Artists & Labels

Face To Face with Max Brigante, artist manager, DJ & radio host

Face To Face with Max Brigante, artist manager, DJ & radio host
Published Apr 07, 2023

For this fifth edition, and the very first one in Italy, of our now recurrent Face To Face series, we met with the DJ, radio host and artist manager Max Brigante

A man of charm, outstanding knowledge and multiple talents, Max Brigante has been working in the Italian music industry for more than 20 years and knows it like back of his hand.

He first made waves as radio host at one of the biggest Italian radio networks, highlighting the relevance and the sounds of urban music, at times when it was still brave and unusual to do so within the Italian mainstream. He later co-created "Mamacita", an incredibly successful club format that is still touring and selling out venues all over Italy, even venturing across European borders.

While continuing to participate in the club and radio scene, Max Brigante is one of today's most revered and respected artist managers, having co-founded Double Trouble Club management and taking care of the career of artists such as Ultimo, Elisa and Elodie.

To interview him, another expert of the Italian record industry: Luca Daher. After a career spent at within the Sales, Marketing and Product Management fields, most notably at Hi-Media Group (formerly United Internet Group) and at Spotify as Head of Sales for the Southern Europe market), Luca has been Believe Italia Managing Director since 2020.


Luca Daher: Hi Max,

Max Brigante: Hi Luca.

Luca Daher: Thank you for participating in the first Italian edition of this Face To Face format, where we try to share something more about our partners and some aspects of the work that we do everyday.

Let's start with you, you're one of those people who are often described with a number of activities, with all the things that you do and all the projects that you manage, at all hours of the day and night. How would you sum yourself up?

Max Brigante: That's difficult. I've always thought of myself as a DJ, although I think that a DJ can do a lot of things, not just playing in clubs or speaking on the radio. A DJ is a bit like someone who tries to be on the lookout, to catch something good that's in the air, and since we're in the music business, to discover songs, trends or artists.

And in fact, this attitude of mine has eventually led me to do so many things in the music field, in the music industry, where I've been working for many years. Therefore, I have done a lot of different things.  However, since my career started mainly from clubbing and on the radio, I always try to keep that kind of approach, to be a person who tries to be highly perceptive.

Luca Daher :  This reminds me of something. One of the favorite games of those who work in our industry is to say that A&R used to be one thing, now they're something entirely different.  But, you have also mentioned what was the role of the DJ, when DJs used to go to radio stations to hand demo tapes, or when they would switch to vinyl to play new tracks during gigs. After all, radio DJs have always been ante-litteram A&Rs, and you're still working with radio stations today.

So, from your point of view, has something changed in radio stations and in your line of work? Did they react to the impulse given by digital, by streaming services, by what has been happening over the last few years.

Max Brigante:   Well, you know, just like the whole industry, I think radio tried to understand the scope of the impact of this digital wave. And maybe, just like other players in the industry, it took a while to figure it out. But I believe radio observing digital because there's a revolution going on as we speak, in all major Italian radio stations.

I've always worked mainly with black music, as a DJ and as a radio personality, and I used to fight extremely hard to try to play a track by Fabri Fibra.  And today I see that, most of the time, if a rapper is already successful on digital platforms, they will get access to radio stations. So, I think it's a positive thing for traditional media to reinvent itself, and in my opinion, digital has played a part in this process.

Luca Daher :  I absolutely agree. I've been following digital evolution a lot from many points of view, and this aspect of evolution, of innovation, is one of the things that makes us feel alive when we work on our projects.

And sometimes, this also happens with the branded formats we create. We work together on the Mamacita brand, obviously you've been working on that for a while now, and I remember when last year you told me about the need for innovation, especially in the post-Covid era, because we tend to forget about it, but we're still reacting to that particular moment.

Can you tell us a bit more about Mamacita, how did you follow its progress, its great success and its expansion on different platforms and layers, and everything that revolves around Mamacita?

