“I didn’t meet any other managers, I only met him – and I made my mind up that I wanted him to manage me before he made his mind up that he wanted to manage me.”
These were the words denoted by Adele in her opening address at the Music Week Awards in 2012. She was at the ceremony to present the ‘Manager of the Year’ Award to Jonathan Dickins, her own manager. Six years earlier, Jonathan founded September Management and within eight years, a portfolio of incredible musicians from Jamie T to London Grammar have blossomed under his care and guidance.
Music and the industry itself, are in Jonathan’s blood. His grandfather, Percy Dickins co-founded NME Magazine and in 1952, he invented what we now know as the pop chart. His father, is a booking agent working with artists such as Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Neil Young and Jamiroquai whilst his uncle, Rob Dickins, was at the helm of Universal Music UK for most of the eighties / nineties and simultaneously constructed songs such as Cher’s ‘Believe’ and Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’.
At the Web Summit last month, I had the honour and privilege to sit down with Jonathan and discuss his motivations, his definition of success and questioned why saying no can be a positive.
How would you describe yourself, both personally and professionally?
I always define myself as both a Dad and as a manager.
Within the music industry the Dickins name is somewhat of a legacy. Did that instill any fear or concern in you when you first ventured into this domain?
Fear? I was terrified! My family were and are so involved in the business, you couldn’t help but be a little nervous about it. Though, I’ll be honest, my transition into the music industry would not have been as smooth without some of those connections but having a family in the industry can be both your greatest strength and your biggest weakness. I began in the industry by working with my uncle, (Rob Dickins) someone that I get on very well with but it was only when I began to work for myself that I really felt like I was no longer in my family’s shadow. I’ve been really lucky!
I would define luck as the moment where hard work meets opportunity.
I would agree. We have an incredible team at September Management who work ridiculously hard!
Speaking of your team, what do you look for when you are recruiting within September Management?
Someone once told me that you should hire people who are better than you and I think that’s very true. September Management began from a bedroom in my house and the majority of the team have grown with the company, almost since the very beginning. The most important element of the team is that the people who work with me love what they do and have such an intense passion for music. That’s essential!
On the Music Summit Stage, you spoke about being somewhat baffled as to why artists over-publicise themselves and saturate the market with their branding. Thus, you and your artists say ‘no’ quite often. On what basis do you make such decisions?
For me, 70% of my work and the decisions that I make are based on gut instinct. The other 30% comes from experience. Perhaps other people would question the maths of that but I think it has worked well for us so far.
In 2012, you were awarded ‘Manager of the Year’ at the Music Week Awards and Adele’s album ’21’ became the first album to sell over three million digital copies but in terms of your career, how do you define success?
Winning ‘Manager of the Year’ was amazing and receiving recognition is incredible. I could do the cliché thing and say that winning awards means nothing but honestly, that’s bullshit. However, the true definition of success for me is being able to do something that you are incredibly passionate about every single day and I am so fortunate that I am able to do that.
September Management has been in existence for eight years but how do you envisage the future of the company?
I want to keep doing what we are doing. Deliberately, we keep our roster of artists small so that we can concentrate our time and efforts into each of them. As we grow I want to continue to cultivate the culture and ethos that we created in the early days of September Management which is that the artist is our priority but creating music and especially brilliant music is the most important element of all.
My final question for you, Jonathan – what do you think is the specific element that makes music brilliant?
I’m probably the worst person to answer that question because it’s strange, most of the music that becomes a hit, I don’t really like it. That’s what’s so great about Adele, London Grammar, Jamie T and many of our other artists – I love what they do. They’re the anomaly.
Thanks so much to Jonathan, Katy and Niall for all of their assistance in the organisation of this interview. To take a glimpse at the full music roster of September Management, you can find their website here.
If you enjoyed this interview, there’s quite the possibility that you may find the other ‘Minnie Meets’ conversations interesting too. You can find them here.