by Christine Witmer
Music manager, Dave Creel seems to have his career in music management all figured out. As the founder of Chieftain Artists, a boutique music management company, he makes the business of managing artists seem suspiciously easy.
Creel has been involved in some type of artist management from the time he was in high school. A trumpet player, he graduated with a degree in music management from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he made his way to Los Angeles and took a stab at the corporate world, working for William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. After leaving that “crash course” in booking, Creel decided to flex his entrepreneurial muscles and started the process of opening Chieftain Artists in July 2013. He had already been working with artists for years, but was looking to start a company to help establish a brand that would elevate his legitimacy as well as a banner for his artists to rally under.
1. Choose Talent Wisely – Music Management is a Personal Business
As the head of his company, Creel has the freedom to choose which artists he wants to work with, and oftentimes finds he is collaborating with college colleagues as well as friends-of-friends. His relationships with artists range from tour planning, promotion, and bookings to general consulting. He values the creation of a personal friendship with each of the bands he works with, and genuinely enjoys the artistic product of his artist roster. His musical background allows him to approach and interact with artists on the same playing field – he’s able to speak their language, and he states that that helps build trust with the musicians he works with.
2. All About Trust (and boots on the ground)
Trust was a theme that continued to come up during our conversation. In fact, when pushed for a Thought-Catalogue-esque list of essential artist management tips, “trust” was the first, almost immediate trait that he listed to be successful in his business. I was hoping he’d be able to provide readers with a clear cut, step-by-step approach to getting started in talent management, but as with most arts-related career paths, one doesn’t seem to exist. Creel’s biggest piece of advice was just to go get started. “The market is flooded with artists who need help. You have to build the experience-so go out there and do it.” For Creel, that includes wearing many different hats when working with artists as well as having a “boots on the ground” attitude. He also expressed that “success” may have a different meaning to each musician that he works with, and to be a successful manager you need to communicate with the artist on the direction they would like to take.
3. Know the Work
While Creel’s musical degree and instrumental background help him interact with musicians on an organic level, it also allows him have an ear for excellent talent. He manages Jasmine Jordan, an up-and-coming R&B artist whose latest EP release has been described as “a must-listen-to-collection (Pen’s Eye View). Her debut single, “Time Travel” has over 15,000 views on YouTube. She also recently collaborated on a tribute project to the album-of-the-year winning record, Morning Phase, by Beck, where her cover of “Turn Away” was featured on Mashable.com.
The diverse roster of the Chieftain Artist “family” of musicians allows for exciting opportunities to collaborate. Later this year Creel plans to produce a video series that brings artists in unlikely collaborations to cover “classic” songs outside of their typical genre. While he acknowledges the potential risk of a project like this, Creel again referred to the trust between his artists and his company. He knows the artists he works with will produce great work, and at the same time they trust him to lead them to musically exciting projects and get to the next stage of their careers.
Author Christine Witmer serves as the Director of Education and Community Engagement with the Pasadena Symphony Association. Christine graduated from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music with a degree in Music Management. A trained classical saxophonist, Christine is a member of the North American Saxophone Alliance as well as an alumni member of Sigma Alpha Iota, a professional women’s music fraternity.