Rising Star is our monthly column in which we meet the industry’s brightest new talents. Here, Marley Azu-Jones, artist manager/founder, The N3xt Up/co-founder, Back 2 Basics, talks us through his music business journey so far…
How did you get into the world of management?
“I never had any intention of getting into management, it came out of a trip to Jamaica where I was speaking to my cousin Fonzie, who’s an artist. I was telling him about people – like radio producers or editors at publications – he should be in contact with, and he was like, ‘Why do you even know this stuff!?’ I just said that I felt those people were the ones really shaking things up in the industry, and Fonzie just responded, ‘You’re my manager!’ There are various avenues to get into management, you just need to find the right artist you can add value to.”
The role of a manager is constantly evolving. How would you define it?
“A manager is a range of things, a voice of reason, an A&R, a counsellor, marketer and more importantly a friend. For me, a manager understands that they’re looking after someone’s life and not just their career, so when developing and supporting my artists, I do all the above and more. My artists are people that I truly care about, away from the titles of artist and manager.”
Since you started working together, Fonzie has had support from various platforms and has sold out headline shows. How does it feel seeing that progression as a manager and how hard is it for new acts to cut through?
“Seeing the progression is a beautiful feeling, especially with Fonzie – he’s the reason I entered the industry. FelixThe1st is also my little brother, so winning the MOBO Award was crazy, and some of the stuff we’ve got coming is with brands that we used to watch together on my grandma’s TV! It’s incredibly hard for new acts to cut through but I think that just makes us all work harder to push the envelope on the typical artist rollout.”
I love supporting managers going against the grain with the way they show their artists to the world
The N3xt Up is a platform that shows what goes on behind the scenes in the music business. In your opinion, is there enough recognition for the people in those roles?
“There’s nowhere near enough recognition. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to do The N3xt Up’s The Engine series, which is where I highlight people behind the scenes. I love supporting managers going against the grain with the way they show their artists to the world, like Mark Jones and Bronson Powell [Proph], Kieran Thompson [Sipho and Nicolle], Charlene Wango [Natanya], Johanna Pirila [Joalin] and Wilhelmina Bonde [Luciia]. There’s also my friends, Ahamed Amin [Bawo] and Jesse Dickson [Flowerovlove] who are forever dropping gems and are people that do the work and stay out of the noise.”
Finally, what is your biggest ambition?
“I want to continue to connect creatives and I want my artists to be spoken about in 10, 50, 100 years time. For The N3xt Up, I want to create three clear strands of the business: a production arm where I create original content, a live arm and a distribution arm where I release music.”
MARLEY’S RECOMMENDED TRACK: Finch Fetti x Baski+ x 22Ted – BMH+