Jazz Mentors 13: The artist-manager relationship

Volume 118, No. 1January, 2018

Jazz Mentors 13 panelists Michelle Taylor, Gail Boyd and Karen Kennedy. Photo by Walter Karling.

The Council for Living Music hosted its final Jazz Mentors panel discussion of the year, closing out the 2017 season with an event in December at Local 802. This Jazz Mentors marked the 13th panel discussion in an ongoing series of free events that connects up-and-coming performers with some of New York City’s premier artists and industry experts to discuss the business of jazz. Each forum features a discussion led by preeminent leaders of the community about how to build and maintain a successful music career in jazz.

On Dec. 11, acclaimed artist reps Gail Boyd, Karen Kennedy and Michelle Taylor kicked off a discussion to an enthusiastic audience of Local 802 members, jazz musicians and students about the artist-manager relationship. They addressed various issues, including the need for representation; the respective roles of personal manager, publicist and booking agent; the role of the artist in the relationship with management; social media and its uses; and the cultivation of a career through creative engagement, audience building, recording, touring, promotion and marketing.

Gail Boyd is president of Gail W. Boyd, P.C., an entertainment law firm, and Gail Boyd Artist Management, a wholly owned company of the firm. She has been in entertainment law since 1976 and has been involved specifically in music with a specialty in jazz since 1979. Artists currently represented by Gail Boyd Artist Management include John Clayton, Jazzmeia Horn, the Baylor Project, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Clayton Brothers Quintet, Don Braden, Laurence Hobgood and Scott Tixier.

Boyd spoke succinctly about the role of a manager and what she looks for in her clients. She told the audience about her approach, “I have what I call the PRICE formula: P is for Performer. You must have something to say. R is for Recording. You have the ability to do a recording. I is for Innovation. You are an innovative jazz musician creating something new and unique. C is for Compose. You must be able to compose and arrange. E is for Educate. You must be willing and able to pass on the tradition of jazz. This requisite is extremely important to me. My mission statement includes the preservation of jazz as an art form.”

Karen Kennedy is the founder and president of 24 Seven Artist Development, a leading artist management firm founded in 1992 to provide full-range strategic marketing and career planning. She has successfully guided the careers of some of the top names in jazz, many of whom have earned multiple Grammy nominations, including NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron; educator, vibraphonist and composer Stefon Harris; pianist Jacky Terrasson; vocalist Gretchen Parlato; Grammy winner and saxophonist David Sanchez; pianist James Francies and guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza.

Kennedy told the audience that she prefers to use a holistic approach with her clients. “I take into account everything about my artists: the person, the performer, their music, the spiritual aspects of their artistry, their artistic and business career including their physical health and well-being,” she said.

Kennedy stressed, “For me, it’s very important that the artist is authentic with their own truth. They should have the ability to empathize with others and the world around them through their music.”

Michelle Taylor began her music industry career working as a promotion and marketing executive at various record labels, including Blue Note, EMI and Verve. As an artist manager, her list of clients over the years includes violinist Regina Carter, pianist Tommy Flanagan, vocalist Carmen Lundy, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Antonio Hart, guitarist Rodney Jones and vocalist Letizia Gambi. Currently Taylor is working with the young piano and organ phenomenon Matthew Whitaker.

Taylor explained to the attendees, “It’s important to know when you actually need a manager. Up to a certain point, you can self manage. When you think you are ready, you need to be at a professional level that warrants the expense of a manager. But please keep in mind that you must always remain engaged in your career in order to get to that next level. The manager and artist must develop a relationship built on trust and mutual respect. Without that, it becomes difficult to sustain a lasting business relationship.”

Audience members asked questions about how to promote their career and start to make a name in this crowded business. All three panelists strongly recommended attending and participating in the many jazz conferences that happen both regionally and abroad. Boyd and Kennedy went so far as to invite audience members to perform at the next conference of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, where they both produce separate showcases. Each had slots available that offer musicians an opportunity to perform in front of peers as well as agents, managers and business professionals. Responding to specific questions, Boyd and Kennedy separately announced, “I have a few open spots at APAP and would welcome your participation. Just come and see me afterwards and we can discuss it.” This was a first for Jazz Mentors – not just advice, but real, tangible opportunities.

Hosted at Local 802 and other convenient locations across New York City, the informal setting of Jazz Mentors allows for relaxed communication and a free exchange of ideas between the audience and the artists, encouraging full participation and interaction. Musicians from all genres and all professional levels are encouraged to attend these informative events to learn, connect and become part of a growing, socially conscious, business-savvy community.


Join us at this year’s Jazz Congress for another take on the artist-manager relationship, with reps Laura Hartmann, Karen Kennedy and Michelle Taylor. We’ll be at the Noble Foundation Studio on Jan. 11 at 3:15 p.m. Enter on the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center, at Broadway and 60th Street, adjacent to Columbus Circle. Local 802 members receive a 15 percent discount on registration by using code JCAFML80215 at