Sujit Kundu (left) and DJ Vice
Photo: Jeremiah Lazo
I started my career in entertainment as a club promoter, promoting everything from dance-music events to hip-hop events, in everything from small clubs to large festivals. This gradually progressed into producing my own events and concerts, and then finally into nightclub management. While in nightclub management, I began traveling with Bad Boy Bill and Richard “Humpty” Vission as their tour manager, and we all learned life on the road as we now know it. I have lived the lifestyle; I've traveled and experienced firsthand what it's like to be a DJ or an artist on the road day in and day out. I've also seen the perspective of the club owner, event planner and sponsor. When dealing with a situation in which parties disagree, my experience in resolving just about any issue has enabled me to come up with a happy medium.
If a DJ or artist has been on the grind for a few years, when is it time to look into hiring a manager?
There is a misconception that good managers can automatically get anyone work because of their connections. That may hold true as far as getting a DJ the initial opportunity with certain clients/clubs, but it's up to the DJ to deliver and prove themselves in order to get a buzz going and in order to keep the clients coming back. I believe it's time for a manager once you have a decent buzz in the marketplace, and you become so busy that you aren't able to effectively handle business without slowing down the creative process. When looking for a reputable manager, ask your peers and clients whom they use and like, then take meetings and see whom you vibe with and more importantly, who you feel you can trust.
What does it take for a DJ/artist to pique your interest enough to want to work with him or her?
Any DJ in one of the following three situations would be of potential interest to me: First, a DJ who has the respect of the DJs I already represent. I may take a chance on a younger DJ who needs more development if the other DJs on my roster really believe in them. Second is billing: Once a DJ is earning a certain amount and has developed enough work and a good client base, they are doing something right, are worth looking into and are positioned to require the professional guidance and resources of our team to get them to the next level. Third, if a DJ can bring something new to our roster, like a new territory, market or additional client base, he or she is of interest.
What are some of the tasks you handle every day?
Day to day, our major objective is to develop DJs to their fullest, in every aspect, while representing them as best as possible. The second is to interface with clients to make sure their needs are met for a given event or club and making the process of booking as easy, professional and comfortable as possible. From getting more information on any given DJ to the actual booking process, to finally resting assured the DJ will be on time for the event and will outperform the expectations of the client. Actual tasks include getting artists rebooked due to flight cancellations, handling last-minute DJ requests (for example, “We need a DJ tonight, or tomorrow, but the event is on the other side of the country”), handling new bookings, issuing contracts, tracking deposits and payments (making sure all of our artists are compensated as agreed to), mailing promo packages, updating and developing Websites, assisting DJs with personal issues and offering business advice. We are also working closer with clients to help produce events and to develop nights and promotions for their clubs, along with producing our own tours and events.
How does your other job, as Vice President of Radio and Crossover Promotions at Universal, inform what you know about managing acts? And how do you manage to work with 18 DJsandrun a major-label department?
I have five very talented people who run the management company [called SKAM, or Sujit Kundu Artist Management]; they handle 98 percent of the day-to-day work. Universal has given me yet another perspective, as I work with some of the biggest managers in music and some of the most talented executives, now responsible for molding the new business model of the music industry. I am in the center of this ever-changing environment.
Promotion and marketing are important to get an act's name out there. What are the key steps to breaking a new artist or DJ, especially when there are millions of acts fighting for attention?
You need to do things that distinguish you from other DJs. Promote yourself: Pass out promotional mixes; make sure your images are tight; your Website, Facebook and MySpace pages should be tight and updated regularly; create an all-inclusive press kit — anything to give your audience and clients content and keep them informed on where you are playing so they all feel like they are getting what they are paying for. As your fee goes up, build production into your show. Start small with some video, some dancers or other performers, and then keep developing it from there. From the imaging that gets used on all marketing and promotional materials to the actual performance, you want to leave a unique mark, a mark that distinguishes you positively with clients and those who attend the events.
What mistakes have you seen DJs/artists make?
Copying other DJs is a mistake. Find your own lane. If someone else is successful at doing something, you won't be recognized by imitating him or her. You may be a cheaper quick fix, but you won't be developing your own brand. Also, always be on time, professional and respectful. If you are supposed to be there at 9, be there at 8:45, ready to go. Do soundchecks or send a tour manager to do it for you. Don't show up to the club at midnight and complain if the sound or your setup isn't right. And this is another major pitfall: As you develop and get bigger, don't assume everything will just fall into place. This is the time to pay attention to even more of the details. People expect more, so you must deliver on every level.