Manager Spotlight: Willem Lord

15 February 2024

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

How long have you worked in Management?

5 years.

Who do you manage now?

ayrtn, Downtown Kayoto, Drew., GEE LEE, Jack Marlow, Jaish, Omar+

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

My first client actually came to me. My company Phantom used to be called Lockoff and we used to run events. Downtown Kayoto sent me a very well written press release for his new track about 5 years ago, I took a listen and thought, okay this guy sounds like Frank Ocean, and the rest is history. 2024 is going to be his year, the unreleased music is immense.

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

To be honest every day as a manager has good and bad moments as your dealing with so many different things in so many sectors. Of course live show days trump all though. Nothing like seeing your artist destroy a set and the crowd being under their spell. A bad day probably just looks like a shoot day in the rain but even that’s rewarding, or when people are long and inefficient to reply to emails.

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

Ooooooh that’s tough. That’s like choosing between children man, each artist has had such amazing moments. ayrtn’s sold out UK tour, the success GEE LEE’s had with his track “Coke & Rum”, Downtown Kayoto’s “Lite” music video blowing up, Drew’s debut headline show with no music released, the Phantom Paris show with GEE LEE, Jack Marlow and Omar+, and lastly the success of Jaish and Jack Marlow’s track East Side (it’s class when a track is created totally by roster artists and performs so well). Those stand out to name just a few.

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

If your artists are signed to Universal, Tiktok! No but seriously probably cutting through the noise and not stooping to fast wins. You can get a sound moving on platforms and get a song streaming as a result, and it’s easy to get caught up in that. Before you know it you’ve done no artist development and no one cares about the artist behind those sounds, because you’ve been just shooting for viral moments rather than world-building and cultivating an authentic fanbase which isn’t reliant on the elusive “algorithm”. The amount of artists I see blowing up on reels that think they’re the guy because they get loads of Insta followers overnight, but then you go on their Spotify and their streams are so weak in comparison. That’s shooting yourself in the foot and a small fraction of your audience is going to care about your future releases. It’s all about balance.

Why would you recommend the MMF?

I was taken onto the MMF’s Accelerator Programme for 2023 and it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me in music. It gave me the tools and support I needed to navigate and steer the fast growth I saw last year. Aside from that they have loads of great events and an amazing network, and are a one of a kind organisation.

What did you gain from the Accelerator Programme?

Knowledge of the nitty gritty of the management business side of things such as accountancy, law, insurance and more which I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

Manager friends! Before, I was quite isolated as a manager, operating from my own corner of the industry and I didn’t realise how important it was to connect with other managers on both a professional and social level. It definitely opened my eyes to that.

Big up Paul and everyone else involved.

What music are you currently listening to?

Corny, but I rinse my artist’s unreleased demos. Because in my opinion they make some of the best music in the country. Aside from that to name some artists that come to mind in no particular order: Kamal, Ne-Yo (old Ne-Yo is elite), J Cole, Tems, Jorja Smith, Skepta, Meekz, hear me out but P!NK’s M!ssundaztood album bangs, Unknown T, Namani, Frank Ocean, Fimiguerrero, Overmono, Cench, Dave, Tendai and a load of dance tracks but that tends to be individual tracks rather than discographies.

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