Hot Seat: Jamie Binns – Co-Founder, Lateral
Start small, think big. That’s how European music firm Lateral goes about its business. Lateral is an independent, self-financed artist/songwriter management and music publishing firm. It was formed from the 2008 merger of Murlyn Management, part of the Stockholm-based Murlyn Music Group and co-founded by Christian Wåhlberg, with London management company J-DID, headed by Jamie Binns. The business was integrated as Lateral MGMT in 2010, with the pair as managing partners alongside Jan Carl Adelswård.
The firm operates out of London and Stockholm, numbers 11 staff (including its three chiefs) and manages hit British artists Paloma Faith and Taio Cruz, and former Swedish House Mafia man John Martin. Its roster also includes up-and-coming London act Kenzie May. Lateral is expanding with the launch of an office in L.A. and, as TMN can reveal, recorded music is in their plans.
Why do you have to be in L.A.?
We spend so much time over there anyway. Our mission statement always at the company is whoever we represent as clients, whether they’re producers, songwriters or artists, we want to make sure that every single artist is international. The two major territories for us are the U.K. and the U.S. And everything we touch we want to make sure we break them in both those areas. With albums coming from Paloma Faith, John Martin and Taio Cruz, it was fundamental that we had ourselves on the ground. We do feel like a global company. We’re looking to expand on (our L.A. team). When we go back next, we’ll have a new run of interviews to find an A&R person, a creative person who can be on the ground for us.
L.A. is the epicentre of the pop world right now. It’s the place you have to be if you’re in pop.
If you break it down Sweden has been a place that’s spawned amazing songwriters, London has been a mish-mash of creative genres and is one of the most open places in the world for musical tastes, and in L.A., all the major songwriters and producers seem to come together to work. Many of our Swedish clients, many of our English clients, they all come to L.A. It used to be New York, but for the past four or five years, it’s been L.A. I don’t know for how long that’ll continue. But for now it’s the place to be — although it seems they’re all getting their influences from the U.K.
Do you have plans to keep going west and into Australia?
We want to be a global company. The U.S is our next challenge. We’ve got three albums coming that we want to make sure that we have global success with. With Taio Cruz we had major success in Australia and Asia. If we can continue that on our next record, then who knows. I suspect John Martin will be as well received in Australia as Taio Cruz has been. He’s moving forward with a hybrid which sounds like Swedish House Mafia, U2 and Kings of Leon – it’s ahead of the trend. From my experience with Australia, they’re on the pulse with the music so I imagine that John will be – hopefully – very successful there. John comes from a rock background – and combines it with dance. When you consider what Avicii did with the Mumford influence, it’ll be equally unique and hopefully as successful.
What’s the mantra behind the company?
Anyone who works with me would need to be entrepreneurial. They’d need to tick the boxes in talent. We’re brave and ballsy, we’ve got the finance to take things to reach their potential. And if we get involved, we’re in for life. Taio, Paloma and John have all had great success. And we joined up right at the beginning. We would hope that we have another 10, 20 years with those artists. We’ve never given up on an artist. No matter what ups, downs, ins and outs, we’ll stick with you. And we’ll get there in the end. We still feel like a very small company and we will keep the roster small and tight. The most important thing is that everyone in the roster is successful.
How do you find the artists that are on your books?
When you start a new management company, you’re unproven. You do have to go out and find artists from scratch, at the starting level they’re on. Taio Cruz we were aware of and he’d had a manager he’d fired, and we were snooping around him. He had some trust issues. We took him on and worked without contract for a while so we could build trust. We were fresh, he was fresh and we needed to prove ourselves to each other. It was a similar situation with Paloma. We’ve had them both as clients for over six years, from the very beginning of their career. We’ve had to build those (careers), from scratch, as a unit. That’s the way we like to do it. Now we’ve had a bit of success obviously we have artists that are approaching us for representation. But to be honest we love the development stage, we love to get in very early and go through the entire journey with an artist. And we get involved as a team.
You have a background in A&R, and you’ve segued that into management.
With A&R, there’s scouting where you need to have your ears to the ground. But there’s also knowing what a hit song is…or what a good song is. I remember early in my career 15 years ago, the one thing that scared the life out of me was whether I could tell what a hit song was or what a good song was. As you grow through the business, it is definitely something you learn. You learn things about spotting artists, you learn what to look out for and the qualities that should be there. The same thing comes to the songs. A&R is for me that relationship with the artists and what you’re trying to achieve. And being able to pick out those ingredients and know when they’re all there.
In music publishing, how can you compete with the majors and the big indies like Kobalt? What can you guys offer?
It’s our attitude. We’re driven and hungry. And we do have the finance if we do need to. If we take you on and work together as a team, we will deliver. And that’s something we’re extremely proud of. That puts the pressure on us; everything we do, we all get involved and we have to make it work. It might not happen tomorrow, but it’s going to work.
You mentioned your backing. What do you have in the coffers?
To be honest, we can play with the big boys. If we want to go out there and sign a major writer, in a bidding war with majors and we really wanted that person, if they wanted to be with us for the right reasons, we could do it. The company has been relatively successful over the last three or four years. All partners are well-funded. And we’ve got the balls. If we’re really believe in something, we’re willing to pay for it.
Are there other business opportunities you’re keen to pursue?
Recording is one. As we’ve been developing artists, we’re realizing immediate partnerships with major record companies are not something that we’re looking for. What we’re looking for now is to see how much we can accomplish by ourselves. Then you automatically start to get into conversations about recording rights. The next stage is probably to set up the recording company, so when you find an artist you’ve got many different ways to get involved.
When are you big three dropping their albums?
All the singles from Taio Cruz, John Martin and Paloma Faith will come this side of Christmas, and all the albums next year. Our new artist is Kenzie May. Four is enough for us for this run. More than enough.