Band breakups aren’t the only music industry divorces that can get messy. Behind the scenes, unfortunately, can be just as nasty and bitter. Take the case of entrepreneur Wayne Kamemoto.
A veteran of decades in the music industry as a business manager for some of the biggest names in music, he worked as a partner at DWA until that business was taken over by a larger corporation. Kamemoto finally decided that this was not the right fit for him. He left only to face a lawsuit from the company that kept him sidelined for most of 2021.
After settling this case, he was ready to start his successful career all over again, which he finally decided to do with the Thomas St. John company. Much to his surprise and dismay, his former company filed another lawsuit, which he is still facing.
Luckily, this costume doesn’t stop Kamemoto from moving forward with his new gig at Thomas St John. I spoke to Kamemoto, who has the wealth, no pun intended, of dealing with the riches of the biggest rock stars in the world, and plenty of sound advice from that experience.
Steve Baltin: Let’s start with what brought you to the firm.
Wayne Kamemoto: I had a choice of maybe eight companies. There’s a lot of people who reached out and wanted to explore things, and I got what I wanted from talking to all these different companies. Thomas St. John had the right mix compared to Thomas, who is very innovative, and he’s very receptive to listening to what I had to share, and he recognized that I had a ton of experience and he was willing to listen to this. I have a particular philosophy about what I do, and it’s really about valuing the staff and serving the customers and keeping them in mind first. So there are different ways to do that and to be able to provide a high level of service to customers, and Thomas St. John was an independent business. I love that it’s an independent company and that they also have a global reach, because the globalization of music has obviously been in full force for a long time now and it’s very important to have that global reach. So they have that. They were established in London and they have offices in Stockholm and Amsterdam, and then obviously in Los Angeles here. And Los Angeles, they were looking to me to help them grow their footprint even more. I wanted to provide customers with top level service, with the best systems, with the best people, the most experienced people, just in an independent setting and not having to inundate them with a group of customers like a factory setting but rather by being very concerned about the customers we bring and not overcharging people. And Thomas St. John was very open to that concept. So that’s why I went with Thomas St. John. And my old partner, Jon Payne, who I think is the guru of royalty, had left earlier and ended up in Thomas St. John. So it was pretty appealing, too, to find him again, because I think we’re a pretty great duo with his expertise in royalties and my expertise in business management. And then I could even have gone out alone, that was also an option. Thomas was willing to put resources in place so that I could build the best team and involve the best people. So that was cool, because I wouldn’t have been able to do this to the extent that I do now, adding all these high-level people, these business management supervisors, these royalty experts and these touring experts who all have like a decade’s experience and what have you, at least. So that’s why I chose Thomas St. John.
Baltin: And obviously with that, when you came over there, I know you brought a bunch of people that you’ve worked with in the past.
Kamemoto: Right, it was great because a lot of people asked me what I was doing and wanted to explore an adjustment. We explored a deal with a lot of people, and it became kind of a filtering process in that if they were very willing and if they believed in themselves, and they also believed in what we were doing , that kind of triple factor , then they would be a fit. But if they’re swayed by somebody saying, “Hey, we’re going to give you a promotion and a raise,” and they’re swayed by money and so on, we don’t need anyone. one who will be influenced like that. We want people who believe in what we do. And then they also had to believe in themselves, because sometimes if you’ve been in a company for a long time and maybe it’s a big company that you have at least financial comfort, you think you have stability there, but you can’t be happy. We want people who are looking for that happiness, and maybe there’s a little more risk because the company isn’t as established. But Thomas St. John is sufficiently established and has top-tier customers, and our presence in the mix has hopefully provided that extra security and comfort to move for people who have moved. So yes, we had nine people, not counting me, who had experience in other companies.
Baltin: And that obviously brings us to the trial.
Kamemoto: I thought that was behind me, that I was free to compete and solicit former clients and former employees and all that. We agreed that I had the right. And I had settled down with my old company to do it. I’m able to do it but they…decided to start another trial on the barbecue, basically. But yeah, it’s very disappointing that it keeps happening. Time will tell, but I think I will again be happy with the result. I continue. I do my thing and we do it well. They can’t stop.
Baltin: Do you feel like it’s flattering that they can just see you as a threat?
Kamemoto: Yes, definitely. They can’t stop the train now, we’re doing our thing, I’ve signed 18 clients since Feb 14 when we started signing clients and it’s still going and we have amazing staff. I like the staff we have.
Baltin: Coming out of the trial, for you, during the sabbatical year, what have you been excited to now put into practice with new clients?
Kamemoto: I focused on working with non-profit organizations and it was great. It’s helped me with my outlook, and I’ve also been following the new flavors, basically, in terms of the clients we’re working on right now that have to do with cryptocurrency and NFTs, clients that get involve with NFTs and the like. So it gave me the opportunity to keep up to date with a lot of hot stuff, whether it’s government grants, SVOG and things of that nature. I kept myself fresh and talked to a lot of people during that time who reached out to me, a lot of professionals who were in my corner who just kept everything fresh.
Baltin: How has working for a small company affected you?
Kamemoto: Instead of delegating to other people who have less experience than me, I supervise it to a greater extent. And the good thing is that my team is also very experienced, so it’s amazing that I have more bandwidth and work with the people who have the most experience. So together it creates a really amazing synergy for customers. Instead of being overwhelmed by a group of customers and delegating to people who may not have the best experience, or the most experience, and that gets diluted, service and the ability to be proactive .
Baltin: Do you feel like you would never want to be able to have so many customers again?
Kamemoto: Yeah, for me it’s a complete reset because I walked away from everything, even though some of my old clients are with me. But technically, I walked away from everything and had no clients, so I started from scratch. But I have the most experience, so with that experience comes the ability to really understand best practices, like what’s the best way to do it? And that’s why I really wanted to build a team first, then start adding the clients, and then add them into a deal where it doesn’t immediately overwhelm the staff. And with Thomas St. John being very receptive to the way we do things, then it’s just a perfect storm to be able to reset in a way where it’s completely conscious. It’s such a big plus for everyone, myself, customers and staff. And the company is patient about it and they know we’re going to be very successful and they like the trajectory already.