He manages BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ David Rodigan, has toured the world MCing alongside the likes of Snoop Dogg and has one son. Here, Jon Bailey talks music, having a supportive partner and missing out on bathtime
Jon Bailey lives in Brighton with his wife Chloe and their 18-month-old son Remy. He’s an artist manager and record company A&R, MCs as Wrec and says he’s happy with a “simple life, please”
Were you musical as a child?
I tried but could never master the art of actually reading music. Grade 1 piano was my highlight. But I could do the moonwalk.
When did you start getting into dance music?
Around 14 years old, when hardcore turned into jungle. For me, jungle changed everything.
You perform as MC Wrec, tell us about that…
I’ve performed for 20 years all over the world and had the most amazing time working with some incredible artists like High Contrast, Joy Orbison, Skream and Timo Maas, as well as touring with Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys and Cyprus Hill.
I started my artist management company 12 years ago and did both the managing and MCing for many years at the same level. More recently, in the last four years, we’ve had some major success managing clients like Wilkinson and David Rodigan, but that has meant I’ve naturally toned down the number of gigs I can personally do.
I now have a family, so time is precious and something has to give, plus I’ve been getting older and the crowds younger as well so, you know…
How did you transition to working in music management?
I saw a ceiling and shelf life with MCing and touring plus I’m a bit of a worrier! No disrespect to any touring musician but I personally didn’t want to be caught out without a career path in my mid-30s, so I wanted another lane to work in.
One of our main challenges as managers is to keep careers exciting and fresh
Like I said before, I could never really ‘make’ music but I know what a hit record sounds like and how it should be presented, so artist management just happened naturally over a period of time.
I met my business partner Marc Sheinman in 2004 and we just clicked on a level. Suddenly a decade later I turn around and we’ve got a central London office with staff working across a roster of clients that span dance music, reggae, BBC broadcasting and pop.
Tell us about working for SEG Music?
Well, Marc and I actually started a company called Mum’s The Word Music in 2004 and that ran for a number of years as a little boutique operation. We started to have some success managing Shy FX’s Digital Soundboy label and then Breakage really broke through and into the mainstream.
We had interest from a number of companies but ended up doing a joint venture with SEG (Sports Entertainment Group) – a Dutch-based company who look after the careers of over 200 professional footballers including players from Manchester United and Barcelona.
We started as junior managers six years ago and now Marc and I are Directors of Music and run the London office with a great little team behind us. We’ve got a number of exciting clients like David Rodigan and Wilkinson – who’s really broken the mainstream in recent years with a number of hit records.
It’s harder now than it’s ever been to have success, so it’s a constant battle to keep having big records, build momentum and sell tickets
We also manage some big songwriters who work on everything from a deep house Shadow Child record to albums from Leona Lewis and Little Mix. And then some incredible young talent coming through like Louis Mattrs, Cadenza and BMB Spacekid. A mixed but very talented bunch!
Anything exciting in the pipeline for any of your artists?
Lots! If we didn’t have anything exciting happening I’m pretty sure I’d be out of a job! One of our main challenges as managers is to keep careers exciting and fresh. We’ve just done a joint venture record deal with Sony Music for our label The Full Hundred and we’ve got four artist albums out next year, so lots of touring, late nights and early mornings incoming!
What’s the key to success in your industry (behind-the-scenes)?
So many factors – some that you can control and many that you can’t. The things you can control are the music, ideas and the presentation. The tricky bit is timing, momentum and predicting the trends of young people!
But really, it’s the day-to-day drive and hunger to be good at what you do. I take real pride in our work and it’s perhaps different to a ‘normal’ 9-5 existence because we all started out doing this as a hobby strictly for the love.
When a hobby becomes a job, it’s a challenge and really important to remember the foundation of why we do what we do. To keep the buzz and the energy. Oh, and a good accountant helps.
And what makes an artist big?
Music. I’d like to just leave it at that but I’d be lying. Music is the most important factor because you can’t polish a turd but a story helps and a great plot and strategy.
It’s harder now than it’s ever been to have success, so it’s a constant battle to keep having big records, build momentum and sell tickets. We are living in a time and marketing to a generation that have extremely short attention spans so it’s a very tricky game to play.
What’s your greatest achievement so far, career-wise?
I feel very lucky to have travelled the world so many times and to have met some weird and wonderful people. I guess breaking Wilkinson from a young hopeful producer to a chart topping festival headline act in three years is one, and just working with David Rodigan every day is really an honour. When he got his MBE I was emotional.
Were you concerned that having a baby would make it harder to tour with your acts?
Not concerned but very aware. I have almost stopped touring myself; cutting down my personal gigs from over 100 to about 20 a year – so that helps. When it comes to touring with clients, I’m not out every weekend. Key and important gigs I’m there, of course, but life is a balance and though I’m yet to perfect it, I’m aware there’s a thin line to tread.
When we go away on holidays now for a few weeks, I really realise just how much working parents – mums and dads – miss out on by going to work. On holiday I’m with Remy all day every day and it’s just magical. But holidays need to be paid for, so we have to work.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy with my work/life balance but because I’m aware and because I go to great lengths to take the first flight home for example, I’m ok with it. Plus my wife is a rock and the most amazing and understanding person on the planet. I owe her everything and family always comes first.
How long did you take off when Remy was born?
Two weeks. The best two weeks of my life.
How has it been, working and raising a child?
A lot harder than I thought. But more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. But let’s not get it twisted… us dads have it easy compared to working mums. Mums are incredible, full stop.
Look up, cuddle your child and don’t miss those precious early years
How often are you away and how much time do you have at home?
I live in Brighton but commute to London Mon-Thurs. I work at home every Friday and spend about one or maximum two weekends (in the summer) away per month. Some periods of the year are less hectic and I’m home every weekend.
What does an average day look like?
I wake Remy up everyday around 7am and spend an hour playing and giving him breakfast. Chloe takes him to nursery on her way to work and I commute to London.
The worst part of my job is that while Remy is having his dinner, bath and going to bed, I’m stuck on a train coming home. Such a waste. So yeah, Chloe gives him dinner and tucks him in. On Fridays and the weekends I do bath and bed.
What’s an ideal weekend for you and your family?
Just being together. At home or mum’s or mother-in-law’s. If I can turn the phone off and just be with family I’m more than content. Simple life, please.
What’s the hardest thing about being a working dad?
Missing bathtime, and missing my wife and son when I’m away.
Any advice for other new dads in the music industry?
I’ll give advice but then do the opposite sometimes, so I’m not about to preach. But one of my favourite quotes is from Michael Caine… “life is not a dress-rehearsal”. So look up, cuddle your child and don’t miss those precious early years because my little one is growing up so fast it’s blowing my tiny mind.