By Brian F. Johnson
Crescendo Artists president and national booking agent, Brandon Mann is one of those people who always knew he’d somehow be involved in music. Despite being a business and government major when he attended Franklin and Marshall College in the 1990s, Mann’s passion for music had him booking local bands on campus and working with the school’s program council to bring Little Feat and Bela Fleck (among others) to his school.
After college, Mann had several industry jobs, working in publicity with Ambrosia Healy, in artist development with RCA and as an agent for Partners in Music. Three years ago the partners of Partners in Music decided to divvy up their individual duties into different companies and Crescendo Artists was born.
Mann cut his teeth with Partners in Music and Crescendo booking Yonder Mountain String Band, who he helped grow from a young, locally known bluegrass act playing small restaurants on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, to a national touring band that can sell out a three-night run at the Fillmore without breaking a sweat. With Yonder now out of the Crescendo fold, Mann is able to focus even more attention on the other artists on his roster and this year has made great strides bringing Papa Mali into the national press spotlight. The small boutique-style agency means that Mann and his team do a lot more than book dates for the bands, but to him, that’s a good deal of the fun.
Marquee: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Mann: Boston at the Meadowland’s Brendan Byrne Arena in 1987. My first three concerts were there, Boston, Roger Waters and Rush. My first show was supposed to be the Grateful Dead, but my parents wouldn’t let me see them in junior high.
Marquee: What was the first album you ever bought?
Mann: It was either Purple Rain or Born in the U.S.A.
Marquee: You stopped working with Yonder last year, how did that change your business?
Mann: It was a big part of our business and it was tough to see them go, but as a small agency you kind of have to expect it. What’s really good, though, is that they were taking up a lot of our time, so it gave us the time to focus on other artists who we feel are going to have their time very soon.
Marquee: Your job as an agency is to book dates, but since you’re a smaller business you do more than that, right?
Mann: Yeah. We stay as involved as possible. We don’t just route and book tours, hand them over to the promoters and say, ‘Here you go. I hope we make the guarantee.’ Sometimes we have to take the next step as the manager, or publicist or grass roots marketing. For instance, when I book Papa Mali, I’m on the phone with press and calling Guitar Player Magazine and trying to get his music to the next level.
Marquee: You use that phrase ‘the next level’ a lot. You’re always building.
Mann: We look for bands who are hungry and want to get out there and hustle for themselves, because we do it every day here, like our newest client The Dirty Sweet. I saw them last March at SxSW and I had never heard of them and just happened to be at this party. I was blown away. I bought their CD after the show and I couldn’t believe they made this in their basement. They’re the types of acts we look for. They’re full energy every night and they get out there and do it and they have realistic expectations. They’re not out to conquer the world just yet. They know it’s show by show and they’ve got to build. If you don’t have the big machine and the money to throw at it to make it happen overnight, then it’s going to take a while and that’s what we’re looking for, is someone who can join the team and be realistic about the situation.
Marquee: Speaking of Dirty Sweet, they’re a little different than the rest of your roster, right?
Mann: Well, yeah, but my heart has always been in rock and roll, so I’ve been hoping to come across a client like that, that I could get excited about. If you look at our roster over the years, you see a pattern of bringing our personal tastes into the fold and not necessarily going with the trends at the time.
Marquee: So even if a band has the whole package of talent, and drive and desire, if you don’t want to pop their CD into your stereo then they’re not going to be a client of yours?
Marquee: What else do you have in the works?
Mann: I just got asked to do a soundtrack for a film. It’s an indie film, but I’m hoping it leads to something else down the line. I’ve known this guy for years and he called me out of the blue to do it and it was really exciting to get that phone call.
Mann: So, you’re in this game for the long haul, huh?
Marquee: Yeah. I plan to make it a lifelong career in music. And that’s what I want to do for the artists we work for — make them career artists. We’re not looking for one-hit wonders or flashes in the pan. We want to really see the progress over the years rather than it being force fed.
By Brian F. Johnson