Athens-born alternative rock band, Jester, has been making their rounds in the local music scene, as well as throughout the Southeast. The band’s manager since their conception, Harrison Fratkin, is a third-year student at UGA, studying Real Estate and Music Business. I had a chance to sit down with Harrison to talk about his experiences in the music industry.
Why did the music industry appeal to you at the beginning of your career?
I guess one of my biggest passions when I was a junior in high school was playing music, but I was kind of more interested in the business aspect of it. I kind of had an entrepreneurial spirit, and really wanted to start something, but I wasn’t really good at writing music. So, I decided to pursue the music business rather than music itself. And so then I started managing a hip-hop group in high school, which was just two of my friends. I started out by helping them sell t-shirts, and then eventually I booked them a few shows and became their manager, and that kind of jumpstarted my managing career.
What about Jester made you want to start managing them?
I wasn’t necessarily looking for someone to manage, but I saw them at a show, and I was completely blown away and it was a sound that I hadn’t really heard before. They had two different songwriters, and two great signers, and they kind of complimented each other. So, I thought it was really cool and I was blown away, and I felt like I really should be involved, and I would be doing myself harm if I wasn’t involved in a way.
Is it difficult to manage a band while still in school?
Yes, it definitely is. It’s difficult managing a band while I’m in school because it’s hard to allocate my time partly towards managing a band and partly towards school, and sometimes I need to, for instance, take calls and my phone will ring in class or I have to set up calls at certain times that aren’t necessarily ideal for the people I’m talking to. The weird part about managing is its whatever you make of it. You could say you’re a manager and you could be doing nothing. You could book them a few shows here and there, but managing a band is whatever you make of it. It’s however much work you want to put into it. So that’s kind of the hard part is trying to decide how much time I want put into it – because I could always be doing more.
What was your favorite show to be a part of?
I would say our sold out show at the 40 Watt, this past year on January 11th because I put a ton of work into it, and I worked really hard to get the 2 openers that we wanted. One of the bands was from Nashville and they work with a big-time agent and there was a lot negotiating with him to get them to come play. And it was just an amazing lineup, and it was sold out, and the crowd was amazing, and it was great. That was my favorite show.
How would you describe your managing style?
That is a good question. I have what I want to see for the band, but at the same time, I always have to remember I am working for the band, they’re not working for me. So, at the end of the day it’s what they want, and I have to try and help them make good decisions about where they want to take it, but I can’t be too forceful to the point where it’s not their band because it is theirs. So, I try to find a balance between the two or I’ll say, “I think this is the better decision, but if you guys feel really strongly about not doing it, then at the end of day that’s what we’ll go with.” I don’t really know what I’d call that, but yeah. Some managers, like The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, would say, “you need to look like this, you need to play like this,” which ended up being great, but that’s not how I would manage a band.
What upcoming events or projects can Jester fans be looking forward to?
They are currently in the studio recording two singles that they are going to be releasing in the middle of March, and we will be having some sort of release party in Athens for that. However, that’s probably going to be their only Athens show until the Fall, because they’ll be working on an album through the late Spring/end of Summer, and then releasing that in Fall, and then hitting shows hard in the Fall. So, look out for the double single release and an album in the Fall.