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Best Advice I Ever Got: Jesse Kirshbaum

The CEO of New Universal Entertainment Agency takes his cues from the industry greats, including Beverly Jackson and Marc Geiger.

Courtesy Company

As the CEO and founder of a music agency, my work time is split between servicing clients, building out agency properties, and scouring the world for the next great illuminator in music. With the digital revolution making music more ubiquitous than ever, it's a very exciting time to be in this business.

But when I first moved back to New York from Los Angeles and started New Universal Entertainment Agency, I had only one client--someone a friend had asked me to help out with. The artist was named Mims, and he had a single that was heating up. The song, "This Is Why I'm Hot" ended up going to No. 1, and before I knew it, the agency was off and running.

I love being close to the entrepreneurs and technology disrupters; it's the reason I initially started SoundCtrl. Learning from others helps me stay on top of trends, but more importantly, it helps me connect our clients, too.

To that end, here are the three pieces of advice that have meant the most to me throughout this journey:

1. It takes a village to raise a child.

I heard this when listening to my good friend Beverly Jackson do a speech at Social Media Week right after the Grammys last year. The Grammys had just been ranked the #1 most socially impactful event in the history of the medium. But she explained that it's never just one person makes this happen, and it really resonated with me.

No matter what work you do, it's never a one-person job. In our industry, no company or artist can break without support of the music ecosystem. Blogs. Press. Other artists. Entrepreneurs. Technology. It takes numerous hands on deck to develop talent, break and sustain their growth in this environment. It really is a team effort to raise a succesful brand in the music business these days--and in every other industry, too.

2. Add value, today, tomorrow, and always.

At a Pollstar conference, I heard legendary music agent Marc Geiger speak to a group of college kids and emphasize this particular piece of wisdom. He is not only the head of WME, but is also the founder of Lollapalooza, and regarded as one of the most knowledgeable music executives in the tech sector today.

Every waking and non-waking minute I want to be adding value to my clients' careers and overall lives. As long as I'm in the privileged position of representing other people's talent, I know that I need to be constantly thinking about how can I add value today. Then I try to apply that to everything I do in every aspect of life. Even when I go for a meeting or drinks with a new prospective partner, I'm always thinking about adding value to their situation and creating a winning proposition.

Adding value not only feels great, it keeps you in everyone's good graces.

3. Don't chase the paper, chase the dream.

This came from the movie "Notorious," from the scene in which Puff Daddy explains this to his newest protege, Biggie Smalls. Hearing this oft-repeated phrase helped me to realize, look, I work in a very fun and creative world. All day long I talk about, listen to and create opportunities for musicians. I enjoy eating drinking and sleeping this. I love what I do and the people I do it with.

But as an entrepreneur in any industry, you can't let money be the motivator. Sometimes I need to convince my clients that short money isn't the move. Stay focused on the long-term brand benefits instead, I tell them. Let's take less up-front and make this a better experience for the fans.

Money should be the byproduct of doing good work. Sure, I'm focused on doing the best deals possible for my clients, but that's not my passion--my passion is doing consistent and awe-inspiring work for them. Otherwise, where would I be today?

Jesse Kirshbaum is the CEO at New Universal Entertainment Agency. His agency specializes in procuring talent for concerts, tours and endorsement deals for his various clients all over the world. @JesseKay 

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