Before the creation of NGHTMRE and SLANDER‘s empire — GUD VIBRATIONS, in 2016, Concord Music Hall hosted them for a two-night run with direct support from Habstrakt and 1,490 screaming fans. Okay, so hear me out; everything in life comes full circle. At the time, these headliners were the talk of the town, and me being me, living by the mantra, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Prodigy Artists politely declined my request to cover this event. I was a new music journalist which meant I took everything personally which also meant I held a meek vendetta.
Then, on August 26, 2019, Unfolded PR‘s Kamil Kwiatkowski connected me with SLANDER and GUD VIBRATIONS’ former day-to-day manager Andrew Berman. He was uh, different. In my four plus years in the EDM industry, I had never met a manager so involved with the press; it wasn’t in an I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine way. Even in our first email exchange, Berman felt like a business casual, buddy ol’ pal. I decided to shoot my shot once again and requested Berman hook a sister up by granting access to cover The Alchemy Tour. He did. A small victory for Sydney? Yes: a microcosm of Berman’s world? Also, yes. The infinite rejections Berman experienced over the past five years could have soured him. Rather, he emerged from his chrysalis as this music business, badass bossman butterfly — manifesting endurance, change, hope and life.
Who motivated you to make the switch from majoring in communication studies to artist management?
In college, I was clueless when it came to the idea of what I should do with my life. I did not know what I was passionate about and had a difficult time picking a path because everything seemed so foreign to me. I was lost. I decided on communication studies because it was an area that I felt was practical and would equip me for day-to-day life.
My second Coachella, in 2015, I was about to graduate from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). I was at the Sahara Tent for Alesso, and I always told myself, “Maybe, I’ll become an agent or manager. Maybe, I’ll get into film like Ari Gold in ‘Entourage.’” I was watching Alesso’s set for his Forever album, and right when it started, he ran up there looking like a God. I thought, “I would fucking love to be Alesso, but I don’t know what that even involves. That’s such a risk; I’m just about to graduate college.” I decided, instantly, “I’m going to be as close as I can be to that. I’m going to be a manager. I want to manage DJs.” I went home and started trying to get internships.
I got a call randomly from this guy. He had a British accent. He started a record label called Xtravaganza Recordings — way back in the day — Armin van Buuren‘s early music went on it. I went out to his office that he was renting in Beverly Hills. I was super green; I didn’t know anything. He was starting a management company out there. A lot of it was a lot of bullshit, but I kind of fell into it. That was my first start in the industry, and I had to teach myself a lot. There, I learned a lot about what not to do. I met a lot of people through it. I went to EDMBiz the last year they had the conference in Vegas with Insomniac. That got me going out and networking. Then, I realized it was not the place for me.
I connected with a buddy of mine, whose one of my best friends to this day, in Santa Barbara. He was making music and producing, so I started hanging out with him. He taught me about promoting records through blogs and Proximity and how they were tastemakers.
I completely submerged myself in dance music. I would watch interviews on YouTube and tried to learn as much as I could. I started having conversations with family friends that would connect me with somebody in the industry, and I would ask them for help. I’d go on the job boards and network on Facebook.
People were like, “Honestly, this is too difficult. You should find another industry.” I kept being persistent. I was unemployed for five or six months, applying everywhere: every agency and job I would see online. I got to a point where I realized that I needed to take any job I could in music and then transition. I needed to get my foot in the door, get something on my resume, something that could help me pay some bills. Maybe I’d learn something. Maybe I’d meet somebody. I got a job at this company called M.M. Music. They promoted records to radio stations. I was there for nine months.
It was at Coachella, in 2015, I realized that I wanted to be in dance music. Then, one year later I was at Coachella and had just gotten hired for my first paying music job. I was still applying everywhere. I had interviews with tons of people that I now get to work with. The whole time opportunities kept slipping through my hands. It killed me because my job at that company was to literally look at sheets and make new sheets for these promotions, so I would be looking at dates all the time. I kept saying, “I’m going to get out of here by this day. I’m going to get out of here by this day.” Eventually, I transitioned from there to Deckstar doing deorro’s day-to-day management.
The next year, I was at Coachella again. I had just gotten my first job in dance music doing management. It was a toxic environment. I was trying to figure out how to get out of there, not knowing my value and not being able to get other opportunities, but I stuck it out as long as I could. The following year, I was at Coachella again with deorro playing. Every Coachella so much happens, so Coachella for me became my New Year’s Eve. I’d hit the reset button. I would reflect on my personal and professional growth.
