3 Lessons on How to Pitch Your Startup to Artists from Ben Folds' Manager, Mike Kopp

They’re going to love your startup.

At least that’s the plan.

You need a few established artists to get behind your product, but how?

I recently sat down for a conversation with Mike Kopp, long-time manager of Ben Folds. Mike fields a lot of pitches. So I asked him: before you put someone in front of Ben, how do you decide if you’re in or out?

Here’s what he shared with me.

First, do you know Ben’s music? Seems simple enough. But founders often come to Mike with no real experience of the music. Crazy. This is Nashville. Must be country. Nope.

Lesson 1: know the artist and their catalog.

Better yet, approach them only if you’re a fan of their music. The difference will show.

Second, do you understand where Ben is on the arc of his career? Emerging, mid-career, established, legacy. Career stage informs an artist’s objectives and tactics. It also says a lot about the amount of risk they’re willing to take. Like on your startup.

Lesson 2: know the artist’s career stage.

They’re more likely to listen if where they are and what they want to achieve fits with your benefits and risk profile. Example: pitching a new, bleeding-edge fan experience to a legacy artist may not be your best bet.

Third, do you posess emotional intelligence and empathy? Tech and music can feel like different worlds. As a startup founder pitching an artist, you’re entering theirs.

Lesson 3: bring high EQ.

Show an understanding and apprecation for their process. How they work. How they make decisions. If not you, find someone on your team who does.

Side note: If you’ve ever pitched a venture investor, you’ll recognize the parallels. Catalog to portfolio. Career stage to round and thesis. High EQ to… high EQ.

The take-away from my conversation with Mike: Want an artist and their team to give your startup the chance to shine? Do your homework, be a true fan, and meet them where they are.