EXCLUSIVE: MN2S music agency founder Sharron Elkabas on making it in the music business
Sharron Elkabas is the founder and managing director MN2S, a music agency who represent major acts such as Lil Yachty, Sister Sledge, Flo Rida, Hot Chocolate and many, many more on their books. Here he tells Mandy News how his passion for live music led to creating the agency, what challenges artists and agents face and what new acts can do to succeed in the industry.
Sharron, please introduce yourself and just tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the world of film and television.
I'm the Owner/Founder and Agency Director of MN2S, the music and talent agency. We were originally event promoters back in the day in the early to mid ‘90s – mainly electronic events.
It was a real passion of ours. We weren't really running it as a business initially but it developed, from the mid-’90s onwards, into representation. It was completely organic. The ethos behind our events was about variety and choice, so we tried to avoid booking the same talent twice.
After many years of running events in different locations, we built fantastic relationships with international talent. Our main drive was booking international names, mainly from the US at that time. Some years down the line, having been event promoters, we had formed these amazing relationships which developed into opportunities for representation. How that happened was other promoters around the UK started calling us saying, “Can we book that artist or that DJ in Manchester or in Leeds or in Liverpool when you have them over in London?”.
People were calling us to book the talent that we were booking, and so we made the decision in '97, to start an agency, to help the artists get more shows. After some years looking after DJs, this then developed into working with singers. The singers used to feature on the DJ’s records and we would receive requests for them and so we would facilitate those. We then moved into the world of live and that progressed into bands.
We started moving into film and television around 2003-2005. We'd built a large client-base internationally, and clients of ours were coming to us asking for talent that we didn't directly represent. We wanted to be able to facilitate their requests, and so we would help them out in any way that we could. We started receiving requests for personalities from the worlds of TV, film and sport. At that time, we didn't work in that field, but we still wanted to be able to meet the needs of our client base and so we started making contact with personalities from those worlds. It was much the same as dealing with music talent – pretty straightforward.
As the roster continued to diversify and grow, we then started receiving requests for endorsements, brand ambassador-type opportunities, television appearances and scripts and treatments for advertisements and films.
The areas that we specialise in are straight TV appearances. That could be interviews or sometimes performances for music artists. We also supply talent to chat shows – mainly in Europe. In the UK, day-to-day, we're dealing with the major TV networks (BBC, Channel 4, ITV) approaching us to see if both our music talent and non-music talent are interested in making appearances in various shows and programmes.
As far as film is concerned, we have a broad talent roster. We don't yet specifically have a roster specialising in actors and actresses, however we do receive film requests for the broad talent across the entire rosters. Sometimes we receive numerous treatments and scripts from brands and production companies wanting to work with our talent for documentaries, and also for independent and large feature films.
It's a meteoric rise. Very commendable. Congratulations!
We often have to tap ourselves on the shoulder. It is fantastic to see how things have developed in this way organically, with a lot of hard work and determination over many years.
The passion that you showed in the beginning, that was got you doing this in the first place?
Definitely. I don't think you can be successful without passion in any business, in anything you do in life. You need to have that passion, that drive to move things forward.
Are you based in Miami now?
I have been for the past five or six weeks. We launched the office here at the beginning of September. I'd always planned on spending the first month here without doing the commute. I’ve started the monthly commute, across the pond, now. The pattern, over the next year or so, will generally be a week to 10 days in London, and the rest of the time spent here growing the US operation.
For you what makes a good agent? Being the managing director and head of the company, you must've hired a lot of agents and must know what it is that makes a good agent?
Absolutely. I would say, tenacity, drive, ambition. Being incredibly motivated. The ability to focus on the task at hand. Always doing the best that you can, no matter how small or large a task is. Completing your tasks too – a lot of people start stuff and don't finish. Really zoning in and being able to focus on a task and completing it and then moving onto the next task is important. That's my approach - I'm very task driven.
