits song for a Drew Barrymore film called Going the Distance (New Line Cinema). This was about one year into me managing the guys, who were completely unsigned and independent at the time. I got so deep into discussions with the show’s music supervisor, studio, and director that I eventually convinced them to write the band into the script; have the band perform twice in the movie; hold up the band’s latest album on screen; and feature a close-up of the band’s website. Not to mention the boys got to star alongside Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, and Christina Applegate. Almost every band you’ll ever meet will be able to recount their own off-the-wall utterly bonkers moment in the time – a memory they will forever cherish – and this was certainly one of ours. Those were literally some of the most insane days of our collective lives, which are forever recorded in Hollywood history.
What do you think are the big challenges for a manager in 2020?
Handling the psychological well-being of our artists, our team members, ourselves, and our families. At no other point in human history have we been as globally connected and hyper-exposed to each other as we are now. The measurement of this connectivity through data and algorithms puts us all on one type of scoreboard or another, whether that be based on wealth, power, influence, impact, success, or popularity to name but a few. No one is immune to this sphere of influence and measure. We exist under a new type of pressure and a new set of expectations, and this makes ‘being comfortable in one’s own skin’ a difficult thing to accept, let alone achieve. I really don’t need to give you a list of those who have faltered under these overwhelming pressures, particularly in the entertainment industry. As managers we are expected to take our duty of care to others extremely seriously and this means being attentive to how these factors influence the self-worth of those in our care. Are we properly equipped to help others as well as ourselves? Do we lean on each other when the going gets tough? Do we learn from tragedy? These are the tough questions we need to ask ourselves and address.
What music are you currently listening to?
As Nathan Nicholson (of The Boxer Rebellion) is doing so much great writing in the dance space I’m listening to tons of killer dance records these days! Fink continues to introduce me to new trendy-as-b*lls bands via his KCRW Berlin show. PJ Harvey shares with me the works of supremely talented modern film/TV composers, and Katie Melua continues to educate me on stone-cold classic records that somehow passed me by as I travelled from pillar to post as a child. I’m also loving NZ’s Benee who I just can’t get enough of – her music is awesome – and, closer to home, Liverpool’s Red Rum Club and their latest track Kid’s Addicted.
Read more about ATC Management here.