I worked with deorro for two years. I was unemployed for a few months then started working for All Access Management for just a couple of months before joining Prodigy: which was right after Coachella the following year.
Fast forward, I signed deorro. We were supposed to have SLANDER at Coachella this year. I signed Ghastly during quarantine, and here I am. It wasn’t until Prodigy that I had mentors to look up to, that used words of encouragement, knew how to lead by example, brought opportunities to me and cared about my well-being.
Describe the day you met Erick [Deorro] and why you were drawn to him both professionally and personally.
I remember this day vividly as if it were yesterday. It’s one of those key moments that I think back and reflect on all of the time. It was Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2017, at The Shrine in Los Angeles. Deorro was on-site for a meet and greet with fans and simultaneously, getting content to promote his upcoming hometown show.
I had yet to meet any of his essential crew in person but had over the phone relationships with them, specifically Eden: Deorro’s tour manager and a vital part of the team. I got lucky. As I pulled up to park, I found the holy grail of all parking spots directly in front of the venue. I began walking on-site and gave Eden a shout to see exactly where they were all at.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but they were on their way out, and if I wouldn’t have gotten that prime parking spot, this memory wouldn’t quite be. Anyways, Eden said that they were walking around shooting content near the box office. “Perfect, I’m heading that way now,” I said.
Within seconds of hanging up my phone, I noticed a group of about 10 people walking in my direction, all spread out, but behind one person in particular. I’m on the sidewalk, and they’re in the middle of the street ahead but to my right. I didn’t even think for a second that it was Deorro and co. because in my mind, I still had a ways to go until I reached the box office. Instantly, I realized that the guy leading the way looked an awful lot like Deorro, and the guy directly behind him had a video camera.
At that point, I was a bit confused and totally thought Eden must have gotten separated from the group. Deorro was about 30 feet ahead and started veering to the right in my direction while I simultaneously stepped off the sidewalk and continued walking towards him. We walked straight up to each other; I wondered if he thought I was a fan, which I was. We smacked hands, and I said, “What up bro, I’m Berman.” He said, “Yee, I know.”
I’ve never forgotten the energy that radiated from his presence upon meeting him for the very first time. His confidence screamed that he was larger than life, but he was present, calm, aware and humble. It’s impossible not to tell that he’s the leader of the pack. It’s ridiculous, but in that moment, he resembled a Mexican cartel boss.
Deorro’s family is the most important thing to him. You’ll see he’s got the word “FAM” tattooed on his neck, and it’s a huge part of the Panda Funk brand. That was something early on and even to this day, that is very easy to admire. He’s got two kids. He’s got a fiancé. He’s got a sister whose married with kids and his parents. It’s much different than any other artist I’ve ever worked with. I was thrilled to bring him to Prodigy too because of that; Prodigy, on the management side, was the first time I’d ever felt like, “I love this place. This is home. This is a family. It’s a different culture and vibe.” I had known where deorro had come from, and I had come from there with him too. Connecting the dots was special.
Deorro is a creative genius. Over the years, I’ve continued to learn more about how his brain works. The trumpets and noises you hear in some of his songs like “Bailar” are not instruments. It’s literally him figuring out ways to make things in the kitchen by putting tinfoil on cups, using his mouth to make horns and then, editing them. That creativeness too drives into so many different areas in life. He’s just super talented. He loves learning things from calligraphy to this laser printer he just bought. We’re about to sell these little, glass keychains he made that say “Do Good Shit.” That’s one of his mottos.
Even when I was on tour with him, we went mini-golfing, and he hit five holes in one. It was unbelievable. On top of that, he’s just a great human being. He sees the best in things and the light at the end of the tunnel, so that’s inspired me. Also, he’s got an unbelievable sense of humor and always finds the beauty in things.
Congrats on your promotion from day-to-day to senior manager. What’s the best way to make your mark or even become the poster child for a company you’ve only been at less than 18 months (i.e., Prodigy Artists)?
It was honestly, “my time.” I’ve been working in the music industry now for five years, with three and a half of those years specifically in management and electronic music: at a high level.
There are so many factors that needed to be aligned in the universe for my story to be exactly what it’s become over the past year, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that luck played its part in the timing of it all. I, by absolutely no means, say that to discredit the blood, sweat and tears that have been poured into my career. Instead, I say this because, throughout the entirety of the process, a huge part of my ethos evolved around the idea that “luck” is when “opportunity” meets “preparation.” Without a doubt, the stars were aligned when I joined Prodigy. However, the groundwork that led me here began long ago. If you’re interested in reading what I have to say, I highly suggest “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy.
