Being a part of the music industry in any form is always difficult. The business itself is extremely cutthroat and at most times can be more than unforgiving. Although the industry is nowhere near what it used to be, being able to have a clear understanding of all the aspects from the front end, as well as the back end, is beneficial for all parties involved. Putting the musician aside, the manager of an artist/artists acts as the head honcho. Ultimately, the manager is the guy/girl that makes sure everything about the artist and the business side of the artist is fully intact. Jonathan Wigfall, South Jersey native and Syracuse University grad, has been a part of the music industry for a long time but started managing about 5-6 years ago. Although he and his team faced multiple challenges during their come up, every bit of the journey has been worth it because his artist, Mir Fontane, continues to shine and capture hearts and ears all over the country.
Getting ready to embark on a brand new tour as well as a secured slot in the upcoming Made in America Festival, Jonathan has shown what hard work, patience, dedication, and persistence can take you when you put your all into your passion. He and his team have done exceptionally well by Mir and the strategic work is paying off.
I had the chance to speak with Jon about his music industry inspirations, why he decided to get into management and what he saw in Mir Fontane as an artist, the upcoming More Macaroni Tour, Made in America Festival, tips for the aspiring music manager and more in our full interview below.
1 – How did you get into the music industry?
At first, I started off as a rapper myself. This was in like late high school and I only got into rap cause I needed a form of expression. I had got jumped, I didn’t really have anybody in my corner. A lot of my friends abandoned me because of the people involved in the situation and it was kind of crazy. I really loved music and I had all of this pinned up aggression so I needed a way to express myself. I had went on to college and I started making a transition into journalism cause I liked writing at the time. I do some blogging now. I then made a transition from rapping and being a journalist to public relations. When I made that switch I realized that I wanted to be behind the scenes a little more. I told my story in rap within like a year. I put out some music and everyone that I personally felt needed to hear it heard it. I was just ready to try something else. Now, I’m in public relations about to go into my sophomore year of college and I come back home that summer after my freshman year and I started thinking to myself maybe I can be a manager. Although I said that to myself I had to also figure out who can I manage. In about 2012, Mir really stood out in like the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas. I felt like I wanted to work with someone from my hometown cause we really didn’t have much representation in anything. I reached out to him but he was hesitant because I wasn’t really in Camden cause I was in Syracuse and I use to rap and I was making these different things happen. But, we had a few good talks and then the rest is history.
2 – What inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
I think at that time I was inspired by a variety of people. I was inspired by people like Kid Cudi as well as a lot of YouTube guys. I started seeing a lot of guys bubble on YouTube who was just grinding and figuring it out, you know. People Like DYME-A-DUZIN. These type of people were really going hard on YouTube and creating a name for themselves. A lot of these people were obviously out here making music as well but it was also that work ethic and that “I’m doing this all by myself” mentality. DYME-A-DUZIN is an example, Timothy DeLaGhetto is another. People like that inspired me because it seemed as if it was a one-man show.
3 – In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of working behind the music scenes as opposed to being the musician?
Well, I think this depends on the person. For me, it’s not really getting the credit which leaves a big question mark over things that you may have done or didn’t do. So, I think the one con is often times you just may not get your credit. Sometimes people just aren’t aware of the involvement that you actually have in a project. That can even apply to things on the public relations side. I think that’s the con. Perhaps the only con I can think about. The pro for me, I didn’t really want the spotlight. I didn’t get in this to be in the spotlight. Granted I’m about to be 25 but it’s just about having that self-awareness. It’s just an understanding that I had to figure out by basically saying that I’m not tripping. There’s money to be made on either side and perhaps even more money playing the behind the scenes role. My thing is I like to help others. This business can be very stressful but being behind the scenes is less pressure at times.
4 – How exactly does being a music manager work? In other words, what are your specific duties when it comes to managing an artist?