Max Brigante: Well, it's a pleasure for me to talk about it since this brand is a really successful case history.  As I already mentioned, I come from clubbing. I started DJing when I was only 18 years old, and it  allowed me to build so much, because the success I achieved as a DJ gave me the chance to invest in other stuff.

Mamacita is an intuition I had A12 or 13 years ago, but it took a while to get it up and running. It's a brand that's been around for more than 10 years. The idea came from realizing that there was room for growth in nightclubbing, in the world of the night.

As a DJ, I was lucky enough to play abroad, and I noticed, especially in the US, when I was playing there, that they took things very seriously. They had offices open during daytime, where you could have meetings with PRs, for example. While in Italy... we always had this entirely different idea of the night, as if it was something inappropriate or illegal. I have no idea why, while actually, a lot of important things can happen at night. Technically, tickets are sold just like any other show, people play music, music that can have a big impact on a cultural level for the whole country. I've always thought that what was happening there was very important.

Anyway, Mamacita was like an intuition of a musical genre that was about to explode:  urban music, both Latin and American. And I think we dealt with this intuition in a very professional way, and it was the key to its success.

What I'm about to say will probably sound trivial  but as a DJ, I could play a high number of gigs, let's say 100 a year, because I was doing quite well at the time... But Mamacita is a format, and I can replicate it, I can do 300, 400. So, the idea was to build a scalable business model that didn't revolve around a single act or a single person.

Then things went very well! I believe that Mamacita has played a crucial role in the dissemination of Latin culture in Italy. I'm talking about the music, the increasing popularity of reggaeton, of Latin trap. Mamacita became something big,  we started doing festivals and we had big names play, like J. Balvin and Ozuna. We brought a bit of  "Made in Italy" all over the world, planning events and DJ residencies everywhere.

I believe this is a case history that can be very inspirational for the world of nightlife. And I hope this example will be followed by other DJs and by other managers.

Luca Daher:  Well, they won't have your foresight, but still... The feeling I got was quite different, because you and I first met in a different working environment,and we were very happy about it. Obviously I'm talking about our collaboration on Ultimo’s project, which you joined as a manager.

I remember that in our first conversations, what surprised me was your use of certain terms that you've just mentioned, format, case history, business model, inspiration... We were talking about American management models. In Italy, they haven't been used for a long time.  We're trying, but I think we haven't fully assimilated yet, as a market, the idea of what I would call "management 3.0", a model of interaction between market players that can be in tune with the needs of contemporary artistic projects.

As a manager, how's the situation today, what are the needs of modern management? How can management adapt to the many needs of different artistic projects?

Max Brigante: First of all, let me start by mentioning the basic duty of a manager. It has to fulfill the needs of artists, and put them in a position to give their best effort. The needs of artists have changed and multiplied compared to the past, thanks to digital technology and to social media. Now every great artist is an editor who has to think every day about their communication. Things didn't use to be this way for artists in the past.

As the needs have multiplied, management must become multitasking, I mean, it must be able to meet various needs, artistic and communication needs, or needs that lead up to live performance.

It's not easy, so what I try to do for myself, in my own process of improvement,  and once we decide to assist an artist, is to build a business able to cater to each and every need of the artist,  and finally that can deal with the other players in the market, whether they're record labels, concert promoters or brands.

But this is not a game. A manager is a professional that needs to do a lot of different jobs. The challenge that we are facing today is to build a team of professionals who will do their best to assist an artist. Everyday I believe a little less, and I say this against my own interest, in one single individual, a manager who can handle everything. And I believe more and more in a manager who can put a team together.

Luca Daher: I have to say, this is quite in line with the vision of your company, because I think that in the end,  people who work in this industry have always had one single goal in every stage of its history: to make sure that as many artists as possible can live off their art, express themselves while keeping an enterprising attitude. So what you're saying  resonates with me.

From this point of view, our job here at Believe is to do what we do best, in our own way: distribution, digital promotion, a wide range of activities, but also to be in touch, like a synapse, with all the other essential aspects of the work of an artist. Because they need, as you pointed out, live performance, communication, image, PR, and so on. But, as we were saying, different artists have different needs and, as a market, we have to fulfill the full range of needs.

