Artist management is “the hardest job in the music industry”, according to DJ, manager and Butterz co-founder Elijah, who took his iconic Yellow Squares initiative to Barcelona’s Sónar +D last week.
Speaking on the second day of +D, Sónar’s congress of music and technology, Elijah briefly explained Yellow Squares, which has grown from a social media project into a series of talk and consultancy work. He outlined key concepts such as the importance of consistent messaging and challenging the idea of what “success” actually constitutes.
But the talk, which drew a lively crowd, really came alive in the question and answer session. One attendee – an artist manager himself – asked Elijah for advice on how to feel comfortable telling artists what to do.
“Give them the most information possible,” Elijah, who manages Royal-T, DJ Q, Flava D and Swindle, explained. “Help them to make decisions; lay things out in most transparent way.” Artist management, he added, “is the hardest job in the music industry. Maybe the worst”, prompting laughs from the crowd.
Elijah also explained how some of the ideas he offers in Yellow Squares don’t translate globally, particularly in countries where there is little or no funding for the arts.
As to how far he wants to take Yellow Squares, Elijah said that his idea was to create a “ripple effect”, explaining that “people doing their own thing is more interesting than the thing”.
AI was very much the central theme of +D 2023, which was attended by 3,500 professionals. MIT Media Lab researcher Kate Darling, an expert in robot ethics, gave her views on the future of human-robot relations, while CJ Carr, head of research at Harmonai, gave practical ideas of how to use AI to make music, drawing on his experiences with dadabots.
Elijah, perhaps inevitably, was asked his opinion on AI and how it would affect creativity. But his advice was refreshingly honest. “Listen to tech leaders,” he said. “I don’t know.”