In this edition of my blog series feature Behind the Art, meet Lisa Champagne-Sweet. Married to Stryper’s Michael Sweet, and also his band’s manager, Lisa is another kindred spirit. I’m quite familiar with how much effort goes into her artist management workday. Y&T’s previous manager used to say that “managing a band is a thankless job,” and I’d imagine every “behind the scenes” job might fall into that category. Cheers to Lisa and unsung heroes everywhere.
Behind the Art: Lisa Champagne-Sweet
I’ve always had a love for music and have dabbled in the music industry over the years. After Michael and I were married, Michael expressed that he wanted to be more involved in the financial side of Stryper’s business. As this was my profession, he asked me to assist so that he could have a better idea of what was going on. From there, I had the opportunity to learn more about the business from Dave Rose at Deep South Entertainment, who was Stryper’s manager at the time. Although I already had a background in finance, Dave proved to be instrumental in helping me learn the business side of the music industry to go along with that. For the first three years, I assisted Michael and Dave with the smaller details of the band’s business (merchandise ideas and implementation), reading contract details for approval and answering emails. That’s how I started to see the bigger picture, the day-to-day details of the music industry. At this point, I am the manager for Stryper and Michael Sweet. I don’t claim to know it all, but I think that I have done a pretty good job of getting a handle on things over the past three years.
Who all is on your roster?
Stryper and Michael Sweet. I’m not what you would call a typical “manager,” or a management company. Having a full-time job with the Arc of Cape Cod, it would be impossible for me to have more on my roster. However, in the future, it may be something that I’m interested in pursuing. For now I am happy to just work with Stryper and Michael Sweet.
I’m guessing that, like me, you wear many hats. Please explain to the readers: what all does your job and business entail?
I am a financial manager at my “day job,” and somehow (because I want to help everyone), I ended up also handling the finances not only for Arc and our personal life, but also for my mother, my disabled nephew, Michael Sweet Productions and Stryper. So I guess my many hats would encompass this: Assistant Executive Director for The Arc of Cape Cod, band manager, financial manager, and sometimes tour manager for Michael Sweet Solo & Stryper, a wife (can’t forget that important duty), a homemaker, a stepmom, and hopefully a good friend. 🙂
The aspects of my two jobs would be contracts and budgeting for the Arc of Cape Cod, a non-profit agency that serves individuals with disabilities. For the Arc, I handle all the state contracting and billing, I do payroll and oversee the agencies programs and staff.
For Stryper & Michael Sweet Solo, I do the management duties, which includes interfacing with booking agents, record labels, fans, promoters, employees, merchandise companies, photographers, business vendors, payroll companies, insurance companies, royalties collections and reporting (reporting to all the various online means of collections can be daunting, but imperative). Travel details and social media I leave up to the band and administrators, but I assist with promotions by nagging incessantly.
How is managing your husband, and how do you make it work?
(Laughs) I think that managing a husband and being a wife aren’t much different. It works because he wants me there and really appreciates what I do for him.
Do you go on all of the tours? If so, how to you manage family life and a busy travel schedule?
To be honest, it is very tough, but somehow I do it. I am very blessed to have a flexible day job that I have been at for 20 years which allows me to take time off when needed. I am able to join Michael on the road a lot more than the other band wives do. However, it’s certainly not all peaches & cream; I have a lot of responsibilities while out there and when things are not going right, it falls on me to make it right. When we are off the road, I don’t see him as much, because I am working both jobs. While he is home he helps out with errands, household jobs and taking care of our animals, which makes it a little easier on me. When we have Ellena home, she is a huge help when we are traveling; when she is at school, I have my trusted assistant Marilyn that comes to my rescue!
As a woman in a male-dominant business, what gender-based obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
First, you have to gain people’s respect, and that can be a very tough thing to do, so proving you can do a good job makes all the difference in the world. People can also seem more reserved when they’re talking to me (the front man’s wife), so I try to tell them that they can be themselves and talk to me like they would the booking agent, TM, etc. Then, when they are okay with that, things get easier (except for listening to all the cussing of course). (Laughs)
The guys in Stryper are fairly easy and manageable. Of course, they all have their opinions, which may not always agree with mine, but I’m able to respect their opinions and work with them. The proof will be in the success that comes to Stryper and Michael Sweet, which I think is directly related to the management process. If they fail, I fail. If they succeed, I’m succeeding.
Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d “made it” as a music industry professional?
I am still waiting on that “aha” moment.
What makes you want to research an artist that’s unfamiliar to you?
If there is someone that is making an impact in the industry, I will look into what they are doing. Michael really keeps on top of this part!
Where do you live and why?
Michael and I live in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was born and raised on Cape Cod, so that is where I prefer to stay, close to family and friends.
What is your morning routine?
Coffee, coffee, coffee! Then head upstairs to check my email, then head to the Arc.
What constitutes a productive day at work for you?
Actually getting everything done on my list, which never happens. Hopefully someday, right?
Is there anything unusual about your workspace? What do you keep on your desk? What’s the view from there?
Well, I have two offices, but my office for managing is in my home. It’s above the garage, so my view is of the trees, which I love. I can see the birds from up there, so I’ll sit and watch them sometimes. It’s relaxing. I keep a big mess of paperwork on my desk (the pile of to-dos). I also keep a stress relief, lavender scented inhaler for those “pull out your hair” moments. And, of course, I have photos of my animals, my husband and my family members.
Do you have a peculiar habit?
I have a bit of OCD in me, so I tend to over plan. I’m very detail oriented, that way. So I guess my peculiar habit would be my need to be a perfectionist.
Please recommend three songs (any genre, any artist) and tell us why you like them.
Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. It reminds me of growing up in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It makes me happy and gives me that vibe.
God by Stryper. I feel like it’s an epic song. The musical content, the guitars, the harmonies, they’re just amazing.
My third recommendation would be any song from the Grease soundtrack, sung in a car with a bunch of friends and family.
As I’m also an author, I’d love for you to recommend three books and tell us why you like them.
The Bible. Although, it’s a long read; I still haven’t finished it.
Honestly, by Michael Sweet, of course. Do I really have to explain why I like it? 😉
Third, I would say ADHD and Marriage, by Melissa Orlov and Dr. Ned Hallowell. It was instrumental in helping me learn how to live with/be married to someone with ADHD.
Do you have an industry friend who helps and inspires you?
Pamela Mustaine. I think that she’s inspiring. She has a lot of insight and experience in the music industry because she’s married to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Dave Rose from Deep South, too. He really encouraged and supported me over the years.
Do you play a musical instrument? If so, which one(s), and for how long have you played?
I’m not musically inclined whatsoever. However, my husband says I can sing just like Cher.
Do you have any superstitions?
Kind of a lot. I definitely have an issue with 666; whenever I see that number, it makes me cringe. I don’t like to step on cracks. I don’t kill spiders, because I’m afraid it will rain. I pick up lucky pennies. I’ve always been intuitive when it comes to people. I can read someone’s character very well, I would say.
What phrase do you over-use?
What was I just saying? and Are you gonna do that? and That’s hilarious.
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?
On the last tour, we were trying to save money on a tour bus, so we decided to rent a micro-bus. During the three-week run, I heard nothing but stories about no AC, blown out tires, humans being catapulted around the bus due to suspension issues. Although the band didn’t think it was funny at the time, it turned out to be quite comical and a great story to tell.
What is something about yourself that is essentially unknown and maybe even surprising?
I love to go on roller coasters. I love kids movies. I’m a big sucker for animated movies, which I have a difficult time getting my family to watch with me.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Just to educate themselves in regards to the financial side of the industry. Be weary of signing contracts that seem too good to be true; if it seems too good, it probably is. And, to stay true to their artistry and what they feel they want to accomplish in life. That’s what makes them unique. Not to lose themselves in the excitement of fame by trying to conform to the industry’s flavor of the week. Above all else, their intuition will guide them in the right direction.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the business side of music?
Again, to educate themselves. Nowadays, bands are starting to self-manage, and if you educate yourself and become savvy in business 101, you can easily do this yourself and avoid putting your money and control in someone else’s hands. In my case, I started out by reading All You Need to Know About the Music Business, by Donald S. Passman, and befriending someone who is familiar with the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.