Industry Idols – Mark Newbanks

Wednesday 17th November 2010

This week we have interviewed Mark Newbanks, the founder and director of the artist management company Fidelio Arts.

What are the first, most important steps a young artist needs to take when they embark on their career as a performer?

For a young performer, finding the balance between independence (family, financial) and their career aspiration holds significant challenges and trade-offs. Finding the correct, measured balance for each individual, I believe, is tantamount to their long term success.

What was your first job in the music industry?

My first professional experiences were under Edna Landau at IMG artists in New York during the hay-day of big management.  I always say she taught me everything I know about management, including how to spell. Of course, that is if my string quartet in junior high doesn’t count.  I was paid as a cellist and took my cut as a manager, too, and we played just about every birthday, wedding and funeral in town.

What skills do you think are needed to succeed in the music industry?

The answer depends upon your definition of success – but if i quantify what I respect in colleagues, my definition would include humility, sincerity and unwavering respect for the performing artist.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt during your career?

The fragility of our art form.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Although I enjoy the concert experience, I am happiest in a rehearsal watching the process. I love processes – whether it’s how a conductor puts together a symphonic movement with an orchestra, or indeed how a promoter designs their season or festival – and then hearing first hand why they’ve done it in that way. That’s only possible in our role in this business – very few other jobs give you this eagle eye perspective.

On a typical working day, what’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?

The term ‘office’ is a misnomer in my life – my office is at my kitchen table on my MacBook, in a window seat on an airplane or at a tiny hotel room on wifi. Having worked so many years in an office environment with some terrific colleagues, I will wouldn’t trade this level of independence.

Do you think there is anything in the classical music industry that needs to be changed? If yes, why?

Speaking about the artist management business specifically, I’d say that we need to be much more agile and creative if we’re to remain viable. The internet allows many promoters to see an artist before they are booked, and then eventually to communicate and negotiate with them directly with very little trouble. Our value added needs constant updating.

Media rights are a perfect example. Twenty years ago, the artist actually owned the rights to their artistic product – and then even with such promoters as the BBC or German radio organizations. Over the past 20 years, however, managers have gradually signed-away these rights with little or no additional compensation. That’s not fair to the artist, and it has cost artists and managements a lot of income as the monetization of media has taken on so many new forms. It’s an area where I’m keen to regain lost ground for my clients.

I’m extremely optimistic about our business, though, as the greatest of creativity throughout history has been spawned by economic hardship. We do need to re-think the way big management companies look after their artists, though. They tend, I believe, to only wax their corporate interests and financial egos – we see this, as an example, with the combination of recording and management companies, which I believe doesn’t keep the interest of the artist at the core. I find that a dangerous prospect for the career of the artist.

Are there any young musicians, emerging venues, exciting companies, composers… etc that you are keeping your eye on?

I rely a lot on my own ears, but also clients’ feedback for this – both the conductors for whom I work as well as the promoters with whom I telephone on a daily basis. We have so many ways to communicate and receive our information today, but nothing beats the old fashioned one-on-one, going and do it yourself…

Where do you read about classical music?

Online. Almost exclusively

Where is your favourite place in the world for classical music?

There is nothing like the live experience – and I’ve heard some of the most inspired and exciting concerts in the most unlikely of places, like Barquisimeto/Venezuela, Gothenburg/Sweden, and Valladolid/Spain. One doesn’t have to travel far though – because I live in a tiny shoebox near the Barbican in London, I treat it a little like my living room and probably hear more concerts there than anywhere else!