This kind of focus that your style of management has, how does it reflect on your choice of partners What do you look for when you make a general assessment? Today, what does a valuable partner have to bring to the table?

Max Brigante : Well, everyone speaks for themselves, so I'll speak about my own experience, the experience I share with my team. We are partners, for example,for better or worse. So I'll say some stuff that you understand very well.

I think we are very demanding because we’re demanding a lot from ourselves. So what we look for in partners is definitely presence and passion, as it’s what we put into it, and I think you're with me on this. We are extremely committed, and therefore we seek dedication, professionalism. And vision, because the market generated by this big digital push is a market that's constantly changing,

I would say it changes every year but maybe even every 6 months, so we need strong relationships with our partners, a shared vision and the ability to act together, pointing to a short-term, even medium-term future, two or three years from now. A relationship between partners who know how to live and coexist with the changes that we experience every six months, and that's why we need strong relationships, a shared vision, the power to act together. And professionalism, of course.

Luca Daher: We talked about content,  digital, innovation, about the ability of being reactive when certain things happen, things that shake our daily routine, but nonetheless, we crave them, otherwise we would get bored!

Talking about digital, I think we're already past the streaming revolution, we're moving forward, towards a wider range of different platforms, and the market share that will probably achieve worldwide growth are music libraries, in other words, music that we add to content on social media or sharing platforms, music that we combine with our customer journey, or user experience,  call it as you wish.

From this point of view, how can your work as strategic advisor adapt to this, and how can your partner, for example a distributor or a label in the best possible way?

Max Brigante: Well, first of all with an open mind and the willingness to accept everything that the new platforms bring.

I occasionally say to my artists that Michael Jackson wouldn't be Michael Jackson without MTV, and I firmly believe that. I mean, we're probably talking about the greatest artist of all time, and he managed to express himself in such a compelling way, thanks to a revolution in technology that shook people in the '80s. So he managed, better than anyone else, to take advantage of video and communicate through music in a comprehensive way.

Music couldn't achieve that before him. So from that moment, musicians started to communicate not only through music, but also through images. And why did that happen?  Because over the years,  we're seeing new tools come and go. TikTok is maybe the latest, but in two years it will look outdated because there will be a new tool, a more modern tool.

Sometimes, innovation tends to scare us, and we struggle to embrace change. I think we should all understand that innovation will be more and more frequent, and it opens the door to new opportunities, and the industry needs to pick up as much information as possible to ensure high performance of our content.

We have to get really good at reading data, because the digital revolution provides us with data that the industry has never seen before. Then, that data also needs to be interpreted; something that we do together every week. It's crucial to develop a know-how in data interpretation. Probably even by training professionals that can focus on this single task, and I understand that this way of working is quite different from the past, but this is a huge opportunity and we can't afford to miss it.

And finally, we must not forget, and this applies probably even more to us since we work closely with artists, that music has a capital M. The driving force must always be creativity, the song, the music.

Why? Because what we like to do is trying to build important careers, like those of the artists that we loved, who are relevant because their songs make us feel things, and they make us cry, they make us laugh, they make us go to their gigs and they offer us a better experience of our own existence. We believe in this. If we can achieve this using innovative tools, even better, but this needs to be the core of it all.

Luca Daher: Of course, and it's hard to focus both on the journey and the destination. Obviously we're on the same page here, it's our duty to understand innovation, to know how to surf on it, while keeping in mind that it's a tool for artistic expression, and that's why your Michael Jackson example is so relevant, I mean, we talk about music videos in the past and we take it for granted that everybody had a music video, and I believe the same thing is happening today.

So this aspect of our work is almost educational, because we know that sometimes we have to work for a year just to find the key to the interpretation of that single piece of data that will open up a creative opportunity, because that's our job, to bring the talent to as many listeners as possible, in the most engaging way.

Max Brigante: Absolutely.

Luca Daher: Let's give it a try, then. Our job is the coolest in the world. Thanks for the chat Max!

Max Brigante : Thank you, Luca.


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