In this edition of my blog series feature Behind the Art, meet Lisa Jenkins, manager of the legendary Peter Frampton, among others. Frampton Comes Alive was the soundtrack of my youth, so I was especially intrigued to interview Peter’s manager. I know it sounds trite, but Lisa is a really cool person, and she followed a very interesting path to artist management. Enjoy!
Behind the Art: Lisa Jenkins
Artist Manager, Vector Management
What prompted you to pursue the business side of music? How did you happen into it?
I was living in NYC in the mid ’80s, working at Ford Models as Eileen Ford’s assistant and model booker. Ford had a Supermodel of the World TV special years ago that booked guest artists. Laura Branigan was one of the acts on the TV show, and I heard she was looking for an assistant. After the show taped, I applied and got the job! That led to me moving to Los Angeles and working for Gold Mountain Entertainment for many years. I moved to Nashville to open up their office, and worked for FCC Entertainment, as well.
Who all is on your roster?
I currently represent Peter Frampton, Lilly Hiatt, Robben Ford, and Rodney Crowell, along with Ken Levitan at Vector Management.
Who’s the first artist that got you started? What’s the story behind that?
Laura Branigan was the first artist I worked with in the music business, in the mid ’80s. I was her personal assistant and traveled the world with her for 2 years. Needless to say, I learned a lot!
As a woman in a male-dominant business, what gender-based obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
I feel, as a woman in this business, that sometimes I’m not taken as seriously as I should be. People mistake niceness for weakness. And, that is so not the case. I think just working hard, being kind and doing the best you can makes for a successful career. Hopefully, that will shine through and not what is or is not in your pants.
Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d “made it” as a music industry professional?
I feel I’d made it as a music industry professional when I made the transition from being an assistant to a real manager. Peter Frampton gave me that opportunity, and for that I will always be grateful. We have been together now for 18 years!
Also, being in a room of people that I have admired and/or been a fan of my entire life makes me feel like I have made it!
Whether for business or just for pleasure, what makes you want to research an artist who’s unfamiliar to you?
A friend recommending a new artist, reading about them, or hearing a song on the radio that I do not recognize makes me want to check someone out.
Where do you live and why?
I live in St. Louis, MO, as my husband’s job is here. I commute to Nashville once a month to work from our management office.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine is drinking a cup of PG Tips tea while checking my email. Some mornings I work out as well.
What constitutes a productive day at work for you?
Getting answers and resolving issues with whatever is going on with my artists makes for a productive work day. As you know, in management, there are constant curveballs and things changing by the minute. So, as long as I can keep up with everyone and try to anticipate what’s coming next, I feel like I’ve had a good day!
Is there anything unusual about your workspace? What do you keep on your desk? What’s the view from there?
My workspace is actually my kitchen island and counter. My real office is up on the 3rd floor with no view out the window. So, I’d rather be on the first floor looking out at the street with lots of light. I have paper notebooks (I know, old school!) for each artist I represent. So, those are always near my laptop. Of course, my landline and cell phone are close by, too.
Do you have a peculiar habit?
No peculiar habits, I’m afraid.
Please recommend three songs (any genre, any artist) and tell us why you like them.
Okay. Disclaimer, this was very hard as I have so many faves! But, three of my favorite songs:
Mahamantra Meltdown—Krishna Das. It always make me happy!
Have a Little Faith in Me—John Hiatt. So brutally honest and beautiful.
Back in Black—AC/DC. Uh, no reason necessary!
As I’m also an author, I’d love for you to recommend three books and tell us why you like them.
Three of my favorite books:
The Giving Tree—Shel Silverstein. Such a beautiful, bittersweet life lesson.
Of Love and Other Demons—Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meany—John Irving. I read everything John Irving writes! He is my very favorite writer. I love his wacky dysfunctional families and their adventures.
Do you have an industry friend who helps and inspires you?
I have many industry friends who help and inspire me. I am very lucky for all of the support from both my male and female industry friends!
Do you play a musical instrument? If so, which one(s), and for how long have you played?
I do not play a musical instrument. I did play saxophone in my junior high and high school marching bands, though.
Do you have any superstitions?
I think the only superstition I have is when boarding a plane, I always touch the outside as I walk onto it.
What phrase do you over-use?
“Child, please!” is an expression I frequently use. Of course, there are a few expletives, as well!
Do you have a funny story related to your job, whether it be planning a tour, or on tour, or at a meet-and-greet with one of your artists?
I quit my job while on tour in South Africa back in the 1980s, as I was being taken advantage of by the artist’s management. I was stuck there for almost a week while the tour finished, as back then there weren’t as many flights in and out of Johannesburg. Although I was scared, I was proud that I stood up for myself.
Another funny story is that producer David Foster and Kenny G pushed my car up a hill when I ran off David’s driveway!
What is something about yourself that is essentially unknown and maybe even surprising?
I was raised on a tobacco farm in North Florida.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
I would advise an aspiring musician to move where the action is. Lately, that seems to be Nashville. It’s so easy to meet people in the business there. It’s a genuine place, where people help each other. I suppose putting online videos of yourself performing is still really popular to help. Also, you just need to get out and perform as much as possible and build up your fan base—even if you have to book yourself.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the business side of music?
For someone wanting to get into the business side of the music business, I would suggest going to a city where there is a music scene to work for an artist, or at a management company, booking agency, publisher, record label, etc., to see which side of the business you are most excited about. I know there are universities where you can major in different aspects of the music business (which did not exist when I was starting out). But, in my opinion, there is nothing better than life experience and jumping in feet first!
AC/DC, Back in Black, David Foster, Eileen Ford, FCC Entertainment, Ford Models, Frampton Comes Alive, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gold Mountain Entertainment, Have a Little Faith in Me, John Hiatt, John Irving, Ken Levitan, Kenny G, Krishna Das, Laura Branigan, Lilly Hiatt, Mahamantra Meltdown, Of Love and Other Demons, Peter Frampton, Prayer for Owen Meany, Robben Ford, Rodney Crowell, Shel Silverstein, Supermodel of the World TV, The Giving Tree, Vector Management