Manager Spotlight: Nina Sebastiane

21 March 2024

The manager spotlight offers a small insight into the heads of incredible managers.⁠ This week in the spotlight is Nina Sebastiane!

How long have you worked in Management?

I stepped back into artist management in 2019, so this particular tour of duty has been 5 years. Back in the early 90’s I managed producers and engineers as a side hustle whilst working at Sony and Polygram and loved it, but other opportunities presented themselves, so I took a sabbatical from the music industry and ended up in TV for 10 years… So in total around 8 years managing music based talent. I think I’ve got at least another 10 years still to go (for good behaviour..).

Who do you manage now?

I manage Lizzie Esau and Steve Grainger. The best thing about managing both these incredible people is that I didn’t even intend to go back into management! But when you connect with such raging talent it sort of stops you in your tracks.

Where did you find your first client and what inspired you to take them on?

In 2019 I sold my 3 businesses and planned a 6 month break to rebuild my brain… The only plan during this time was to paint some second hand furniture and potter in my garden (after 10 intense years of being at the helm, I was fantasising about odd things like jet washing my patio… Sad as it sounds it was extremely therapeutic, would recommend..

Then the phone rang, it was a dear old friend whose daughter was writing song demos and he was hoping some of my old industry contacts might still be valid. I laughed and said I hadn’t even thought about the music business in years, but agreed to listen to some music. The songs were early demos but they piqued my interest and that was the beginning of managing Lizzie.

Some months later Covid struck and we realised that there was no way Lizzie could connect in person with anyone to produce her music… I began guest lecturing with Nottingham Trent University on their Music Production Degree and got a copy of the year 3 students end of year showreel. One song jumped out at me as being cool, original and brilliantly put together – Daft Punk meets Justice. I immediately reached out to find out who the composer/producer was. That was Steve Grainger. I connected Lizzie and Steve virtually and they have been making some absolutely mind-blowingly good music ever since.

What does a good/bad day at work look like for you?

Ha! A good day is when you feel something sticks.. It could be a call from a radio producer telling you they have just found their new favourite original artist (your act) or that you’ve just been offered a fab synchronisation deal for a major Amazon Prime series… A bad day is when you feel you’re wading through treacle and nobody returns your messages and you get a little deflated… But that passes quickly. I’m like a junkie, waiting for my next hit of success – that might be a great review or a radio play or just a message from one of the team saying how much they appreciate what we are managing to achieve together.

What has been the highlight of your management career to date?

Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with some incredible artists, see some beautiful music being created and then released into the world. Being part of the journey for artists like Jamiroquai, All Saints, E17 and Pearl Jam whilst working for major labels was a huge privilege. As a manager however I suppose it’s the little things that you don’t even know at the time are going to be big things… Back in the mid 90’s, I began to manage a young studio engineer called Adrian Bushby, he was just beginning to look for freelance work and I got him his first ever freelance gigs. One gig was with a young girl band who were already being fought over by the major labels. The band ended up becoming The Spice Girls and Adrian went on to engineer and mix some of the most iconic artists of the past 20 years including Placebo, New Order, Foo Fighters and Muse. So I guess the moral of this story is that being the seed germinator for something – even when you don’t realise it at the time is a highlight for me.

What do you think are the big challenges for a manager in 2024?

Oh Godddd! Where do I start. OK how about the fact that we are not investing anywhere near enough into new music, OR new music venues. That our streaming infrastructure is a non starter for around 95% of all music makers. We need to carefully consider how we can make the industry more equitable for new artists who don’t have deep pockets, otherwise we are going to lose so so much, and we won’t even know about it. How can we charge £180 for a Taylor Swift ticket yet we are losing dozens of smaller gig venues to bankruptcy and dilapidation.

Why would you recommend the MMF?

Being a manager can be a lonely business. You’re not the artist and you’re not the label or the publisher or the distributor with a team of bods in the room. A lot of the time you are generating the leads and driving the project forward from your laptop in a room by yourself. That’s OK and I love being the playmaker and the facilitator of ideas and projects. But having the MMF is like having a team that is there just for you and your best interests. I love the socials and sometimes berate myself for not doing more of them (#New Years resolution 2024). When the email lands in my inbox, I make a point of stopping and checking out what’s going on in the world of managers – it’s good to know there are things out there for me to plug into.

What music are you currently listening to?

Lizzie has a new single out on 3rd April and it’s probably the most epic thing she has ever put out. I can’t stop listening to that atm – I really could not imagine working with artists that don’t make me want to shout out loud with excitement when I get new music land in my inbox. Both Steve and Lizzie achieve this regularly so I’m feeling pretty blessed.

Steve has been working on some really promising new artists including a band from the North East called The Ilfords and a London based artist who goes by the name Seun. As part of my job, I probably listen to around 4-5 hours of new music a week… Presently I’m playing Air Moon Safari a lot as I’m going to see them play at The Coliseum this weekend and that album is 25 years old this year… Cannot quite believe it.

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