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Managers to Watch: The Rising Execs Helping Noah Kahan, Ice Spice, Zach Bryan & More

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These managers on the rise have guided their artists through breakout years, navigating such firsts as topping the charts, opening stadium shows (for none other than Taylor Swift) and even selling out arenas on their own.

Drew Simmons

Age: 41
Company: Foundations Music
Key Clients: Noah Kahan, Dayglow, COIN

“There is no off-cycle anymore,” says Simmons, who has had a front-row seat to Noah Kahan’s nonstop year, “and that is taxing on the infrastructure around the artist but also on the artist themselves.” From Kahan’s success with Stick Season and its deluxe edition (the latter debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200) to selling out arenas to raising nearly $2 million for mental health resources through The Busyhead Project, Simmons is “excited about opportunities ahead for artists as the paradigm shifts, placing more and more leverage in [their] hands.”

Noah Kahan and Drew Simmons

James Rosemond Jr.

Age: 31
Company: Mastermind Artists
Key Clients: Ice Spice, RIOTUSA

Ice Spice became a chart staple this year, notching four top 10 hits on the Hot 100 including collaborations with superstars like Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj. For Rosemond, being able to pair Ice and producer RIOTUSA with Minaj on two of those tracks (“Princess Diana,” “Barbie World”) was particularly gratifying: “I get high on helping creatives achieve their dreams and positively change their socioeconomic status.”

Ice Spice, RIOTUSA and James Rosemond Jr.

Jesse Gassongo-Alexander, Phoebe Gold

Ages: 30, 29
Company: UpClose
Key Clients: PinkPantheress, Tommy Gold

Gassongo-Alexander never planned to become a manager, but he says working with “a generational artist” like PinkPantheress has been an “incredible experience.” This year, the British artist-producer made her Hot 100 debut with the Ice Spice collaboration “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” and was featured on the Barbie soundtrack. “By continually building trust with each other, we’ve navigated from the early days to now,” he says. Adds Gold: “Our flow has come from treating each other like human beings.”

Alistair Raymond

Age: 37
Company: Beatnik Creative/Blue Raincoat Artists
Key Clients: Arlo Parks, Lana Lubany, Miso Extra

Last year, Raymond’s independent management company partnered with Blue Raincoat Artists. And while he cites “financial support in the early stages of a new artist’s career” as a major challenge for managers, his entire roster leveled up in 2023. Parks’ second album, My Soft Machine, reached No. 9 on the U.K. Albums Chart, while Lana Lubany and Miso Extra both signed long-term record deals. “It takes at least one to two years to get a new artist off the ground with little monetary return,” he says. “It’s an all-or-nothing investment, but the best job in music.”

Aton Ben-Horin, Ethan Curtis

Ages: 43, 36
Company: Plush Management
Key Clients: JVKE, Coi Leray, Faouzia

Ben-Horin, who is also executive vp of A&R at Warner Music Group, describes this year as “incredible,” citing Hot 100 top 10 hits like Coi Leray’s “Players” (produced by Plush client Johnny Goldstein) and JVKE’s “Golden Hour.” The latter also sold out his first tour without a major label or marketing budget beyond radio. “While understanding the short-form content world is important for management,” Curtis says, “even more important is finding talent that is social media native.”

Sean Okeke

Company: Jonzing World Entertainment
Key Clients: Rema, Ruger

“The past 12 months have seen the biggest moments in the Afrobeats genre, which I am super happy I played a strong part in,” Okeke says. Thanks in part to a remix featuring Selena Gomez, Rema’s “Calm Down” became a global hit, reaching No. 3 on the Hot 100 and topping the Global Excl. U.S. chart, making Rema the first artist from Africa to reach No. 1. “The hunger and the joy to see a talent excel at the highest level brought me into this field,” Okeke says, “and has continuously influenced my stay here.”

Mandelyn Monchick

Age: 29
Company: Red Light Managemen
Key Clients: Lainey Wilson, Meg McRee, Ben Chapman

Monchick met Lainey Wilson in 2015 and became fast friends with the country artist. “She didn’t have anyone championing her, and I thought she was a great songwriter, so I started talking about her every chance I had.” This year, Wilson added three more entries on the Hot 100, sold out her first headlining tour, won multiple country music awards and made her acting debut on Yellowstone. “We did everything we could for a long time,” Monchick says, “and it built a damn good foundation.”

Lainey Wilson and Mandelyn Monchick

James Vitalo

Age: 35
Company: Gold Theory Artists
Key Clients: Turnstile, Knocked Loose, Beach Fossils

The past 12 months have been of growth for both Vitalo — who expanded his boutique firm one year after its launch — and Turnstile, which scored its first Grammy nominations (three total) and opened on blink-182’s arena tour. Vitalo, who first worked with the hardcore band as its booking agent before becoming its manager, says, “The biggest challenge has always been setting a realistic pace that will allow for longevity.”

Kristina Russo

Age: 34
Company: KR Experiments
Key Client: GAYLE

Russo describes the past year as “a wild time,” during which GAYLE received her first Grammy nomination (for song of the year with breakout hit “abcdefu”) and opened for P!nk overseas and for Taylor Swift on The Eras Tour. But her biggest priority is guiding GAYLE through the whirlwind: “We are adamant she, as a person, comes first,” Russo says. “Mental, physical and emotional health are imperative in order to do her job. Shout out to our therapists.”

