1. Since we're sure you've been fabulous since the beginning, let's go there for the who, what, where and why of Craig - the early years. Details, details, details…
Craig Roseberry: Well, I was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey for a start but spent most of my formative years in NYC - hanging out in clubs and art galleries. I was one of those "interesting" kids who was labeled an "outsider" because I was into art, literature, music and club/underground subculture. I went through an intense punk/new wave/gothic period after I was a "b-boy." Artists like Prince, Grace Jones, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Yoko Ono, Cocteau Twins and Marianne Faithful (among many others) were my heroes. So, I definitely fit more in the NYC environment. Clubs like Danceteria, The [Paradise] Garage, Choice, The Pyramid and Area were massively influential in my life AND pivotal in shaping my decidedly diverse musical/artistic future ambitions.
2. What were some of your early work experiences and how have they prepared you for what you are doing now? By the way, what are you doing now?
CR: Initially, I never thought that being involved with music on any level was a remote possibility for me (although it was a secret passion). I pursued academia - going to NYU and getting a Masters in Psychology and Fine Art (graduating in 1992). However, during that time I worked as a club promoter (from 1989-1994) doing alternative parties in the City at places like The Pyramid, The Bank, The Building, etc. I had 3 main long-lasting parties - Purgatory, Damnation and Troublemaker. At the time, I was known as "Craig Curiosity" (I know, I can't take it either!).
I was one of a troupe of crazy "art-school" minded club kids that fused alternative/goth/industrial music with conceptual performances and underground films inspired by seminal 'downtown' left-field pioneers that created what became the art gallery/fashion scene in the late 60's to the 80's (everyone from Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Keith Haring, Steven Sprouse, Dean Johnson, etc.). Our parties were reminiscent of classic clubs like Max's Kansas City, Boy Bar, Area and Wraith (in London). Anyway…I booked all of our live acts and worked with many record labels.
One day, I was approached by a rep from BMG and she hooked me up with a job at RCA, working in the marketing department. I worked there for two years, between their alternative, urban and dance departments, working with artists like Dave Matthews Band, Wu Tang Clan, Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Omar, Martha Wash, SWV and Roy Ayers.
After that, I worked at Warner Bros. in their Archive reissue department. Then I was the label manager for indie C&S Records doing everything possible from A&R, marketing, advertising and publicity to compiling compilations. After being a slave for five years, I decided to go it alone. I started my company - Shifty Entertainment - in April 1999. I had no idea what the company would become. I started working as a freelance journalist writing for BPM Culture, Fix, Thousand Words and Flyer. A year later, I joined Billboard as a freelance writer and the company evolved into a management company with two artists - Lydia Rhodes and Chris Brann. And the rest is history…
3. When should an artist hire a manager and what are some of the basics of doing the job? (What should the artist be getting and what should the manager expect from the artist; long or short form but entirely informational…)
CR: I think it's a very personal decision. An artist should hire management as soon as they feel that their career is starting to accelerate AND when the lines between being an artist and handling all of the business of being an artist get blurred and become too overwhelming. In terms of managerial responsibilities/duties, I think that a good manager has to be someone that you trust and like personally. That person has to be someone that an artist can confide in, who also has a strong understanding of the artist's music, direction and future. In terms of myself, I not only look at what my artists are doing now, I'm also looking at the long-term - how they can evolve musically and personally - in a way that's fulfilling and positive for them. You have to be willing to learn, compromise and grow while ALWAYS being 100% in support of your artist.
In some ways, a manager is a friend, therapist, mediator and adviser. It is crucial that you understand the business of what you're involved with - arming yourself with a good team (lawyer/accountant/partners). You have to have a strong understanding and intricate knowledge of the "machine" - all of the elements or mechanics that truly create a record - which include: labels, contracts, publishing, touring/technical riders, publicity, marketing, promotion, etc. You have to be well-informed in many areas in order to best assist the artist you represent because this is not just their job, this is their life's work. You really have to be prudent and forceful without being ridiculous.
The strength of your knowledge and diplomatic relationships with people in the business is crucial; it's like a game of strategy, wit and perseverance. You also have to be honest and demanding. In order to really help someone, you have to be able to be critical and honest - that's how people grow and evolve. I encourage my artists to experiment and challenge themselves - to look outside of the box and aim high because I do the same.
4. What's the hardest/best part of your job? What's a typical day like?
CR: The hardest part is juggling all of the responsibilities, especially when you have multiple artists doing many things. At the moment, my partner Dominic Brando and I have 7 clients plus we both DJ and I still write for Billboard and BPM Culture. Trying to balance all of this can be tricky because you have to give so many people you're FULL attention and that's tough. You have to focus and be willing to sacrifice a lot of your own time without getting completely lost in your work. I think it comes down to your own level of determination, commitment and perseverance. If you have a vision or goal, you have to have passion, followed by hard work and faith, to achieve it.
If you want something bad enough AND if you want to have longevity, you have to sacrifice and DO the work. When things get too overwhelming (because I am a workaholic and a perfectionist), I have to take a break and breathe. During those times, I try to meditate and pray or spend time with the people I love. You have to live life and not just be consumed by work. Ultimately, I strive for balance and SLEEP - set some limitations for yourself in order to handle it all without burning out.
5. From your inside view, what do you make of the current industry climate? Is there hope for the future?
CR: I think that the current climate in the industry reflects all of the uncertainty and instability in the world as a whole. Economically speaking, it's tough as hell. You really have to diversify and ride the storm in order to survive. In a way, I think this will force labels and artists (underground and mainstream) to be more creative. Things are definitely a bit bleak - it's tough to tour, sign material, receive decent advances (or get fair deals)… remix work is becoming scarce unless you're an established named artist, fees are lower.
I look at all of this as change and adjustment. The people who are really dedicated, talented, resourceful and cunning will weather the storm. There is hope for the future but things will be different and we all have to adapt to those changes. Art always imitates life and this is no exception. The only real challenge I see in the industry is how to effectively deal with the proliferation of free internet downloadable music sites. It's a dilemma that's not the easiest to monitor or police on a global scale so that it's fair for the artists, labels and customers. I think that we all want people to have access to the music BUT no one wants to go bankrupt because of it.
Bonus! Why so Shifty with the naming of your entertainment company?
CR: When I was trying to decide what to call my company, I came up with a lot of ideas but eventually settled on Shifty. I know it was an odd choice but "shifty" was always one of my favorite words. When I was living in London (and going to college) that was one of the words in their vernacular that always appealed to me. Of course it has a negative connotation - meaning deceitful and dodgy - but I LOVE that play on words. It's sort of mysterious and intriguing and it's NOT a common word here in the States, so I felt that it would be ideal to use. Plus, it stands out and leaves a strong impression.
Underground mini-mogul, Craig Roseberry is a sought after manager who counts Yoko Ono, Chris Brann and Morell among his powerhouse clients. He is also a regular chronicler of the culture whose words grace liner notes, Billboard magazine pages and other publications. You can also find him guesting around the world at only the hottest clubs, local parties or wherever there are some decks to spin a unique mix of music designed especially for his diverse audiences. Or you can even watch him take over the stage as part of dance collective Ananda Project. For these 5Qs we pried loose some of his secrets on navigating this shifty business, staying one step ahead and what happens when a reformed punk/new wave/goth kid grows up and finds their calling.