Steve Waxman has been in the business for most of his life. While working for companies like Warner Music Canada, Attic, and others in the promo or publicity department, he became well known coast to coast by those in the radio and music recording business.
Earlier this year he embarked on a couple of passion projects. One is The Creationists, a podcast about people who create. The first season featured an eclectic mix of creators including Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy talking about songwriting, golf course architect Ian Andrew, and Pat Metheny’s favourite guitar builder, Linda Manzer. Season 2 launches on July 8th.
The second project was creating a business he calls Entertainment Career Guidance that works with artists in defining their narratives and using that to help them in career development.
“My first job in the music industry was working for Bill Aucoin in New York,” Waxman says, referring to the legendary manager who steered the careers of KISS and Billy Idol. “The first lesson Bill taught me was that we are facilitators for the artist’s vision, which defines their narrative. If an artist has a clear narrative for themselves, it helps pave their road to success. The music they write, the image they project and the team they build around themselves are all a result of that narrative. If I can help an artist define their narrative then we can work together to build out an effective strategy to achieve their career goals.”
Though he works one on one with a number of artists, he is also introducing as part of that initiative “The Collaboration Hub”, a six-week program in which Waxman guides a diverse group of artists through various stages of career development strategies.
Before launching the inaugural Collaboration Hub, he knew he wanted a small group so he could ensure that all participants were heard and true Collaboration could happen. As a result, each Hub will consist of between 3 - 5 artists regardless of genre. By running the program on Zoom, Waxman is able to lead the discussions with artists anywhere in the world.
Most artists regardless of the length of time in the business understand that they are responsible for writing and performing. That’s a songwriter/performer's best skill set and what they want to do the most. So logic says write great songs, have a great show and the rest will fall in place. What often happens though is that far too many artists remove themselves from strategically managing their careers and put themselves in the hands of managers, agents and record companies, letting them set the career path rather than the artist leading the direction.
In the Collaboration Hub, I watched Waxman gently guide the four artists (one in Kingston, two in Calgary and one in Toronto) through each session, allowing them to share ideas and pull inspiration from one another. Each session was themed 1) Defining your narrative 2) Setting career goals 3) Development and originality 4) Creating content 5) The fan experience 6) connecting with community initiatives that resonate with you and your unique narrative.
He also brought Brett Kissel online for a keynote during one session to talk about developing online strategies and content. Kissel's reputation for having an incredible work ethic is well earned, and it’s matched by his creativity. Takeaways from his keynote included: defining your narrative (ie: food, rural, family), followers turn into fans who buy music and tickets, do as much as you can in your business yourself until you can’t anymore, choose covers wisely - the right choices will really bond you with your fans, and feed all your social media to YouTube where you can monetize.
Halfway through the program, George Floyd was murdered, and Black Lives Matter was everywhere, including on the minds of the CH participants. One of the artists gave such a moving deep dive into how people can become an ally to this revolution, that ALL the participants started making changes immediately to their social media etc. With her insight and advice, the group felt empowered and energized to do more.
Finally, the CH was an interesting look into the lives of artists who are tackling this new world. The narrative is important at your core, not just to clarify who you are – but to serve as the filter through which all your decisions should flow. The Collaboration Hub provides a space for that to happen, respectfully and with a good dose of illustrative stories and laughs.
To connect with the writer, Sharon Taylor, wear a mask, then email firstname.lastname@example.org