What is your job, and how long have you been doing it?
I am co-manager of the group dc Talk and one of the partners in True Artist Management. I have been doing this since June of 1992.
What role does your job play in the music industry?
A manager represents artists on several levels, into different areas their career might take them. For us, there's mainly the touring industry, the making of records, and the selling of records. We represent dc Talk to the record companies they are contracted to. We help facilitate the making of albums, discuss what producers to hire, what musicians to hire, where to record, what songs to record, etc. We represent them to the booking agent who plans specific tours and also in the hiring of tour personnel, such as musicians and technical staff—lighting director, sound engineers, production manager, and so forth. Of course, there's also the legal world—we interact with lawyers.
Also scheduling. There are so many demands for artists to do different things. It's our job to help them determine priorities and help them keep their personal lives somewhat normal.
If you achieve any kind of success, there's going to be more things to do than your artists have time to do. I believe you have to put the personal above the business—even if that means working yourself out of a job. What's best for them personally always has to take precedent. In the long run, if it's bad for them personally, it's going to be bad for them business-wise—you just may be delaying that.
Are you/were you ever a musician?
No, to me that's just a fun distraction from my role as manager. I love music and songwriting, but it's just a personal outlet that doesn’t even factor into my part in the organization. It just so happened that I was privileged to have input into a few of the band's songs.
What subjects did you study in school that help you to this day in your career?
I was a business administration and accounting major. One of the reasons I went that direction is that I did not know what field I wanted to go into. There's a business component to almost any profession you enter. Even if you're working for a non-profit ministry, you have to develop resources to run your business. So business classes prepared me for at least a part of my job. We have to run dc Talk, Inc., as a business, which means hiring people, paying bills. The same thing with our management company. Within those majors, you have marketing classes. For me, those come into play working with the record company in selling our records.
Do you meet many famous musicians? Do you ever feel nervous or intimidated by them?
I do have the opportunity to meet a lot of celebrities from various fields, mostly entertainment. I wouldn’t say I feel nervous or intimidated because the whole atmosphere surrounding celebrities is often very surreal. These are people that you're used to seeing on film or TV or hearing on your CD player, and there you are, in the same room with them. It's just a different context.
I don't generally meet famous people by chance; it's usually that we’ve been invited to the same event or they have personally approached my group. Even in those situations, I try not to monopolize their time because I know everybody wants a piece of them. So unless I have a purpose to speak to them, I tend to avoid those kinds of things.
Did you follow a specific career path to get where you are today (e.g., internships, college degrees)?
Not at all. It's kind of funny to me that this is what I do. My father is a congressman and my career path, in my mind, was first to enter the business world and eventually, go into politics. So I had no inclination to enter the music business. But I really believe God led me this way. I got a phone call out of nowhere from dc Talk and they asked me to come to Nashville and work with them at a time when their career was just beginning to take off. After a lot of prayer and family counsel, I felt I should take that step.
Do you have a current project or album you are working on at the moment?
Within the dc Talk world, we've got a Greatest Hits album coming out in November that will have two new songs on it, and possibly some other unreleased material. Michael Tait is working on a solo record, as is Kevin Max. I think Tait's album is furthest along, but you can probably look for both those records in the spring. Toby McKeehan has also worked on various album projects, in addition to getting more involved with Gotee Records, the label in which he is a partner.
I actually enjoy when the guys are busy in the studio because it frees me up to devote time to the ERACE Foundation, which we started with Joey Elwood of Gotee. We're working a lot in the area of racial reconciliation. We have a film project that looks at the sin of slavery and what reconciliation looks like in today's society.
What roles and responsibilities do you see the music industry having in society?
I think it has a vital role. I believe musicians have a tremendous opportunity and obligation to influence culture and challenge what people think. On the down side, music can be poisonous; it can feed hate and it can feed anger and do damage to the heart and mind. So there's a great responsibility for artists to be aware of their effect on the kids that are listening to them.
If you could choose a different career outside of the music industry, what would you do?
I would love to be a filmmaker—probably a producer. Films are great at telling stories and motion picture storytelling is also another way of influencing culture. I have a real passion and love for films and hope to do more in the future.
In reality, with filmmaking, you can enter the world of politics, because nearly every film makes a political statement. I do have a love for politics—it's a very important part of our society. So I don't know about elective office, but I might venture into the political arena through films.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career like yours?
Follow your heart and your passion. In high school and college, I played sports, so on an academic level, music was secondary. But I've always had a passion for music since I was young. Looking back, I wish I had directed more of my education toward music.
If you're looking to be involved in the business side of the industry, a business degree is obviously great to have. But in any field, it will help you. There are some colleges that have music business and music industry degrees. But I think the more diversity you have, the better.
No matter what field you go into, the most important thing to develop is your character. The essential qualities are a hard work ethic, integrity and honesty. Those things will help you succeed in whatever you do.