Welcome to Magnetic’s Industry Focus, a series where we highlight the major players working behind the scenes of the EDM biz. These are the folks running the record labels, representing the artists, promoting the shows and just getting it done. They may not get the shine of the DJs on stage, but they work just as hard making sure the parties are packed, the music is perfect and that the artists are where they need to be. We’ve decided to shine the light on the behind the scenes movers and shakers.
Meet Toby Benson, EVP at Complete Control Management / Control Music Group. He is the manager of Bingo Players, Dada Life, Henry Fong, Le Youth and Tritonal.
How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
For me, it all started when I heard The Prodigy’s “Wind It Up” for the first time. I was about 9 years old, and that was it, I was completely hooked! I just listened to that record over and over trying to understand how it could sound that way.
From that point on it’s been about submerging myself in this music and it’s business. Of course initially it wasn’t my profession, but I went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. There I started throwing parties, had my own little label, started managing some friends and other acts. I then got an internship with Columbia Records in New York which was a very educative experience about where the business was at on the recorded side, and lead me to focus on working directly with artists in a management setting.
What is the best part of the business?
Getting to spend all day doing something you’re passionate about with inspiring artists and luckily, also being able to make a living from it. One of the things I’ll never get tired of, and is always a source of inspiration, is watching all kinds of people come together at a show and connect via the music… that unified energy is truly addictive and puts a lot of things in perspective for me. Plus it’s a small business and you’ll probably be able to work with your friends sooner or later.
What are the biggest challenges?
Making sure you to say “no” to enough things. I know that might sound odd but it’s true… If an act is successful, there’s lots of opportunities that will come a manager’s way and the biggest challenge comes from knowing which one to say yes to and be ok with turning almost all of them down.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
First, you have to love music deep down… because you’ll have to be willing to sacrifice a lot if you really want it. If you’re still up for it, then learn everything possible. Think of yourself as a start-up rather than a job seeker, as the opportunities are all around you in music and entertainment… learn Ableton, Photoshop, makes of stage lights, corporate structuring, music theory… it’ll all come in handy. And finally, don’t chase the money. It probably won’t be there when you start off and it’ll draw you away from taking the important risks needed to have long-term success.
What does electronic music mean to you?
It’s the music of our generation. We’ve utilized the technologies available to us to create a new collective art form. It’s a collaborative music by nature, both from the artist side but also from the fan side and that’s its strongest and most unique quality.
What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?
I feel that over the past few years, LA has rapidly becoming the hub for the entire music business but heavily for dance music. I’m also putting a lot of focus on India right now. It’s obviously a large country and has a healthy dance music scene already, but it’s about to go into the next phase of growth. Aside from population, it’s the second largest country in terms of mobile phone ownership. And as faster network speed arrive, streaming services like YouTube will open up a whole population (1.2 billion and counting) to music that they typically haven’t had access and exposure to.
If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?
To be honest it’s something I’ve never really put any energy into thinking about. But I’d probably be running my own guerilla creative agency, doing some bizarre activations for brands around the world and probably getting arrested in the process… or selling Monte Castello olive oil with my father.
Check out Complete Control Management