I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Stover, President and owner of MTS Management Group. MTS Management Group is more than just an artist management/publicity/promotions company…It is where INDIE artists get MAJOR exposure! Specializing in full-service artist management, publicity and promotions, radio and social media campaigns for new and established independent artists and indie labels, MTS Management Group and MTS Records are on the cutting edge of today’s new music business.
Founded in 2010 by Award-winning songwriter, musician and producer, Michael Stover. A music industry veteran of over 30 years, Michael is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, with a degree specializing in the Music and Video business. Michael has used that education to gain a wealth of experience within the industry: from retail music manager and DJ, to two-time Billboard Magazine Contest winning songwriter, performer and chart-topping producer, and finally, award-winning artist manager, publicist, promoter and label president. In just 8 years, MTS Records has released 33 Top 40 New Music Weekly country chart singles, including TWELVE #1s and 8 Top 85 Music Row chart singles. MTS has also promoted 8 Top 25 itunes chart singles, including 3 Top 5s and a #1! Michael has written columns featured in Hypebot, Music Think Tank, and Fair Play Country Music, among others. Michael has promoted artists and events from the United States, UK, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Australia and Sweden, making MTS a truly international company.
Thank you so much for your time. I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Complete serendipity, happenstance and divine intervention. I have always been a musician, and involved in the music industry, in some manner, since I was about 13 years old. In fact, my first client, Bryan Cole, is a childhood friend and fellow musician, that I had played with in local bands. My second client, Xander Demos, another fellow musician and bandmate, had told me Bryan had moved to Nashville around 2009, and recorded an album with multi-platinum producer, Chuck Ainlay.
So, I looked Bryan up, and we began working together in his solo band. I was playing drums. In the meantime, Bryan didn’t have a manager or publicist, so I asked him if I could try to find someone to do this for him. After a month or so of making calls, sending emails, and sending out CDs, my friend David Lowry, whom I hadn’t met yet, took the time to spend about 30 minutes on the phone with Bryan and I, explaining why we weren’t having any success in the new music industry. Things had changed enormously since we were playing in bands in the 90s. After that conversation, I asked Bryan if he would allow me the chance to manage and promote him. After some successes with Bryan and then, Xander, it just snowballed from there. Pretty soon, clients were coming from all over the world…Sweden, UK, Alaska, Australia, Canada, etc. I am so grateful that I was placed on this path. I always hold myself up to a higher standard, because I truly believe that God has me right where he wants me, and that I can glorify Him through my work.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Wow. There have been so many, to be honest. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing artists and extremely humble and hard working people. Having my artists in Billboard Magazine has been a thrill. Charting #1 singles is always fantastic. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with one of my drumming idols on the phone, Robert Sweet of Stryper. I’ve also booked some huge acts for interviews on the radio show I promote. So, I can’t really think of just one story. I’ve loved every second of it, and look forward to much more down the road.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Funniest mistake…thinking that having good music is enough to open doors. There are SO many talented artists out there, that the music is just one aspect of the entire product/brand. You also really need to have a good budget to work with, because promotion isn’t cheap. Probably just the naïveté that your client is the best, musically, and that they will succeed based on that, would be the big mistake.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
I was profitable immediately, albeit a smaller scale. As I’ve acquired more clients, more contacts, and more capital, bigger and more expensive opportunities have presented themselves. I always re-invest money into my clients. So, when I get paid for my services, my clients can know that I’m investing not only my time and talents, but also a portion of the money that I’m being paid. We’ve been going strong for going on 10 years now, and things have grown beyond my wildest dreams. I’m very blessed. I would suggest to someone starting out, that they start to grow their databases of contacts in the press by searching for various outlets online, and make contact with them. Develop relationships. That’s really what it’s all about. The money will come, but you really have to put your time in. It’s way more than a 9–5 job. When I first started, and to some extent today, I was putting in 16 hour+ days, missing out on family outings, holidays, personal life, just to build my business. That’s where the real investment and sacrifice came. You have to have a strong support system around you. My wife is unbelievable. She has really supported me big time, and she knows that all the work I put in, is not only for my clients, but for her and our kids, too.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Ooh..so many! We’ve got a new single from Indie Country Hall of famer, Richard Lynch that is going out to Christian radio; Country legend, Margie Singleton also has a gospel single that we’re promoting; Canadian band, Across The Board just put out a new video and re-released 3 albums with us; #1 iTunes EDM artist, Clayton Morgan is about to release a new single on November 12th; Canadian singer-songwriter Cory M. Coons just released 5 singles with us; Canadian award-winner Ed Roman has a fantastic animated video out, that has been tearing up the festival circuit; London singer-songwriters FaB just released a new single; Texas artists Heather Whitney and Madelyn Victoria both have new singles out; Nashville’s Jeremy Parsons has a film festival video out; Denver’s Love Stallion and James Lee Baker both have full lengths they are promoting; Pittsburgh’s Matt Westin re-released his debut album and has a new single coming out; Canadian artist Tia McGraff is about to drop her new video; and we just signed a new artist, Bill Abernathy, who is about to release his next album project…not to mention our award-winning Radio Show, Whiskey and Cigarettes!