I think communication is always number one. I’m also a digital marketing consultant for a lot of artists outside of Mir. So for me, it’s always communication. I think that’s the main thing. But it can also vary. It’s everything from the business to, often times, the personal. And it also depends on where the artist it career wise. To put things into perspective, I had a meeting with an artist that I’m considering managing and he’s been a recording artist for about three to four years. We talked about getting an LLC. He wanted to figure out a way to actually monetize his music. Often times, it’s me trying to figure out what makes the most sense financially. How we could make more money and lower our spending. and that right there is a very small part of it. It’s also being able to help out with their social media. For Mir, he has an assistant that fills when needed but it’s really helping the artist in all aspects – finances, social media, acting as a liaison for him and our stakeholders, public relations, and so forth. I’m the day to day manager which means I am constantly focused on scheduling and making things as organized as possible but also making sure our team knows what’s going on.
5 – What did you see in Mir as an artist and what do you think he saw in you as a manager?
At the time when we linked up, he was rapping his ass off. He had a certain hunger in his voice, a certain pain that I think he still has this day. His talent was just so undeniable. He really stood out and he was dropping some crazy freestyles. I constantly saw that pain and hunger and also saw someone creating that narrative for Camden that no one has ever done before. And this was six years ago. It was really a no-brainer for me. For Mir, I think he saw I was from Camden so I wasn’t a stranger, I did have some things going on because I did have some music industry knowledge, I had the connections, I was trying to make the best of myself by going to college – we both looked at each other and knew neither one of us were where we wanted to be but at the end of the day we belong here. We both knew we could make some crazy things happen within five years. We knew we were both hungry, both of us have some talent and this could be a great situation if we continue to apply ourselves.
6 – At one point did you realize you Mir was getting the recognition he deserves as an artist? When was that breakout point?
It definitely wasn’t an overnight thing. Things really didn’t start kicking off until I graduated because what I realized is that Mir really needed someone that was hands on. Between 2012 and 2015, a lot of the friends that he had in his corner that I was trying to help because I wanted them to help him advance in his career, they disappeared. They felt like things weren’t happening fast enough. Once I graduated, I began to learn the business more, I engulfed myself in the Philadelphia scene and I could really feel the energy in the area because at that time we really didn’t have anybody. Me being four hours away really began to hinder the process but once I came back we just started really grinding. Things really started to pop off and to be honest with you, he kind of marked the beginning of his career when he dropped a song called “Wanni Wag” which was a song about Dejuan Wagner who dropped 100 points in a basketball game and then went on to play for Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s kind of like a local hero. The song is with a guy name Ish Williams. They performed that song everywhere and the crowd would go crazy. It was honestly one of the first regional hits. We would throw shows and the momentum was always crazy. It opened up a lot of doors which lead to the remix with Mike Zombie. We really started to connect south Jersey in a way that it hadn’t been in a way before. By like 2016 and 2017, I started to connect a lot of these dots but that was definitely a time that things started to pop off for Mir. That 2016 run with “Wanni Wag” and then “Down by the River” which charted on the U.S. and Global Spotify out of nowhere was crazy. Labels began to reach out and that year pretty much helped lay the foundation down for where we are now.
7 – Are there any particular struggles that you’ve faced as a manager, in particular helping Mir Fontane with his career?
Yeah, definitely. Early on we were just brainstorming on how we can bring this a bit further. I think the main struggles for us were financial things. Us trying to find out how we can be entrepreneurs, make some bread and really invest that back into what we’re doing. Obviously, it takes money to make money, right? Especially in the music business. It took us awhile early on. We all knew Mir was really talented and when people hear him they love him but the hardest task was getting people to hear him. We were really trying to navigate the industry and making this transition of entertainment vs. talent and really just trying to get in where we fit in. To add on to that, we had to figure out how to tell a story about a boy coming from a place that people have heard of but really haven’t. We were able to leverage the Philly music scene and platforms to help make him bigger artist but we never branded him as Philly act. We made sure it was always Camden and South Jersey. That was a battle itself but it was a pro because once he started creating traction, South Jersey and New Jersey as w whole got behind him because this area really hadn’t had anyone.
