Behind The Music: Walking Papers’ manager John Greenberg

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Behind The Music - Walking Papers

In my words…

For every successful Artist, there’s someone working tirelessly behind the scenes contributing to their success.

For too long now, the Artist Manager (who I call “the glue” holding it all together and the Artist’s biggest fan, confidant, and cheerleader) toils away for the most part in anonymity as the praise and glory shine down upon their Artist.

A Manager never rests.  They wake up each morning thinking about ways to make their Artist more successful and while the rest of the world sleeps, the Manager is still up working on their plans for World Domination.

A Manager’s DNA is not like most mortals; that’s probably why there are so few.  The passion, dedication, selflessness of putting oneself second, loss of sleep, money, and sometimes relationships in the pursuit of achieving your Artist’s dream and vision in an Industry where the odds are stacked against you may make some question your sanity and, at times, so do you until you watch your Artist “kill” a room and then you remember why you’re there.

The Manager, in my eyes, is the unsung hero.  It can sometimes be a thankless job and nothing raises my Irish more than an Artist who doesn’t publicly thank their Manager, especially at The Grammys.  It’s the Manager who will remain with you through thick and thin, because you’re building something together right?  It’s a partnership I liken to marriage; it’s not always going to be a honeymoon.

Artists, treasure your Manager if you’re lucky enough to have one.  If you haven’t thanked them lately, I suggest you call them after reading this and say, “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you?”

They may ask if you’ve been drinking but I guarantee you’ll make their day.  A thank you goes a long way in a Manager’s memory bank.

Managers, hats off and my deepest personal respect for all you do!  – Robin

Walking Papers at Capitol Hill Block Party 2012.

Walking Papers at Capitol Hill Block Party 2012.


This week’s guest Manager is Walking Papers’ Manager, John Greenberg of Shorebreak International, Inc.

John Greenberg has been a leader in the management business since 1988.  He has worked with world-renowned bands, singers, producers, and writers who have won numerous awards including: Grammys, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognition, MTV Awards, and Platinum certifications.  John is also on the Board of Directors of the nonprofit Music Saves Lives and is involved in philanthropic efforts.

GC: First of all John, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your story with our readers.

GC: How did you get into the Music Industry?
JG: I started working at record stores in 1984, a radio station in 1986, and eventually was an intern at a Music Management company in 1988.  I started promoting concerts in 1989 and signed my first Artist “The Scream” to management in 1991.

GC: Do you think Managers find bands or bands find Managers? (chicken or the egg theory)
JG: I think things happen when you and an artist cross paths.  Who knows how those paths cross but they do and then one of you starts the conversation and if it goes well, other conversations follow.  Once a mutual respect and trust are there for all, you do your best to keep moving in the right direction.

GC: What does a day in the life of Walking Papers’ Manager look like?
JG: It is an ever-changing look.  Some days are very detailed days with accountants, budgets, lawyers, booking agents, etc., and other days are very creative with the band, music, merchandise, and websites.

Walking Papers at Capitol Hill Block Party 2012.

Walking Papers at Capitol Hill Block Party 2012.


GC: In your opinion, what should an Artist look for in a Manager and when does one need to seek Management?
JG: An artist should look for a Manager when the Artist feels that there are jobs that need to be done that the Artist is not capable of doing or they choose not to.

GC: Okay flip that: what does a Manager look for when considering representing an Artist and is it mandatory (if a band), that they have a band agreement in place prior to signing on with you?
JG: A Manager looks for an Artist that has taken every step possible to build their career.  Great songs, great performances, great work ethic.  A band should have their internal business relationship set up ASAP. 

GC: Some publications on the industry report that it can take up to 3 years to break an Artist and 3-5 years (if you can keep a band together long enough) before you might start reaping the rewards of your efforts.  What’s your take on that?
JG: It without a doubt takes time to set a real fan base.  There are artist that get lucky with a quick radio hit and then they’re gone, but a true career artist can take some time to build that real fan base and 3-5 years is not unrealistic.

GC: What would you say to someone who would like to become an Artist Manager?  What qualities do you think they need most to be successful?
JG: Management has been a great career for me.  I have worked hard at it and do believe that if you apply yourself to your craft, you will be successful.  Qualities for a great Manager are the ability to listen to others, the passion for music, and the constant delivery of the truth to yourself and your artist.

GC: It’s also been said that a Personal Manager is part Friend, Confidant, Advisor, Protector, Cheerleader, Psychiatrist, Educator, Supporter, Wrangler, and wears many different hats on any given day.  Is this an accurate description?
JG: A Manager is all that and more.  Be honest with your artist and yourself, and you will be OK!

GC: Describe your “worst” days as a Manager.
JG: There are days you need to deliver the bad news and you must tell your client the truth.  100% the truth must always be told.

GC: Describe your “best” days as a Manager.
JG: The best days are the ones when you and your artist get to celebrate the good times.  Great music, radio play, great tours, etc, etc, etc.

GC: When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered in Rock History?
JG: I hope that people know that I was a FAN first and a manager second!

But more important is I want people to know that I’m “Happy 2be alive”

Walking Papers at Capitol Hill Block Party 2012.

Walking Papers at Capitol Hill Block Party 2012.


Next Monday’s Mystery Manager said this: “You might have relationship issues at times over your time commitment to your music career.”  Who is it?

About Robin Fairbanks

Robin Fairbanks has spent 30+ years in the music industry in many capacities. Working in the Seattle music scene since 2006 as a Manager/Booker, she's known for her ethics and artist development skills. Robin has guided the careers of many, but most notable as the former manager of Seattle's Fox and The Law for 3.5 years. Robin has spent the last 2 yrs consulting with Artists who seek her help as a music consultant and publicist with Setlist Music Solutions LLC. She also gives of her time as an advisor to Seattle Wave Radio, an Internet music station where she helped shape its sound as the ROCK Channel Music Director for 2+ yrs upon its launch in 2010 and where you'll find her music blog, "Bird On A Wire".