Persistence and partnerships pay off for band manager
Two laptops and a desktop computer constantly run whenever Nicholas Mishko is in his tiny office in downtown Cortland, and his cellphone seldom goes more than a couple minutes before lighting up with another text or call.
As a band manager, Mishko spends a lot of hours in that office, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the clock when he’s not there.
“They (the bands) have to put their hearts on the line. I’m the business guy,” Mishko said. “If they’re broken down in Nowheresville, Iowa, and it’s raining and they’re stranded at 2 in the morning, the least their team can do is pick up the phone and help them out — ‘We’ll get this fixed. I’m going to help you.'”
Michael Dulay of the Youngstown band Alteras, one of Mishko’s clients, said, “We’ve been out with bands that didn’t have that team. They’re in the dark the whole entire time.”
Mishko’s 10 and 8 Management represents 17 acts, ranging from Alteras close to home to Scream Blue Murder, based in England.
“When I see a band I like, I’m pretty persistent,” he said.
He went to see Alteras about five years ago at the Crawlspace, a club that used to be in Girard, at the recommendation of a friend. Mishko said he was impressed because Alteras wasn’t the headliner — they were the third act on a five-band bill — but the crowd was chanting for an encore.
“I loved that they didn’t care. They were going over their set time and playing one more,” he said.
At that point, Alteras was playing a local gig about once every four months. Since signing with Mishko, Alteras landed a record deal with the indie label Revival Recordings and last year played 101 gigs nationwide. Last month, the band played two dates on the Vans Warped Tour.
None of those steps came easy. Getting acts on the Warped Tour is something Mishko has been working on for years. It finally happened after Mishko and the band were able to connect with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman at a National Association of Music Merchants convention and convinced him to check out the band’s set.
“When we go to something like NAMM, we go with a game plan,” Mishko said. “Who do we want to go after?”
Mishko, 33, credited “A&R,” a novel about a music talent scout by former MTV executive and Rolling Stone writer Bill Flanagan, with sparking his interest in a career in the music business.
After graduating from Niles McKinley High School in 2004, he studied media / communications at Youngstown State University. Needing an internship, he sent resumes to all of the music industry addresses he could find in his CD collection and worked for Rock Ridge Music in New York.
After graduating from YSU in 2008, he landed a job with ABKCO Music in New York in the royalties department. The job paid well and was in the music business, but Mishko wasn’t happy.
“I wanted to work with artists more directly,” he said. “In royalties, it’s accounting. It is what it is. I wanted to work more on the creative side. I knew a couple of artists who where looking for management. I reached out to them and found out I was pretty good at it. One act turned into five, which turned into 17.”
Mishko has seen significant changes in the music business, even in the decade since he graduated. Physical media like CDs, which used to be an act’s primary source of income, now are a promotional tool to get new fans to the shows or help drive them to sites / services like YouTube and Spotify. Alteras — and all of the other bands on the Warped Tour — were selling CDs for $5.
But the audience information available from services like Spotify allows Mishko to route tours and target particular audiences. Mishko can see on his computers which cities are streaming Alteras’ music the most and the demographic information about those listeners.
“We can take that data and go to the talent buyer — it might benefit all of us, instead of playing the 300-capacity room, to play the 600-capacity room. You can sell more tickets, we can sell more merch and grow it from there.”
Mishko also is aggressive in attracting partnerships with a variety of major corporations, from Spirit Airlines to Budweiser to Fireball Alteras regularly promotes its partnership with Spirit on its social media accounts. Another example is Scattered Hamlet, which will be playing this month on the main stage at the 78th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
“We needed to get them in some nice Harley-Davidson leather jackets,” Mishko said, and he contacted the motorcycle manufacturer. “In return, they’ll be in front of 65,000 bikers, their demographic … Any brand is an opportunity.”