Industry Vet Allen Kovac on Working With Problematic Stars: 'We Have to Take Care of Our Artists First'

Allen Kovac
Courtesy of Eleven Seven Label Group

Allen Kovac

The CEO of Eleven Seven Music Group, a family of hard rock labels whose rosters include the bands Papa Roach and Five Finger Death Punch, Allen Kovac has worked in different roles with many musicians through the years, including as the manager of Mötley Crüe. He believes the industry needs to better support artists, helping them to maintain their health and take responsibility for their “bad deeds.”

How do you make peace with promoting music made by artists who have allegedly -- or even certainly -- behaved in troubling ways?
I work with those artists to help them help themselves. I ask them to understand and admit their flaws. I encourage them to go to rehab, to go to therapy, give back by creating awareness of how those bad deeds have hurt them and sometimes others. I explain to them how taking responsibility for those actions will not only help them, but help others.

Can an artist’s behavior taint his or her music?
Yes, it can, especially if you can’t be honest with your fans and [business] partners.

What is it like to work with an artist who has come under fire for misconduct?
I have worked with scores of artists. With those that follow my recommendations, I am deeply committed to helping them get sober and mentally healthy. The record labels used to believe that artists would sell more music if they glamorized bad behavior. Just look at the labels’ actions in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s: They enabled excess. Today, it’s a different world, and I am grateful for that. Agents, labels, managers, artists and entertainment executives are being held to a higher standard.

I’m still saddened by the lack of empathy in our industry toward artists breaking down emotionally. The artist’s job is the hardest. Money can’t be viewed as being more important than their well-being, yet it still is by some. Agents and promoters need to take account of their [artist] routing. Labels need to do the same with touring, press junkets, meet-and-greets and morning radio visits. They need to realize artists need sleep. They don’t get restful sleep on a bus or in a van. Performing, coming down from the adrenaline rush, takes hours. Then, after finally sleeping for a handful of hours, the artist needs to get in a car and perform an acoustic set first thing in the morning for radio, then eat, travel to the venue, do more interviews, soundchecks, meet-and-greets and then perform again, just to have to do it all over again the next day.

Those of us in the industry have to take care of our artists first. Over the course of my career, I have canceled tours that put my clients’ health at risk and as a result, thankfully, never lost a client on the road. Everyone has to take responsibility for our collective actions. Not just blame it on the artists.

Would you draw a line or refuse a project based on an artist or executive’s behavior?
The business preaches to our young professionals that this is an industry of relationships. [But] the relationships don’t matter, the truth does. The most important things are the songs, the artists and their abilities. I have always believed that, and would never suggest to a young or mature professional that they buckle to the will of a relationship.

This article originally appeared in the March 23 issue of Billboard.