It’s easier said than done, but it’s imperative to make yourself irreplaceable. You are in control of making this crystal clear in so many different ways. I’m naturally hard on myself. I’m constantly thinking that there is always something more I should be doing, so it starts there. Bottom line, you’ve got to really want it. Your attitude is everything. You can’t fake that.
I’ve always wanted this more than anything. Nobody ever stuck their hand out for me. I was actually told many times to find a different industry to pursue. I interviewed with tons and tons and tons of people. I always thought maybe I was going to get that job; I would never get it, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Obviously, I didn’t have the experience. I had to fake it ’til I made it, but everything I’ve done, I’ve had to fight for and be persistent to get there.
At Prodigy, I was in a unique position because we were expanding. I had also a lot of experience compared to everybody else we were hiring because of my history with Deorro, working in the industry, and I’m a little bit older.
I’ve sacrificed everything and anything. I’ve sacrificed relationships, health, downtime, you name it. Of course, that does not mean you should not find a healthy medium and balance, you absolutely should. Nothing is more important than your health, and that is something that I’ve just recently begun to understand this year during the quarantine. But over the last two years, if I didn’t put my all into this, I would not be who I am today. It was imperative to my success to cut through the noise.
I’ve embraced that this is a lifestyle. There is no separating my work from my personal life. I eat, sleep and breathe this. It’s me; recently, I looked at my cover letters from when I was trying to find a job, and that was the main part of what I said.
It blows my mind that I’m doing what I’m doing and where I am. I could always feel it. I knew it was going to happen. For a few years, in situations where I didn’t know my value, I felt trapped. I didn’t know how I was going to get to where I needed to be, but I just knew I was on the right path and taking the right steps.
It’s important to be around people that motivate, push and respect you. When you’re not, it does not make you want to work as hard. I’ve always had zero boundaries; I wanted to show whoever I was working for that I was down for the cause. I want to prove to you that I’m your ride or die. I’ll pick up your dog’s shit. I’ll fucking do the highest level stuff you’ll let me do if you let me do it; when people don’t have any limits with you, it’s scary.
When I came to Prodigy, I was really motivated. I was prepared. I had done the role before. I was put in a position to run with the SLANDER boys because they are very involved with their brand and every decision. I was always the last one in the office every day. I’d go home and work some more.
I’m naturally a super-connector. It gets easier as you grow in your career, but I’m never greedy when it comes to connecting the dots for others. I highly suggest you read the book “never eat alone.” I’ve gone out to every single show to network and build upon my relationships.
I’ve been thorough and resourceful. You have got to know when it’s the right time to bring your superiors into situations, but in many cases, you’ll have the ability to take things as far as you possibly can on your own. When you do need help, spell it out. Most importantly, be a good person.
You’ve got to be willing to put in the time, push yourself beyond your limits and make sacrifices. If you’re not 1000 percent cool with this, that’s totally fine; you just don’t want it bad enough, and it’s going to show. It always does.
Do not ever wait for anything to be handed to you even when you’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by an abundance of opportunities. Work hard because someone is always working harder than you. Make sure you are always bringing food to the table. Be a team player. Don’t be greedy. Demonstrate you are able to lead a project. No task is ever too small. No task is ever too large. Own up to your shit if you make a mistake. Never lie, and don’t make excuses. You’ve got to have tough skin and be able to take constructive criticism. Do the best you can at everything you do. Consistently having a positive attitude goes such a long way.
Don’t ever devalue your role because you don’t make the big bucks or have the executive say on certain things. Don’t get me wrong; always understand your place, and respect the levels of hierarchy, but ALWAYS think and act as if you are the manager and the client is yours. After all, that is what you are trying to prove, right?
How have your past experiences at Ignited Artist Management Group, Inc., Deckstar, M.M. Music, All Access Artist Management prepared you for this milestone in your career?
My experiences are everything. They are what makes me, me. I’ve grown throughout each of them on a personal and professional level. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m seeing the compound effects, and it’s all clicking. When I started my career, I knew nothing. I knew nobody. I’ve gone through almost every scenario, in every facet of management, multiple times. I’ve worked alongside a huge portion of colleagues in many different avenues of the industry on multiple projects.
Mistakes are not a bad thing. There’s power in making them as long as you don’t make the same mistake again. That’s why I’ve been able to succeed. It’s human nature. It’s impossible to be perfect. I never accepted that until Will Runzel said those exact words to me. When my peers and staff make mistakes, although it can be frustrating, it also excites me because I know that they are going to learn from it and be better for years to come. I tell them that.
