THIS FICTION MANAGEMENT
Photography by Isaac Rosenthal
Seth Kallen in conversation with Michelle Sullivan
We are a music company with heart. We do our job with passion, creativity, patience, organization, intention, enthusiasm, integrity, courtesy, and a positive, friendly attitude. What’s most important above all else is our relationship with our artists. At our core, what makes us special is our unique place within the artists' lives – we are friends, there is trust and we are the backbone of their entire operation and career. The goal with building This Fiction is to create a seamless team, where information is flowing, no idea is a bad idea and we are pushing ourselves daily to achieve greatness. Beyond just managing the release of music and the band's touring career, we're also constantly trying to create new businesses for our artists - such as X Ambassadors' Cayuga Sound Festival in Ithaca. And most importantly, at our core – we work for the artists, they do not work for us. Our role as a manager is to guide our artists’ careers and be a part of them achieving their goals.
We've taken cues from the Shep Gordon school of thought – compassion is key. For our artists and their stresses, for the employees at This Fiction and for the people we work with on a daily basis. If we're compassionate every day, we believe we can understand all sides of every problem and solve things in a way where no one gets hurt. And on top of everything, we want to always be having fun. What's the point of working in the music business if we aren't all enjoying ourselves?
IN CONVERSATION witH Seth Kallen
How would you describe the culture?
Laid back and open.
How does this impact on the choices you make in growing the business and the team?
Personality is important to me, and as we grow I want to make sure we have the right attitude and enthusiasm in the people we work with and hire. Honestly, anyone can be a manager. If you hustle, love music, and ask the right questions you can learn to become a great manager – but each management operation has different core values and personality types, so moving into the future I'm going to really want to get to know people, their dreams, their goals and their fears before bringing them into the fold.
What challenges do you face on a regular basis?
We're constantly handling the stress of our artists fear – fear that no one will like their new music, fear that their music might never come out, fear that tickets to their show won't sell, and more. Since we do things with compassion, it can be a challenge because I personally tend to internalize those fears of my artists and take that stress onto myself. We really care about each and every band, so their stress becomes our stress.
What sort of approach helps to deliver on solutions?
I try to talk things through with mentors of mine, or my team. If I hear my thoughts out loud, I can sometimes see where I'm being an idiot. Or conversely, the answer is right in front of me.
Looking into the future, what excites you about This Fiction’s potential?
We still feel like a baby company to me, so I'm excited to see how the team grows and who we bring in over the next few years. I'm also particularly excited about the new business we are building – from starting a publishing company, to launching a music festival, and also consulting some music startups – the options are limitless. We just love working with creative people and helping them achieve their potential, so much like many other management companies you'll start to see us venturing into different areas of the business that ultimately help our artists at the same time.
What sort of person thrives at This Fiction?
Someone who doesn't take themselves too seriously.
Can you please talk about professional development at This Fiction?
I take developing my staff very seriously – that's why my team each has an artist they they signed and manage directly. It's one thing to just be a "day to day" and handle all of the little things that the "manager" doesn't want to do. It's another thing to speak to an artist every day, and ride the wave of ups and downs with them. That's where my team learns the most, and if they do that with an artist they work with directly, those skills can be applied to the rest of the roster and the rest of the projects we are working on. I really try my best to answer questions, while also challenging my team with questions for them to think through and answer on their own.
Let's talk about hospitality. I know that it's a very passionate interest of yours...
Ever since moving to New York, and especially once I started my own business, I've really admired Danny Meyer and all of his work with the Union Square Hospitality group. His book, Setting the Table, is required reading for a class I'm teaching at SUNY Purchase, and it's become required reading for working at This Fiction! The way Danny deals with customers and colleagues, with an attention to detail and true hospitality, is something any business can learn from. I'd love to find a way to collaborate with him and his team.
MEET THE TEAM
Sara Sopher, Adam Samuels and Seth Kallen
Photography by Isaac Rosenthal