Chris Smith: It began with the music
9 September 2011 No Comments
By Anya Wassenberg
“My uncle is in the music business – Beres Hammond – and my Mom promoted bands,” explains Chris Smith. That would be the Beres Hammond, one of the legends of the Jamaican music scene, and a world the Toronto-based music industry heavyweight grew up in. “It’s the family business – but I wanted to make it my own.”
With offices in Toronto, New York City and Miami, Chris Smith Management, Inc. is a full service artist management agency and now business home to a portfolio that includes a long list of musicians like Nelly Furtado, Fefe Dobson and Kreesha Turner among others, mixers and music producers, professional athletes, actors, web properties and a clean energy company. He’s got a laidback manner that belies the kind of energy it must take to keep it all afloat, and to listen to him, it’s all been a function of his passions, his interests, and what came along his way.
“I went into a club on College and Clinton and saw the Philosopher Kings… I started picking up a few bands – the Philosopher Kings, jacksoul, Nelly Furtado. I had ties in Jamaica, a record company, so I could record whenever I wanted.” He has a way of making it all sound easy. “I love music. I thought I’d build an eclectic roster,” he explains.
Adding athletes to the mix was also a labour of love. “I love sports. I saw their brand was underrepresented.” Websites like bestfan.com take the next step in connecting fans to the artists on his roster, and TopTenWorkouts.com feed into the athletic section of his list. “It’s not just music management, it’s Chris Smith Management these days. It’s brand management. We’ve evolved from just music.” Other ventures came from what he saw as a need.
“Jamaica was at 39 cents a kilowatt hour,” he says. (For purposes of comparison, Ontario Hydro’s highest “on peak” rate is 10.7 cents per kilowatt hour.) Chris talks of an energy crisis in the Caribbean country. “People can’t keep the lights on all day and night. My own Mom can’t keep her lights on all day, worrying about the cost.” His solution, in cooperation with Chinese partners, was to go into business himself, and the result is C02 Energy, a clean energy company whose role is described in their literature “to help countries that are underrepresented with in the carbon market to fully realize their potential for energy independence”. In his own words, “To help reduce the effects of fossil fuel,” he explains.
It takes long days and a variety of skills to keep it all humming, some of which he described on the day we spoke recently. “Nelly’s doing press today, so I call to make sure the publicist is filtering questions to make sure we’re on time.” He gives his clients advice on every aspect of their professional lives, from meeting the press to treatments for videos and photo styling. “I went over contracts with the President of Universal,” he continues. “I’m meeting with the radio department of Universal to decide on singles from an album. We’ll argue for a couple of hours and come up with the singles. At 7, I’m having dinner with Fefe Dobson to talk about a movie offer and her new album. Then at about 11pm I’ll go into the studio to listen to some new music.”
Those long days begin early and end late, and tend to revolve around the telephone. “From 8am to 10am I’m calling Europe and the rest of the world. At around 4, I start on the West Coast calls. Around 10pm, it starts with Asia.” His approach is obviously hands on, but he can’t be on top of every detail of every project with the volume of business he represents nowadays. “I build the strategy, but I have a day to day manager for every project.”
There’s some new music coming down the pipe. “Three incredible vocalists will be releasing albums, and Kreesha Turner has a new album coming out,” he says of his current projects. “We’re incredibly blessed to have such great music, great clients – and that’s not just interview talk,” he adds with a laugh. “The athletes are being placed globally. The musicians are making great music. The energy company is brilliant.” Add to all that a Jamaican based TV show that’s in syndication in several countries called In the Dance. “Imagine Soul Train in Jamaica,” he explains. Blessed or just hardworking? It’s probably a combination of both.
Image courtesy of Chris Smith Management Inc.