Five Takeaways From 'LAMC Talks: A Conversation With Walter Kolm'

Walter Kolm
 Ruben Cabrera

Walter Kolm

Kicking off the Latin Alternative Music Conference's first-ever "LAMC Talks With Billboard Latin," Billboard's Leila Cobo and leading executive Walter Kolm sat down for a one-on-one virtual chat to talk business, COVID-19 and beyond.

Both in Miami, Kolm -- manager of Maluma, Wisin, CNCO, Carlos Vives, among others, and founder of WK Entertainment -- joins Cobo from his office, which has partially opened post- COVID-19 lockdown.

"I love being in an office, even if I'm alone. Right now, 30 percent of the staff is back," says Kolm who, like his artists, are adapting to a new reality and taking this time to reflect on live music once concerts resume.

"This pandemic has made us think about what the live music will be like, whether it's less lights on stage, what can we do to give the audience a better live experience? We can't continue working like before. It's a time to reflect," he adds.

Below are five takeaways from Kolm's conversation with Cobo.

From label to management: After working for 17 years at Universal Music Latin, the Argentine executive decided to launch his own management company known as WK Entertainment.

"When I leave the label world, I tried to re-invent myself. There was a big opportunity in management and there was no other company with a management structure, that's when I decide to create a company. WK Entertainment is a 360-style company and we have other departments too like booking and commercial. Currently there are more than 30 people working for WK Entertainment between Colombia, Spain and the U.S.

When it comes to live concerts, we work directly with the promoter, create a strategy on how to sell tickets, it's better to do this in house. When we decided to do a tour with Maluma in Europe, we knew we had to open an office in Madrid to be able to handle ourselves. We realized there was no need for a third party."

How WK Entertainment works in a pandemic: 

"We have been affected partially. During every crisis there is an opportunity and we've talked about this with our artists. It's something we can't control but we have to be positive. Of course, people are having a rough time, artists, staff but at the end of the day, this is temporary and we have to continue recording new music so that when this is over, the artist can sell tickets for a tour.

We're communicating more often as a team. We connect every day at 10:30am and we see each other more than usual because before we were on a plane or on tour. We've learned to work more as a team. This pandemic has made us think about what the live music will be like, whether it's less lights on stage, what can we do to give the audience a better live experience? We can't continue working like before. It's a time to reflect."

Artists and social media: What role does Kolm play when it comes to micromanaging what his artists post or don't post on social media?

"Personally, I don't interfere. Unless I think something is being handled incorrectly. The artist has their own personality and they're big because of who they are. We have to let them be. The artist's team is very involved and I'm sure they have those conversations because they have a more friendship because they spend so much time together."

Humble beginnings: 

"Without intention, I became a manager back in the 80s in Argentina after a punk band asked me to help them distribute their record since I had worked distributing a local magazine. Then, when I was 25, I started with Universal in Argentina.

But it was Cristian Castro who gave me my big opportunity. As I was leaving Universal, he asked me to be his manager and I will always be thankful. It was a new world for me with an artists that was making hits. We had that chemistry and that's the most important thing. It's important to manage your time and how you dedicate that time to each artist. You have to share time with them, be there during their birthdays -- if they invite you -- at their concert. I sign artists that I like. If I don't like the music, I won't sign them. Even if they tell me it's an artist that will make a lot of money, if I don't enjoy a concert of theirs, I won't do it."

Advice for artists and managers: 

"[Television personality] Don Francisco once told me that it's so important to invest in your own career. And that's the advice I always give. Your name is your brand so always protect that. As for what advice I have for managers, I can't say. I respect them and I have many friends so I don't feel in a position to give advice. Most of them are doing things right."

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