Clouded #2

If you missed last week’s post, check it out here.

Clouded #2

“So tell me about it,” Ethan says, taking a swig of his beer.

I smile, sipping my coffee.  The exhilaration of having a job has hit me, and even though I’m still waking up, I’m almost giddy. We’re at the Special, the pub down the street from Ethan’s house.  We’ve been dating for almost six months, but most of our dates are like this: me on my way to work, him taking a break to grab a meal before going back to work. He works as a valet at the hotel, supplementing the income he makes as an artist manager.  The first time we went out I was planning to ask if he would hire me as an intern.  Instead, we ended up making out in the car.

It’s a beautiful day for January, and we’re sitting outside.  The sun is bright and reflects off the natural blond highlights in his brown hair.  His eyes shine behind his glasses with the thick red rims. I used to hate those glasses, but I’m getting used to them now.  They’re a little too Elton John for my taste.  He’s wearing valet uniform: black dress pants and white button down shirt.  He’ll probably change into shorts an a band t-shirt when he gets home.  I’ve got my work uniform on too, a black pencil skirt and blue button down blouse.

“The interview was weird.  It wasn’t really an interview even.  They knew they were going to offer me the job.”

“That’s great!” He grabs my hand across the table, playing with my fingers.

“What are you going to be doing?” he asks.

“I don’t really know. They didn’t really say.  Assisting Jonathan I guess.”

“What’s he do again?”

“Well, he was managing TheBrass. But he and Seth are starting a new company, and he’s going to be running it. I’ll be helping him with the accounting stuff.”

“For the new company, or for Clouded?”

“I don’t know.  All of it maybe.  There are nine companies that Seth operates.”

“Really?  How?  They’re not that big are they?”

I sip my coffee, then start twirling my hair around my finger.  “There around twenty or so employees.  Eight interns last semester.”

“But what all do they do?”

I sigh, frustrated that Ethan doesn’t know more about where I interned.  We’ve talked about it a million times.  “They manage.  And they’ve got the publishing thing.  And,” now I have to think.  How are there nine companies?  As an intern I spent a lot of time filing.  Endless hours stuck in the storage closet with cabinets tagged with color coded stickers to signify which business’ information they housed. I start counting them out on my fingers.  “There’s the management company.  Then there’s the publishing company.  Record label, booking agency.  Then there’s the business management side of it, and, of course, the main “Clouded” company.”

“What’s the difference between that and the management company?”

“I don’t know for sure.  I think that when Sylvie left Seth had to start a new company in order to fully dissolve the partnership.  All of her royalty checks still come to the main company though.”  Sylvie was Seth’s first artist.  They called her “A tomboy with an angel’s voice.”  She was just sixteen years old when a song she wrote was used as the main theme to a hit movie and her career took off.  She spent two years living the life: new cars, world tours, platinum record sales.  Then one day, she quit.  She didn’t want to do it anymore.

“Whatever happened to her anyway?” Ethan asks, munching on a fry.  He and Sylvie had been in school together briefly, when she went to Belmont University while on hiatus from touring.  She didn’t stay more than a semester though.

“I don’t know.  I know she was mentoring singer/songwriters for a while.  That was the whole basis of Clouded: getting songs placed in movies and on TV.  She would scout the talent, Seth would manage them.  She kind of gravitated toward the younger crowd, people around her own age.  Seth started doing business management for them because they were too young to take care of their own money. Did you know he set Revolver up with a 401K when the youngest guy was only 13 years old?”

“Who’s Revolver again?”

I narrow my eyes.  He’s teasing me, and I’m just not in the mood.  Revolver has been my favorite band since  high school.  During my senior year I wrote to their record label and asked how I could get into the music industry.  I never wanted to sing or be in the spotlight- I always wanted to be on the inside.  I wanted to help get the songs out.  They told me I should move to Nashville, go to Belmont and intern like crazy.  So I did.  The internship at Clouded was my third.  The first two had been at record labels.

Ethan laughed, squeezing my hand. We’re quiet for a while, him eating, me thinking about the night coming up.  I’ll be at the hotel from 11:00 pm to 8:00 am.  I’ve got a test in my Music Law class tomorrow at 8:30. I hope I’ll have time to study during work.  I should.  The hotel is relatively slow this week, no big conventions.

“Wait,” Ethan says, looking up from his hamburger.  “That’s only six.  I thought you said there were nine companies?”

I’m surprised he noticed.  I didn’t think he was listening very closely.  “Shreds is the other one that Seth owns.  Then there is Revolver and TheBrass.  We do all of their accounting stuff too.”

He nods.  “I wish everyone I worked with had business managers.  But I’d never want to do it for them.

Between Ethan and my teachers, I’m constantly hearing about how un-responsible artists are, how they need someone to manage their money for them.  But having a manager and a business manager be the same person…there are many who think it’s a conflict of interest, just because it’s so much power.  The manager does everything: coordinates all performances with the booking agent, all recording with the label, everything.  When a manager takes over the business management too, he’s got absolute power over both the artist’s schedule and money. When the business manager is a separate person, they can at least watch the financial side of things, be a second set of eyes.

“Who does Seth book now?” Ethan asks.

“I think just Revolver and TheBrass.  I think.”

“So what does everyone else there do?”

“Synchs.  They all work for the label and the publishing company.”  Seth’s empire was built from the money Sylvie made from her success in the movies, and it is the basis of his business.  He signs young songwriters to publishing deals, promising to get their songs placement in TV and movies.  If they’re performers and don’t have a deal with a record label, he records them on his label.  When that happens, he gets a share of both the publishing and the recording fees. Generally, though, most of the songwriters at Clouded just write.  Most never make a full length album.

“So Seth does everything Revolver and TheBrass?” Ethan asks, his eyebrows raised.

“Not anymore.  They both have their own label deals now. He used to do everything for Revolver, though.  They were so young when they started working with him, he just kind of took them under his wing and built them up.”

“Humph,” Ethan says, taking a big bite of his burger.

“What?” I ask, sensing that there is something that he’s not saying.

“Nothing.  I mean,” he wipes his mouth, finishes chewing, and takes a sip of his Coke.  “I mean, it’s just a lot.  To not have more people involved with.  He’s got his hand in all of the cookie jars.”

“What are you saying?”  I cross my arms and lean back in my chair.

“Nothing.  Sorry.  I didn’t mean to imply…” he lets his voice trail off, knowing he’s made me mad.  “I’m just saying.  I’ve seen situations like that end badly, that’s all.  I’m not accusing… Why did Sylvie leave again?”

“I don’t know.  She just didn’t want to be in the industry anymore I guess.”

He nods.  “Well, anyway, I am happy for you.  This will be great experience.”


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