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Be patient. Spend your time wisely. Get organized. Be truthful and honest. Have integrity. Don’t be afraid of the word “no.” Under promise, over deliver. Don’t have a personal life. Find Jesus. These are just a few of my personal mantras.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking? I think the best thing to remember when you network, is that you want to know how you can help others. Don’t go into a relationship looking to just get what you want, or need. It’s a 2 way street. Go to as many industry events as you can. Whether they are awards shows, or dinners, or just a small get together. Be there, and be your best.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
How to Win Friends and Influence People is a terrific read. Also, the Compound Effect. These two books are priceless, when it comes to advice on how to deal with people, and improve your business skills. The Bible also gives you all you need, in every aspect of life.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 I would like to inspire people to help others who are not as fortunate as we are. Charitable causes are so important to me, especially when it comes to those that help less fortunate children. We are so blessed in America, and I think a lot of people take for granted the important everyday things that we have…clean drinking water, electricity, indoor plumbing, grocery stores, cars, warm clothes, roofs over our heads, etc. etc. I could go on and on. If everyone would take a few dollars that they would spend on Starbucks, or some other “luxury” item, and give it to someone in need, they would make a tremendous change in that person’s life. You’d be surprised what $1 per day can do for someone in an impoverished country, or even for those kids in the US, who live in poor areas. If we can affect positive change in those areas, it would make for a better generation of children coming up behind us.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- It takes more than talent to succeed in the music business. As I mentioned earlier, that was naïveté on my part, thinking that talent was enough to get you where you needed to be in the music industry. It takes a whole lot more, and talent isn’t always at the top of the list. It helps, but so does money, connections, drive, etc.
- You will work harder than you ever have in your life. It’s true. Although I love every minute of it (mostly,) I do spend much of my waking hours working. I feel called to work harder for my clients, than I think the next guy is working for his/her clients. There is always someone doing one thing more than you are doing, so I want to be that guy!
- You will love waking up and going to work every day. Again…true statement. Even on my worst days, I am grateful for what I am able to do for a living. I work with awesome people, my clients, and I truly enjoy working hard for them. When they succeed, I succeed. Sometimes, I get to work in my pajamas! Lol. I get to be with my wife and kids, while I work. I work in music, which is really my first true love. Life is good, and I have this business to thank for it.
- You can’t please all the people all the time. It sounds cliche, but it’s also true. By nature, I am a people pleaser. I always have been. I take my business extremely personal. Because it’s such a huge part of who I am, and I pour my heart and soul into what I do, I take any criticism to heart. I haven’t had to deal with a-lot, but from time to time, it happens. We all have bad days. We’re all human. Doing your best at all times, and putting forth a professional attitude will always win out over reacting emotionally. So, take everything with a grain of salt, and be the best you that you can possibly be.
- You don’t always have to win to be the best. Another cliche. Winning can be extremely gratifying, when it comes to awards, or getting to #1 on a chart, or getting top rated placements on the best sites, but as long as you put your all into it, and do it with the utmost integrity, you can sleep peacefully, knowing that your clients are being represented by the very best. It can be disheartening when you don’t get recognized with public acknowledgment of your work, but really, the only ones that matter in this business, are your artists, and your contacts. Treat people fairly, and they will return the favor, for the most part. This business has some wonderful people in it. Some have been very helpful to me, especially when I first started out, and for that kindness, I am forever grateful. I call these people my friends, and I’m so honored to work with them all.