I think it's impossible to really do something justice if you're trying to do two things at the same time. I do believe in multitasking, but I think you can only truly deal with one thing at a time and then complete it and move on. I'm quite an advocate of a concept called “marginal gains”, which means taking smaller steps to achieve much larger ones. I believe in taking little steps forward every hour of the day, every day, every week, and before you know it you've taken much larger steps than you might've been able to if you'd been making those big steps on their own.
All of those qualities are important. In fact, even after nearly 25 years of doing this, I will say that there are a lot of different factors that an agent needs to be successful, and whilst we've become quite good at predicting those, we can never be 100% sure that someone is going to be a good agent until they are actually doing it and have been for some time. Even in recent years, I’ve made the wrong predictions as to whether someone is going to be able to cut it or not and I’ve been proven wrong. I'm always very happy when that happens.
You have to love what you do. It can be a tough role at times. You have to really want to be doing it. It's probably one of the most relentless roles within the industry because you can never switch off. When someone wants to reach you, or when there's someone to deal with, you have to deal with it. From that point of view, it's pretty much 24/7 – but most agents love that. I still do. It's for everyone though. If you want that 9-5 life, then being an agent isn't for you.
What are the biggest challenges that you face as an agent? And as the Managing Director, do you still get involved with that day-to-day agent work, or is that something you now leave to other people?
I still enjoy being an agent. I have scaled back so that I can work on the business, as opposed to in it. I actually have come to enjoy working on the business development side of things, growing the agency and growing our team. That gives me real satisfaction. Equally, I still love that thrill of being an agent day-to-day, so a portion of my day is spent working as an agent for clients, some of which have been with me for many years. I still enjoy servicing them.
Also, through that portion of the day when I'm being an agent, I feel that the people around me, the more junior agents and booking coordinators, can learn a lot just being in the same environment, listening, watching and learning. Having looked at CEOs of the biggest multinational agencies, I see that they still also have this dual role of working as a director, building and developing the company, but also finding time to still be an agent.
One of the biggest challenges is finding enough time in the day. It's always been an early rise and a late finish for me. There are only so many hours in the day, so time management is essential. We've always believed in having a large and diverse roster – that means a lot of clients to look after and keep happy.
I think embracing challenges keeps things interesting. It would be a boring life if things always went well. I always say to my agents, and people coming in to the business, this is a business full of peaks and troughs and you must be quite resilient. Great things happen every day, and it feels good when that's happening; equally, you run into issues and there are often problems. We say there's no problem that can't be solved, so me being able to deal with those is always part and parcel.
In terms of advice for people wanting to become agents, but perhaps also a little bit of advice for people who want representation. How do they appear on your radar?
We receive a substantial number of submissions on a weekly basis, well over a hundred, from all around the world, and having heard from other agencies and having attended panels on this subject at the likes of ADE and other conferences, I think that a lot of agencies don't have time to process these sorts of submissions. A lot of them are, in fact, deleted or not replied to. It’s difficult for any agency as a business to be able to process the entirety of the incoming submissions from artists trying to get representation.
For me, one of the things that works very well is referral. I always suggest to an artist trying to get representation, if you know somebody on the roster, or if you have some way of getting introduced to an agent or an agency, the power of referral counts for a lot - as opposed to just a cold call, or an email out of the blue.
Use a good-looking press kit. If your assets look really sharp (great images, great-looking bio, all up to date) you're more likely to be noticed. Having your social media networks looking good and consistent is also important and agencies look at followings too. We want to see how much heat an artist has, how many fans they have and where those fans are. We get quite technical, looking at Google search volumes, trying to see where a fanbase is for a particular talent.
Just be extremely determined. Determination and perseverance is key. Just keep going. If you are determined and want to succeed, you will find a way to overcome those hurdles. If you don't get noticed the first time, just keep on going. Obviously, you need to find a balance. You don't want to go overboard in the way that you approach people, but you have to be determined to get to where you need to be.
Over the years, we've had certain talent make repeated approaches, and you have to admire that determination. Eventually (sometimes) it has worked, and we have taken those artists on. If we can see that people are hungry for it, really want it, then that's quite impressive.
Hear from one of MN2S' most successful clients Mica Paris as she discusses her experience working with Sharron and the agency.
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