Kristina Russo and GAYLE

Tom Skoglund

Age: 35
Company: Full Stop Management
Key Clients: Tate McRae, Harry Styles

Tate McRae scored two Hot 100 hits this year, including her fast-rising new single, “Greedy,” which arrived during her sold-out North American tour. Working on the pop artist’s next era has been “incredibly fulfilling,” Skoglund says, as was completing Harry Styles’ two-and-a-half-year Love on Tour trek. “Watching the meteoric success of Harry’s House being played to sold-out stadiums day in and day out will forever be a highlight of my career,” he says.

Heather Kolker

Age: 51
Company: Dreamshop Management
Key Clients: MUNA, Nanna, Of Monsters and Men

This year, Kolker (who started as an agent before switching to management) launched her own company while MUNA hit a high, touring with Taylor Swift and boygenius, selling out headlining shows and more. “You must believe that your artist can achieve the future they envision — and that you’re the right team to help get them there,” she says.

Danny Kang, Stefan Max

Key Client: Zach Bryan

Kang and Max have managed Zach Bryan through a breakout year, during which the country-rocker scored his first No. 1 album and Hot 100 chart-topper with “I Remember Everything,” featuring Kacey Musgraves. (This year alone, he has racked up 25 entries on the latter list.) His 2024 headlining tour will take him to arenas and, in some cases, stadiums.

Luis Villamizar

Age: 34
Key Client: Feid

This year, Feid charted a pair of top 10 hits on Hot Latin Songs while MOR, No le Temas a la Oscuridad became his highest-charting entry on Top Latin Albums at No. 4. “Forming such a valuable team was one of the greatest successes,” says Villamizar. “It’s not just one person.”

Sam Schulman

Age: 33
Company: Best Friends Music
Key Clients: Bishop Briggs, Blake Rose, FINNEAS

Schulman credits her musician father and live music for inspiring her to become a manager. “The older I got, the more obsessed I became with the industry and wanting to be a part of it,” she says. That energy led to a major year: She co-founded Club Kassiani, a networking event for women in music, while her artists Blake Rose made his U.S. late-night TV debut and Bishop Briggs won the latest season of The Masked Singer. Schulman says her approach is all about “eliminating the ‘noise’ of what other artists are doing.”

Dani Russin

Age: 38
Company: Good World Management
Key Clients: Troye Sivan, Jake Wesley Rogers, Orville Peck

Russin met veteran manager Brandon Creed over a decade ago and “highly admired his ability for decision-making and diplomatic nature,” she says. She has worked with him ever since, this year joining his newly launched venture, Good World, where she enjoyed a “career highlight” working on Troye Sivan’s latest album campaign. Her history with Creed is her career’s only constant: “Management has always been a 24/7 job, but it’s also now this rapidly changing and ever-evolving ecosystem,” she says. “It’s what keeps things exciting. No two days are alike.”

Colette Patnaude Nelson, Eddie Wintle

Ages: 34, 36
Company: Expand Entertainment
Key Clients: Conan Gray, J. Maya, Rowan Drake

Patnaude Nelson and Wintle, who together discovered Conan Gray as a high schooler on YouTube, agree that the biggest challenge for managers and artists today is cutting through the noise. “Building a fan base and getting people to care about your music is harder than ever,” Wintle says. It’s why watching 100,000 fans at Lollapalooza Argentina sing every word of Gray’s hourlong set in March was, as he recalls, “one of the craziest moments” of his career so far.

Colette Patnaude Nelson and Conan Gray

Jayne Andrew, Ty Baisden

Ages: 36, 39
Company: COLTURE
Key Clients: Brent Faiyaz, Hamzaa, N3WYRKLA

In 2022, Brent Faiyaz scored a chart breakthrough with his independently released Wasteland, which summited the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. It was a moment his partners and COLTURE co-founders Andrew (head of management, partnerships and creative development) and Baisden (head of ventures) had been working toward for years. In May, Faiyaz inked an unprecedented partnership (estimated at close to $50 million) to form a creative agency with UnitedMasters. But the biggest success, Baisden says, is that they built their infrastructure “outside of the major-label system.”

Josh Marshall

Age: 32
Company: Mogul Vision
Key Clients: d4vd, Rubi Rose

Though Marshall says he “fell into” management, the past year has solidified his path — and that of his company, Mogul Vision, with help from GM Robert Morgenroth. And while breakout star d4vd has scored a pair of Hot 100 hits and an opening slot on tour with SZA, Marshall has set his sights even higher: “The biggest challenge,” he says, “is creating infrastructure around an artist to grow their business long term beyond music.”

Josh Marshall and d4vd

Holly Cartwright, Shira Knishkowy

Ages: 31, 35
Company: Another Management Company
Key Clients: Blondshell, Alvvays, Waxahatchee

Knishkowy worked in label publicity and communications at Spotify before pivoting to management — and almost immediately, she and Cartwright helped discover and sign indie rock newcomer Blondshell. This year, the artist and alt-pop act Alvvays made their respective late-night TV debuts and grew their audiences globally. “Breaking new artists alongside Holly and finding new ways to elevate artists who have already achieved a level of success alongside [fellow managers] Rennie Jaffe and Mike Sneeringer is something I’m really proud of,” says Knishkowy.

Bello

Key Client: Central Cee

“It’s all a blur,” Bello says of his last 12 months, during which fast-rising British rapper Central Cee broke U.K. chart history as “Sprinter” (with Dave) became the longest-reigning rap single, while in the United States, he debuted on the Hot 100 with his Drake collaboration, “On the Radar Freestyle.” For “90% of the time,” Bello says, milestones were met without a team in place. This year, however, Central Cee signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Columbia Records in partnership with Sony Music U.K. and with Wasserman Music for worldwide agency representation. Says Bello: “I take pride in being someone my artists can trust blindly and make sure they get what they deserve.”

Central Cee and Bello

This story will appear in the Oct. 21, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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