They always say, if you want to make it in this world, you have to move out of Portland. I wouldn’t say all that, but I did get a chance to talk to a Portland native who is definitely doing bigger things since his recent move from the City of Roses to the City of Angels. R. Michael Thomas had already made a name for himself before moving to L.A. and now he’s doing so well that he needs an intern to help him out. (see job description here) Due to his success, I thought picking his brain and sharing some info with y’all would be my good deed for the day. Take notes.
You are one of the most involved folks I know. You’re always somewhere with someone doing something, but I have no idea what half the time. So, what exactly do you do?
My 9-5 job title is Manager, Creative Services at Imagem Music in Los Angeles, CA. In this capacity, I pitch our catalog (which includes Ludacris, M.I.A., Counting Crows, Phil Collins, the Boosey & Hawkes classical catalog, Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals and more…) to film studios, music supervisors, production companies, trailer houses, TV studios, and more, for usage in major movies, commercials, and other synch placements.
Outside of that, I’m also the owner of my own business, in which I also manage artists, music supervise projects, run a music blog, and am in the process of producing original content and am about to start producing my own projects. The name of my company is Adjacent Media.
My latest claim to fame is a music supervisor, and thus far this year, I’ve worked on 3 projects as a music supervisor – the person who chooses music and sometimes gets the permissions from the song’s rights holders to put it into a visual medium. I’m wrapping a movie called “1982”, which stars Hill Harper and a bevy of top African-American talent; I just finished a web series by Issa Rae of “Awkward Black Girl” fame called “The Choir” which debuts August 29th; and lastly, I just finished a pilot called “Twenties” by writer/producer Lena Waithe and is being shopped by Queen Latifah’s production company Flava Unit.
You can also check out my blog, Tha Feedback.
Honestly, I grew up in church, and I fell in love with music from that. From there, I produced and promoted my first concert at the age of 15, with initial dreams of opening a record store. My whole life I planned to be a doctor, but by the time I got to junior year of HS at Jefferson HS, I had decided to go into the music business, and ended up graduating from University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry. I love music; I live and breathe it. It drives me, it inspires me, and the stories and impetus behind the creation of music as an art is a never-ending and infinite source of emotion and experiences that I love discovering more and more of on a daily basis. I’m fortunate to be both creative and administrative, and it’s benefited me immensely in my line of work.
What about the NW music scene do you love/hate?
I love the NW music scene because there is a diverse range of genres represented and on stage on any given night. There is PLENTY to see and do, if you have diverse tastes. That’s key. The thing that I really despise the most is the lack of professionalism and also, the lack of industry knowledge that people seek. The music business outside of Portland is DRASTICALLY different, and most people who are “successful” in Portland might not ever make it long-term outside of the city, for example. There needs to be a dash of reality tempered with your artistic expressions, and people in the NW, no matter what the genre, sometimes seem to miss that.
What about the LA music scene do you love/hate?
The LA music scene is overwhelming. It’s a big city. Everyone is in a band. Everyone is “somebody”. It can be a sobering experience for a newbie in this city. That being said, I love the DRIVE that people have in this city. Competition is fierce, and people hustle and are battling it out to reach their dreams. The NW misses that – we’re laid back in the NW, and polite. Los Angeles is full of people who are better than you and are ready to seize the opportunity that may pass you up because you are unprepared on so many different levels.
And what do I love? There’s never a shortage of anything to do. Awesome venues, pop up shops and events, showcases, club dates, major tours, Broadway plays, musicals, opera, classical shows at the Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles is a music lover’s paradise.
Ever meet someone in the industry and get star-struck?
Honestly, I’ve been around many celebrities and am not phased one bit. There was a magical moment a few years ago when Prince nodded his head at me over his sunglasses backstage at his after party in Seattle that I was at. Later on that night, India.Arie and I were screaming and jumping up and down while Prince smashed on stage, and the rapper Kia Shine was behind me and told me to follow him on Twitter. ‘Twas an epic evening, let me tell you! Prince is…Prince. And I was star struck!
What advice can you give new artist trying to get heard?
As I deal with new and established artists on a daily basis, my biggest advice would be this – know your craft. And I don’t just mean the musical technicalities. I mean the business side, too. It’s JUST as important to know how to setup your publishing company and administer YOUR rights as a songwriter as it is to have a tight set and have your VIP list ready for the house. It’s just as imperative to have good representation and management as it is to have a drummer with a great pocket. Many artists gloss over that fact, or leave it to “managers” who have NO experience in the music business. Don’t do it. Have a modicum of knowledge of the business side as well. You will fare better later on!
Welp, there you have it. I honestly hope some of y’all took notes. When someone who’s already seen some success and rubbed some elbows with the pros hands down a piece of advice, you better eat it up like it’s the last supper. And for those of you in the LA area who may being interested in the intern position, the info is here.