As life goes, I’m running late for my interview with Scott Waldman. Waldman, a former member of bands the City Drive and Lido Beach, is now a mover and shaker behind the scenes: a producer manager at Rolling Artists, an A&R executive with the recently launched LEGEND Recordings, and host of Waldman’s Words, an Idobi Radio program. In short, he’s quick to forgive the tardiness of a busy journalist.
“It’s really not that big of a deal,” Waldman says. “In L.A., I’ve learned that late is on time.”
We jump into the topic of his show, Waldman’s Words, a weekly platform for insider interviews and music industry conversation. Many still consider Idobi Radio a niche platform, but Waldman reveals his audience ranges from 25,000- 50,000 listeners, depending on the week. As it turns out, Idobi Radio is an internet platform with a massive base for alternative, indie and hard rock. Wikipedia states 5.5 million monthly users, an unverified claim.
“It’s not just a platform to promote the bands I represent. That would get very tiresome,” Waldman explains. “It’s theme centric. Say we have a booking agent on the show, so we ask all about being a booking agent. Afterwards, maybe some kid in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is inspired to be a booking agent and I feel like I’ve done my job. I really look at it as an informative show.”
Waldman’s primary gig, however, is a partner with Rolling Artists, a producer and engineer management company. Initially formed by Ross Robey in 2013, Waldman joined Rolling Artist in 2016 as the company repositioned itself from artist management into producer management. According to Rolling Artist, their roster of producers and engineers include Alex Arias (the Mowgli’s, the Strumbellas), Dan Braunstein (Gallant, Volumes), David Dominguez (Weezer, the Offspring, Guns N’ Roses), among others.
“I moved to L.A. as a performer,” Waldman explains, “but today my bread and butter is managing producers and writers. When you’re a manager, there’s no real job description. It goes all over the place. You’re a doctor, lawyer, therapist, dad.” As of this week, manager Jonathan Rego of the Greenlit Collective finalized an agreement to join Rolling Artists, further expanding the company’s roster and proving Waldman’s world often changes by the day.
Most of today’s young entrepreneurs would not be surprised by Waldman’s lifestyle. Multiple eggs, multiple baskets. If he’s not at Rolling Artists, he’s working A&R, or prepping for his radio show, or possibly practicing for a weekend gig as a musician. “Sometimes, I get to breathe and eat,” he quips. It’s an impressive workload, but it begs the question: these days, does one have to have multiple jobs to sustain a career in the music industry?
“A lot of people have to be hyphenated these days,” he admits. “Artist management is really fulfilling, but you kinda have to do a bunch of things. I mean, L.A. is one of the most expensive cities in the country.” For Waldman, though, you get the feeling even if he had a traditional job, i.e. a nine-to-five, he’d still have his hand in various projects, because staying busy isn’t a necessity, but a way of life. He insists this mindset alone is what keeps him moving forward with the industry, instead of fighting against it.
“A lot of people don’t find success in this industry because they prescribe to a lot of antiquated theories. You have to evolve. I am 36. I’ve witnessed cassettes get trumped by CDs, and CDs get trumped by MP3s, and MP3s get trumped by streaming. People are always going to consume music. It’s just a matter of if they’re going to purchase a physical product. Technology has done incredible things for exposure, but it’s done catastrophic things for people trying to make a living. It’s definitely changed the game.”
I tell Waldman a theory I’ve been developing about how the music industry hasn’t really changed all that much. That a small percentage of people are making big money while everyone else is starving and working three jobs. That, yes, the gatekeepers shifted from radio to Spotify, but a select few still hold influence over the masses (probably with a little foul play). That 98 percent of professional musicians have ended up right where they started. Am I wrong, I ask?
“You’re not completely wrong, but you’re not completely right,” he argues. “There’s still so much money being made in music, there’s just different ways to make it. Think about [a song placement in] a video game. Madden, for instance. These bands today are getting songs placed and making thousands of dollars. These opportunities didn’t exist when we were younger.
“That said, it’s a lot harder to make it now because of this A.D.D. culture where people listen to a song they don’t pay for. And since they don’t pay for it, they don’t value it. Before, you’d buy a CD and naturally attribute value to it. Today, you can jump on Spotify and listen to three seconds of endless amounts of songs like you’re twiddling through radio stations. There’s less of a value placed on music.”
With platforms like Spotify and Apple Music becoming the standard way consumers discover new music, I ask if the primary goal is to get his artists featured on a Spotify playlist. His answer surprises me.
“The goal for me is to always write and record the best song possible. That should always be number one. Now, as soon as you try to market the song, what’s become industry standard is trying to get on a quality playlist. There’s gatekeepers that determine if Band A or Band B will get on. So, yes, it’s extremely important now. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the songs. Obviously, the hustle, the blah-blah-blah. But it’s your music, your craft, your instrument, your voice. That’s what’s important. Own your craft.”
A popular podcast, an expanding business, a passion for progression—it would appear Waldman takes his own advice.