Being a day-to-day manager, I’ve been able to understand how to manage an act on every level of the business — from touring to merch. It gave me the experience to know what goes into all these extra layers of managing a project: in its entirety. Also, it’s allowed me to understand and empathize with my employees because I know how time-consuming and demanding their roles are.
Each stop allowed me to reach my current destination. It allowed me to make a name for myself and gain credibility and relationships. It taught me patience, attention to detail and understanding expectations. It was all an investment for my future.
What is your approach to artist management?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach; every artist is going to be different. They’re going to have different levels of involvement, visions, egos, personalities as well as things they like and don’t like. You have to be fluid. You have to be able to adapt to their communication style and what they need in particular. I understand now, the more you take on the further you go in your career, the less you can be involved in the nitty-gritty things. What always blew my mind was how a lot of managers, at a certain point, expect the day-to-day manager to do almost everything and not be involved. I’m the one that has the experience, and that’s the reason why I’m the manager, so how is that in the best interest of your client, their growth and success, if I’m not staying involved? You are only as good as your team, so lead with influence.
You’re not only managing the artist, you’re managing all parts of the project; you’re managing multiple people from multiple facets of the industry. Kill ’em with kindness. However, know when it’s appropriate to be assertive and not budge.
Never be afraid to speak up. Your artists will appreciate a manager that lets them know they understand; nobody knows the vision better than the artist themselves. Your job is to champion these artists and be their biggest supporter. Remind them of how special they are.
Which personality traits have proven to work in your favor and which ones have been detrimental or less helpful?
Being a good person will always trump anything else. I’m a people person, good communicator and know how to read others. My passion, communication skills, open-mindedness and adaptability have all been highly beneficial.
Persistence is the reason I am where I am today. Also, the fact that I have always been a dreamer. The dreamer in me kept me going through all the rough patches.
Until recently, and I am still getting better at this, I had a problem not asking for help. That will catch up to you, and you need to know that it’s okay to delegate things to other people and trust they are doing their job. At a certain point, you have to let go and understand that others need to be responsible for the tasks that they are assigned.
If you disagree, it never hurts to explain your side. There were times I would get in trouble, in the past, about the most ridiculous shit. I would say, “I understand where you’re coming from. Can I tell you my side of it?” Sometimes, people are not right. You’ve got to protect yourself, so they don’t think you’re totally incompetent. You’ve got to stand up for yourself, but you also have to try to understand the underlying message they’re trying to give you. It’s going to hit you in the gut, sometimes, but that’s growth. You’re going to make mistakes. Things are going to be uncomfortable. It’s not going to feel good when your boss calls you out. The bottom line is that they want you to get better. They are going to forget about it. You just have to learn from it.
What keeps you grounded and humble?
To be honest, smoking weed. I’m 200 miles per hour, all day, all the time. When I finally unwind, it makes me reflect and puts me in a different zone. My pain. The song “Time” by Hans Zimmer. Music in general. My mistakes. I learned a lot over the years about what type of manager, boss or leader I wanted to be and did not want to be. You can lose it all quicker than it took you to get it. I feel like I’m just getting started and have yet to scratch the surface, so that humbles me.
Prodigy Artists takes a very hands-on approach when working with journalists. Why is it important to build strong relationships with the media?
Yes, totally. Journalists are tastemakers. They promote us, maximize visibility, add validity and credibility, enable discovery, break new artists, inform us of what’s going on in the industry and tell our stories. You’ll almost always see some sort of reference to “PR” on every single marketing plan regardless if it’s coming from an inexperienced manager or a major label. It’s fundamental.
At Prodigy, we take a very hands-on approach with everything. We don’t rely on outside partners to check off boxes. No stone is ever left unturned. Generally speaking, ESPECIALLY if you’re in management, you should be focused on building real and genuine relationships with EVERYBODY.
How have you used this time, during quarantine, to advance your artists and career?
All of us have been working really hard, the whole gang, from management to the artists. If anything, quarantine made us go harder, when we didn’t think that was humanly possible. Touring makes up over 90 percent of our income, but it’s only 10 percent of what we do on a daily basis.
COVID-19 shook up the whole world, and we’ve had to adapt all the while maintaining our brands and moving the needle forward. There are so many huge and exciting projects coming from all of the guys on my roster. Over the next 12 months, you’ll be sure to see a lot. There is so much phenomenal music, on the way, from them. We’ve been focused on staying relevant and consistent.
Personally, I moved, did a virtual panel [Dance Under 30] and this interview and signed Ghastly! Also, I’ve been reading and taking better care of myself.