A Conversation With… Sandy Pandya
Though she’s far too humble to admit it, right now is an excellent time to be artist manager Sandy Pandya.
The consistently affable founder and owner of Toronto’s Pandyamonium Management is currently representing some of the country’s hottest acts, namely award-winning singer/songwriter Serena Ryder, critical darling Alejandra Ribera, ace Vancouver pop duo Dear Rouge, and emerging electronic artist/producer AA Wallace.
Pandya is also gearing up to reboot an office in Los Angeles, this time equipped with the hard-won wisdom that came from an initial foray into the city that was slightly less than stellar. But Pandya is nothing if not tenacious, and a very quick study.
Funny enough for all her successes, Pandya admits her entrance into the music biz was something of a fluke. “I was working at an arts café in Regina called Café A Gogo; my sister Gogo did the cooking, and I did the bookings,” she laughs. “That’s how I got into it!”
After relocating to Toronto in the late-1980s, Pandya steadily worked her way up, with stints at Attic Records, RCA/BMG and with booking agency CTI before partnering with artist manager William ‘Skinny’ Tenn in 1991.
Pandya brought Regina folk/pop combo The Waltons to the roster. The pair later represented Toronto indie-rock stars Lowest of the Low, folk/pop sibs Tegan & Sara, songwriter Hayden and triple-threat songwriter/performer/producer Hawksley Workman. Pandya struck out on her own in early 2006 with Workman as a client. Jully Black soon joined her roster.
While Pandya admits with a howl that her background studying psychology at the University of Regina has served her well as an artist manager, her artist-centric view is the key to her success.
On the heels of Serena Ryder’s new chart-topping Utopia album, Pandya spoke with FYI about the challenges facing 21st-century artist managers and why you can’t keep a good woman down.
Any mentors or managers you looked up to back in the day?
I certainly remember Sheri Jones (of Jones & Co., founded in 1993) was one of the only female managers I can recall from that time. And maybe Shauna de Cartier (who founded Six Shooter Records in 2000). I didn’t think much about it because it wasn’t what I set out to do. I always loved music, and that was about it. The first real managers I had close contact with were Allan Gregg and Jake Gold. That was at the beginning of The Tragically Hip and, needless to say, I was instantly enamoured. I left CTI shortly after that and got into management. The Waltons were my first clients.
Cite an example of a challenge facing an artist manager in 2017 that would have been inconceivable in 1997?
There are just so many more responsibilities for an artist manager now. Our office is executing marketing and social media. Plus, it’s a global marketplace now. And much of what we do is just monitoring content. A lot of the development work is now done by the managers – or ‘womanagers’ as Jully Black dubbed it. It’s next to impossible to get an act signed without having impressive numbers on the various social medias, live, etc.
What’s the main thing that draws you to an artist?
A great voice. I have always worked with remarkable singers. And of course, great songs. I’ve been privileged to work with some of the best in the country. If I can sing a song back to you as a punter would, it’s probably a great song.
What’s the best career advice you didn’t take?
Probably getting into this business (laughs). Lots of people told me this was lunacy and a very hard way to make a living. It’s a 24/7 job. I mean, I love it and make money at it, but it’s hard.
And what advice have you given to your son, singer/songwriter Sam Cash, as he has been navigating this crazy music business world?
Probably the best advice both Andrew (Cash, musician-cum-politician and Pandya’s ex-husband) and I have given Sam is ‘Education is key. No one wants a dumb musician.’
Even in terms of writing, no one wants to hear about dumb shit. So, we encouraged him to pursue his dream but also to get an education. He just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts & Contemporary Studies degree from Ryerson. And he made three albums during the time, so that’s a lot. We’re very proud of him.
What’s the most important thing people should know about you and the work you do?
So much of what I do is focused on the artist, and I take that very seriously. I don’t focus on myself. But I do know that I am super-proud of what we’ve built and I have a great team; managers Michael Gorman and Josh Pothier. We run our business like a small family. We keep the roster small so as not to spread ourselves too thin.
You were based in Los Angeles at one point…
Yes, for a year and we’re going to take another stab at having a permanent office there in August. Last time we learned a lot about what not to do. So much of the business is in West Hollywood so we are now going to be based in West Hollywood this time instead of Venice. So many things happen in L.A. You can just be walking down the street – and this has happened with Serena – and you get invited to come sing on a track or write. There is the opportunity if you are open to it.
Have you been headhunted by larger management firms?
It’s been happening more lately. It’s the game now; all the labels have management and publishing arms. The approach is much more all-encompassing. I think if some super-geniuses were wanting to work with me, that would be exciting.
You have to balance the freedom of working for yourself against the strength of a collective and being able to streamline things. For example, having multiple people share a social media manager. With a small company, we all have to be specialists. If I found the right partner, it could be incredible. To be most effective I need to be creative, to have the time to go for a walk, for example. But when you’re really busy, it’s hard to carve out that kind of time.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that I should have?
You didn’t ask me about my artists! Serena debuted at number one in Canada [on physical and digital SoundScan charts with her latest Utopia]. We are gearing up for touring. Dear Rogue has an incredible new record coming very soon. We have something else in development that you will hear about soon. It’s all about the artists, and I’d always rather talk about them than about myself. I also want to tell you about Across The Board (ATB) which is a new advocacy group I am proud to be involved with.
Our goal is to see Canadian music industry boards comprised of 50 percent women by 2020. It’s already off to an amazing start with various boards committing to helping make these changes.