“I fell into the music industry by accident,” divulges Ros Earls, founder and owner of England’s 140dB Management (http://140db.co.uk). Since going into business in 1987, the classically trained singer/pianist has assisted a bounty of the world’s most recognizable producers, mixers, writers and engineers, including Ed Buller, Gil Norton, Steve Osborne and Danton Supple. “But now,” she continues, “I see it’s a world that always suited me.”
Earls was the receptionist of Sarm Studios/ZTT before moving to Trident Studios where she met mega producer Flood, whose credits include U2, PJ Harvey, Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails.
Eventually, she came to the realization that the studios weren’t what make records great—it comes down to the people. “I got to the point where the management side of things was so clearly my priority that I had no choice but to jump,” she recalls. “And to my surprise, most of the engineers and producers jumped with me.” One of those producers was Flood.
The company launched from her coffee table at home, sharing space with her brother and maintaining low overhead. Today, Earls marvels at these lo-fi roots. “I worked on a typewriter with carbon paper for making copies and eventually progressed to a word processor—an Amstrad.”
Single-handedly supporting 15 clients simultaneously meant long hours. Today, 140dB claims three full-time employees and one part-time accountant. Their current roster, meanwhile, has only grown to 19. “I’ve considered expanding beyond the numbers I currently have,” she muses, “but I’ve found that, in spite of my best efforts to delegate, my producers want to know that they’re getting my input on a day-to-day basis. That’s why they came to us in the first place.”
It’s all a piece of Earls’ working philosophy that places personal service above everything else. Her holistic approach means she helps clients with every aspect of their lives, freeing them to concentrate on creating great music. Likewise, she will only consider collaborating with people who are exceptionally talented, passionate and kind. “I’ve managed folk who made me loads of money but whose daily attitude made me unhappy,” she recalls. “I don’t do that either.”
The company’s guiding principle of fostering balanced relationships extends, naturally, to their contracts. “I wouldn’t say our terms are more favorable than other management companies,” Earls admits, “but it’s really important to me that the artist doesn’t feel raped by the deal you’re offering.” She claims some of the most interesting jobs she’s doing these days involve directly helping artists for little or no money. Subsequently, each of their deals differs greatly. “I need to sleep at night, so I’m not going to do business with someone in a way that is fundamentally unbalanced,” she notes. “You want to represent your client in a way that fully reflects their status and skill while knowing you haven’t screwed anyone over in the process.”
Ultimately, the company’s renown is summed up by their interpersonal touch. “I like to have a musical relationship with my clients,” she boasts. “To get to know how they feel about music to a point that I know what they’d think about something without even asking.” Doing so allows her to distinguish which projects are crying out for a particular client’s involvement and which aren’t.
Most of the artists she handles discovered her through their website or via word of mouth. Although she isn’t looking to take on new clients, she’ll always make time to consider new talent. “Send me the work you are most proud of,” she advises. “This gives an immediate insight into your approach to music.”
Producers, she suggests, need to be writers and musicians, on top of possessing a decent understanding of the industry’s business side. Also, have your own studio and be self-motivated. But critically, “You need to have enough strength of personality to take charge in some situations, but the wisdom and humility to be collaborative and invisible in others.”
Although she is located in London, Earls services the industry worldwide. “I don’t mind staying up late for people who are wonderful and sometimes even grateful. I’m happy to work with anyone who’s great, whichever planet they’re from.”
Contact Erika Tooker / Music PR & Video Promotion, [email protected]