Jeffrey Yau & Rob Bixel


In this edition, we speak with not one but two managers from Heroic Music Group - Jeffrey Yau and Rob May. Heroic is a music management agency, looking after some incredibly talented artists, producers, and songwriters including San Holo, DROELOE, Stephen, Taska Black, and The Nicholas. We thought a combo interview would provide some perspective into how their team works and how they're adapting to recent challenges, with Jeff originating from a finance background and Rob having previously been an artist himself as part of Bixel Boys.

@jeffyyau / @robbixel

Artists across the Heroic roster are slated to release albums later this year and traditionally at their caliber, a massive means of promoting albums is through touring. Given the uncertainty of the next 6-8 months, what conversations have been the most immediate in terms of adjusting touring plans or adjusting album cycles?

RM: I would say that the most immediate conversations, first and foremost, have been the conversations about not panicking. It’s really easy to get yourself and your artists into hysterics over uncertainty. Not to take away anything from this very real threat to a vast majority of artists, but it’s out of our control, and the best that we can do as a company is to push those conversations based around assurance and also that of the motivational spirit to get creative. I can’t think of another time in which we were this connected as a team and hive-minding creative ideas to help us relax the burden of not touring. You really just have to make the most of any bad situation you encounter. If your tour can’t happen in the time that you thought it was going to, then that’s an opportunity you have to think about making the show that much better. If your releases can’t happen when they were supposed to happen, take that chance to create even better plans and stories. Delays that are out of your control can only change the time in which you present it to the world, but it most certainly can’t take away the message or the effort put behind it and in the grand scheme of things, that’s what really counts.

The community aspect of the roster and bitbird’s fan-bases continues to serve as an escape from reality to so many fans, especially during these isolating times. Do you feel a sense of responsibility to provide a safe haven for what you’ve built and have you been approaching it differently this past couple of weeks?

JY: I think the bitbird team and all of our artists have done a really good job of using their platform to bring people together in this time. I do think we have a social responsibility to use our platforms for good and I think hard times can result in great art and I’m excited to see what everybody else gets up too. Already, we’re seeing a ton of partners and fellow managers and labels get creative with rolling out content or coming up with new content ideas and trying to be resourceful. San, for example, is getting out of his comfort zone too by trying to release one song a week and starting to live-stream while the bitbird team has organized multiple virtual festivals and rebroadcasts of previous shows we’ve done even.

RM: Absolutely to both. This really is a time in which I’m seeing music and it’s necessity to add value to our culture become so amplified. It’s funny because I find myself joking from time to time when I feel like someone is taking something a little too seriously in the music business and I’ll say something along the lines of “relax, we’re not heart surgeons, we’re not saving peoples lives, no one is going to be hurt if the master doesn’t get turned in on time.” but I really started to realize recently how important what we do is to so many people out there. It’s incredible what San has done with his fanbase and creating that inclusive community. In a way, I felt like perhaps that was something special to his project, but these last few weeks have taught me a valuable lesson in appreciating and taking care of the community fanbase no matter who the artist is. It’s something that gets overlooked so easily, that the reason we create and put things out there is to add value to people’s lives, especially in times of a crisis like the one we’re facing today. Why not maximize that value add in the best way that we know how to bring people together?

With Heroic having expanded so much over the past 3 years and with so many team members working virtually around the world, what practices and tools have become crucial to project management and communication?

RM: Lots of calls, and then add some more calls on to that. Working remote is a blessing and a curse. We simply do our best with the tools that are available to us. Video conferencing which is now crucial to everyone has been our default for a while now. We take really thorough notes, record meetings, track our progress everywhere. At first, it feels daunting, like you’re spending nearly a majority of your time just up keeping and communicating to others, but the alternative would no doubt cause a full-scale meltdown. It actually blows my mind now when I hear about people taking meetings and not taking notes. You have to think at that point you’re only going to retain a fraction of what was discussed. Also, shoutout Airtable if you’re still in a Google Sheet what are you even doing?

JY: We do a ton of calls just to constantly stay on top of our internal communication. I think a lot of people underestimate the amount of ‘work talk’ that happens subconsciously in an office environment naturally so we have to try and replicate that with a lot of calls and constant conversation. It can be tough and sometimes overwhelming but it’s pretty important when you’re as remote as we are. We’re also pretty well set up with database software, work-chat, task management software (like Asana) and more already so the whole “migration to remote” really had no effect at all on our productivity or work comfortability. A good tip for remote working I have is to know when to escalate a conversation from text to a call or video chat. People can underestimate the amount of nuance that’s just not there in a text conversation versus on the phone or in real life so I’ve found that sometimes it just saves everybody a lot of time and effort to stop going back and forth over text and just give somebody a call.

Lastly, what songs or albums have you been rinsing lately that have been inspiring and motivating you?

JY: As far as new music goes, I’ve been listening to the new Youmi Zouma album a lot. Otherwise, Antisocialites by Alvvays, Saved by Now, Now, The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding are the albums I’ve been playing a lot in the past few weeks. I also listen to Blond at least once a week, usually more, so shout-out Frank Ocean.

RM: Wild by Tourist, Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night by Cubicolor, the new Weeknd record is flames, Jonsi & Alex Somers - Riceboy Sleeps (2019 remaster) when I need some inspo-juice. Kilo Kish - Redux EP is mental and gets me very hyped up. Stephen’s new album out of work necessity, but also because I unbiasedly love it to death. Frank Ocean's Blonde (at least once a month.) I’m really into Spotify’s ‘Altar’  playlist, and one hidden gem called ‘French Electronic Hipster Shit’ which is pretty self-explanatory (thank me later).