Firstly, can you introduce yourself a bit and tell us what it is that you do?
My name is Zach Katz. I am a music manager and CEO of Beluga Heights, a record label and publishing company I have with my partners Jonathan “J.R” Rotem, the producer, and his brother Tommy Rotem, who is our A&R.
My background started about 12 years ago, when I became a music attorney. This was around 1996 or so. I did that for about 3-4 years. I liked it, but never really found it to be my passion. I always wanted to be more creative.
I had an opportunity to get in on the management side, which is really what I always wanted to do. I did that for about 5-6 years; I managed a lot of artists and producers, and through that I met J.R, and he became my only client.
Going from an attorney to a manager seems like a bit of an odd jump; how did that happen?
It’s funny that you say that. I guess from the outside, I can see why it seems like an odd jump, but I gotta tell you, most of the people I went to law school with – no one really wanted to practice law.
Maybe it was just my particular group, but a lot of people had intentions of getting into the music business and the film business; and a lot of the people I went to school with, did so successfully. Not just in the attorney capacity, but also working in record labels, in a creative capacity, as well as in a creative capacity in the TV and film business.
For me, I’ve always been a creative person. I always knew that law school, and being a lawyer, would be a stepping-stone – and that’s what it turned out to be.
Who are you currently representing now?
I work with and represent one client, and one client only – and that’s producer, Jonathan “J.R” Rotem.
He’s definitely one of the biggest producers of the time; he was BMI Producer of the Year last year; a title he shared with Kanye West and T-Pain.
J.R as a producer keeps me very busy. He works with everybody from Leona Lewis to Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Rick Ross and Britney Spears.
Plus, we have our record label, where we have our 5 recording artists signed, and that takes up a lot of our time as well. One of our artists is Sean Kingston, who we had a lot of success with last year. We have 4 other new artists signed right now, all developing artists who we’re working on.
On top of that, we have a music publishing company, where we sign songwriters. So the entire operation is based around our business, and based around J.R as a producer.
Ten years ago, everybody you spoke to said they were a rapper. Now, everybody you speak to says they’re a manager, or they want to be a manager. What makes a successful manager?
To me, what I think makes somebody a good manager and what makes somebody successful in the music business – actually successful in life all together – is having a good focus, being determined, being willing to sacrifice, and having good people skills; meaning knowing how to network and have people want to do business with you.
Also, knowing who your client is – knowing what your client’s potential is and how to bring out your client’s potential.
And lastly, but far from being least, it’s about coming from a good place, and working with good intentions. Just being a person who gives just as much as he takes.
It’s very easy to get into the mentality of everything being “me, me me” and always thinking “what’s in it for me?”, but realistically, what makes the world go round is asking “how can I help?”
I think a combination of those things is what makes somebody successful.
When someone is first trying to get into the business, the main advice they hear is to intern or just hang around others in the business and learn. However managing producers is one of those jobs that’s really not discussed or taught anywhere. How can somebody get into that?
First and foremost, get clients that are truly talented, that are truly determined, that are truly hard working and that want to go all the way to the top.
When you’re a manager, it’s not a salary job; you get a piece of the income that you bring to the table for the client. So you gotta pick very carefully who you put your time and energy into.
At the end of the day, if a person has self-limitations, or the person is not as creative or as hard working, you’re putting your time and energy into the wrong person.
With that said, you have to find somebody who’s very competitive. It’s more competitive than ever right now. There’s access for pretty much anybody to make tracks and produce at home. It’s really opened up the floodgates; it’s very competitive right now.
The most important criteria though, is finding someone who really knows how to make hot music; music that’s just undeniable.
At the end of the day, as many producers as there are out there, as many songwriters as there are out there; there’s always room for more that are just unbelievably talented, and who know how to make music that the masses love.
As much as I, or any of my associates may have our hands full with great clients, I think everybody’s pretty much always open and looking for new talent that’s undeniable.
So if you’re a new manager, make your life easier by finding somebody who truly has the goods; or somebody who nearly has them and you feel like you can bring them to that point. That’s number one.
Number two, continuing on the creative side, 5 years ago, we were all still selling tracks. People wanted tracks. Today, people don’t want tracks; they want records.
And the difference between them is that a track is an instrumental. People don’t want instrumentals right now. It’s a singles-driven market; it’s not an album-driven market.
People don’t want to buy a track and hope that they can find the right writer who is going to write the right record to it.
If you can deliver them a hot track, that either has a great hook for a rapper, or a great full song for a Pop or R&B singer, then you’re in business.
So for all upcoming managers, I’d be looking for producers who also are songwriters, or who have songwriters nearby who they can collaborate with, to make records that you can shop, rather than for you to just have tracks.
That’s number two.
Number three, once you have a hot record, then it’s about pounding the pavement; it’s about networking, it’s about hitting up guys like me and bombarding people to let them know you have something amazing.
If you approach people in the right way – if you send them an email that comes from a place of humility, but at the same time focused, and they can tell that you respect their time; just tell them you manage somebody and ask if you can send them a record – they will actually listen to your record.
If somebody hits me up and says “Hey, I manage this producer, he’s also a songwriter. We don’t have just tracks, we have full songs or tracks with hooks. Could I send you one or two?” the answer is always going to be yes.
And that’s the way you get in.
But let me say this; if somebody gives you a thumbs up to send them something, it better be amazing!
A lot of people will bombard you to send you something, and then they’ll send you a folder of 20 tracks. I don’t want 20 tracks. Give me your best record.
You have one or two opportunities to catch my attention; send me your best record. So, it’s all about approaching the right people in the right way, with the right records.
When you’re a manager, it’s about being out there networking. All these record labels, not only do they have the A&Rs picking records, they have lower level A&Rs, they have assistants who are hungry, who want to strive; who want to make their mark in the building. There’s management companies, which have lower lever people whose hands you can you can put your producers music into, if you’re just starting out.
There’s enough access right now, and enough people who will listen, but you have to hit them with something that’s going to stand out.