8 – What was going through your mind the moment you and Mir secured yourselves for the Made In America bill?
You know what, Veli who is Mir’s road manager, set it up as a goal for us maybe about three months ago. We really try to attack the goals that we set but we knew we had to do certain things. We knew we had to develop a stronger relationship with Live Nation. They’re obviously a strong influence as far as the Philly music scene. Veli, who acts as both Mir’s road manager as well as having a long history of booking acts himself and just being on that side of the game as well, we made it our strong effort to establish a better relationship with Live Nation. We not only wanted to show them that people are watching us but we can continuously outdo ourselves. We’ve had Mir on tour but I think the big thing that led to Made in America was the sold-out show Mir did at The Foundry which was roughly 450-500 people in Philadelphia. I think that was May 4th. The show was on a Friday, the Made in America offer came in that following Monday. We knew that we had to sell that show out. We knew that it had to be impressive and we had to do something different. and we did for lack of a better word.
9 – How does it feel as a manager to know you’ve had something to do with helping your artist secure a slot on the same bill as Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Meek Mill, Miguel, 6lack, and others.
It’s a great feeling, man. This is the type of opportunity that we’ve always wanted. We’ve been looking at different Made in America flyers every year and we always felt like we should’ve been on it but everything happens for a reason. I feel like Mir is going to have a great career because one, things have never been handed and two, it’s such a gradual piece of work that he’s building. It’s constantly going up because it’s happening with time and I feel like it’s supposed to. I think there’s a time in 2016 things just started to pop off and we were all so hype. We had Sway in the Morning and Vibe Magazine coming along for a premiere for one of his more popular songs which was “Space Jam.” Then, entering into 2017 us getting into a situation with 300, Mir was kind of numb. I believe he became numb to his accomplishments and good things happening. A lot of it was coming fast and we couldn’t really live in the moment. We had to keep pushing forward so we kind of got numb to certain things. But then you fast forward to now and we land something we Made in America, that’s like wow. It’s really hard to be numb to that. You really have to enjoy and celebrate accomplishments like those because it’s one of the biggest platforms that an artist can have.
10 – Talk a little bit about the upcoming More Macaroni Tour?
We had to set up our own tour honestly. We just grind it out and make sure we can keep him on the road as much as possible every year. We’re just making sure that we’re constantly attacking his top cities and trying to be as tangible as possible because that’s what it takes.
11 – What tips and advice do you have for upcoming aspiring music managers in the world? What do you want them to learn from this interview?
You’re not going to learn everything within a few months or even a year. I would say remain persistent, especially as a new manager. There are so many things that you need to figure out as far as what you can offer. What type of artist do you have? I think you just have to remain persistent because there’s going to be a lot of forces that are against you and a lot of hurdles you’re going to have and based off that, it’s going to be really easy to feel down. It’s going to feel like a constant uphill battle. But, I think just remaining persistent and surrounding yourself with the right team of people to help you make the best decisions is important. Also, setting goals and successfully and aggressively attaining them. I think that’s really the key. I think a lot of times managers waste a lot of time focusing on the wrong platforms for their artist or whatever the case may be and they’re not aggressively aiming for the right thing. We honestly didn’t have a long list of goals for 2018. We were just like “Yo, we need to make him a bigger artist.” Made in America was on that very short list. We just went and tried to figure out how we could make it happen. If the goal was to establish a better relationship with XYZ, we would sit and make phone calls and figure out whatever the next step was to make things happen.
12 – What’s next for you for the second half of 2018? Secondly, aside from the big MIA performance in September, what else can we expect from Mir Fontane for the second half of 2018?
I’m really trying to elevate my own brand. I have the Liajon LLC which is the digital marketing but I really want to take it a step further and create my own content. Definitely be on the lookout for that. I’ll be creating a lot of more content for this year. Mir has some really dope records in the tuck and we’re in talks with some labels. You can really just expect some more fire in the future. We’ve been in the studio with a lot of different artists including Fetty Wap. It’s really an exciting time if you’re a Mir Fontane fan.