Deb Haus formed The Consulting Haus— An Independent Resource for Major Goals—in 2006 after leaving Sony Music Nashville as VP of Creative Services, Marketing and Artist Development. Haus’ 20-year major label stint began in her home town of Austin, Texas shortly after earning a degree in Film at the University of Texas. During her two decades with Sony she worked on campaigns for Award winning artists such as Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, Montgomery Gentry and many more.
“My transition from the label was smooth,” Haus recalls. “I took a three month break and then began doing what I love to do, but on my own terms.” The Consulting Haus has offices and clients in both Austin and Nashville and specializes in Brand Imaging, Creative Direction, Video Production, Music Marketing and Artist Development. Recent clients include Rebel Engine Ent., Red Light Management, HitShop Records, Tenacity Records, Emblem Music Group, 16 Minutes Ent. and I.R.S. Nashville.
Haus believes “Teamwork is essential,” and brings that focus to her work. Those professionals that have worked with her are also apt to praise her project management skills and ability to keep a team focused on its goals. Having worked with her recently, this writer can testify she is self-assured, but calm and easy going.
During our interview Haus discussed important steps in the artist development process, pitfalls to avoid, pathways to success and her latest analysis of the “it” factor. She also noted how the opportunity landscape for new artists is evolving… Read On
NEKST: What’s the process of starting with a new artist?
Deb Haus: It’s so important to get to know the person. I’m going to be responsible for matching that artist’s personality with a creative team that can make them feel comfortable, keep them who they are and not try to change them. That includes photographers, directors, stylists, hair and makeup and more. Every artist is completely different, but they all have the exact same goal—a successful long term music career. As the artist development process kicks in—we begin by establishing a core fan base and being honest about the artist’s identity. I tell artists, “Don’t try to be something you’re not.” The scariest new artist to work with is the one that doesn’t know who they are and seems way too open to being molded. That’s a big red flag.
NEKST: What are some of the pitfalls you help new artists avoid?
DebHaus: Often artists come to town and begin spending lots of money and rushing into things before they have a timeline and a plan. Equally 101 is, “Do you really love being around people and the idea of having fans?” Many new artists say, “Yes I love my fans,” and in the beginning they believe it. But if, as time goes on and success kicks in, you start to see them retreat from those meet and greets then that is not going to point them toward a long term successful career in country music.
NEKST: Can you spot the artists with that special personality?
Deb Haus: I’m not always right, but I do have an instinctual grasp based upon doing this for 20 years. Usually a client is coming to me that already has a manager or a label. If I get the vibe that an artist is playing the “role” of country artist or if I don’t see that drive I’ll find a polite way to discuss it with the manager or person backing them and help them dig a little deeper. I used to subscribe to the “it factor” theory—something you’re born with and everyone can immediately tell if you have it. But I’ve actually changed my way of thinking. I’ve seen people who weren’t that shining star walking into a room in the beginning, but with time, success and added confidence they evolve and can actually become an “it factor” person. And sadly, I’ve also seen people lose that “it factor” over time—perhaps due to failures, discouragement or even because they self-destruct emotionally, physically or spiritually.
NEKST: What are your favorite artist development tools?
Deb Haus: Any tool whether written or visual that helps people get to know a person is valuable. When an artist sits in front of their computer and says to their fans, “Look what just happened to me,” or “Here’s how I feel this week,” or “Here’s a little bit of a song I just wrote, tell me what you think,” that interaction is one of the best ways to connect. We hear the word “authenticity” everywhere and it’s so true. If an artist isn’t being authentic the fans will see through it. It goes back to asking do you really want to interact with your fans? Because the most important tool in an artist tool box is that genuine love of people. There’s also artists who are savvy in the marketing and self promotion department and, for example, are great at remembering names. However, there’s the skill of remembering a face and name, but there is also the intent behind it. If you genuinely want to know who everyone is and how they fit into this giant industry puzzle then you are leagues ahead in the artist development process because you are authentic and genuine. So part of what I do is teach them about the industry and explain what everybody does. If they take the extra step to be genuinely interested, it benefits them greatly. Another artist development tool is listening. A lot of artists (and execs) feel so compelled to say whatever it is they need to say that they don’t stop and listen.
NEKST: You also offer project management, why?
Deb Haus: The project manager is the nucleus, the center of a whole group of talented people each focusing on their own role. Somebody has to share those elements and keep everyone on the same page. Communicating the collective goals generates consistency in branding, imaging and timing. Seeing action steps, production schedules and timelines all credited to those involved helps everyone feel engaged, empowered and important. And that’s important.
NEKST: Besides online, what’s the biggest artist development change in Nashville?
Deb Haus: It’s no longer only a few companies deciding who the new artists will be. There’s a giant buffet of available talent in Nashville. An artist with a true gift has a better shot of being heard and partnered up with the right people than ever before. Consultants like me are blessed to work with a variety of people. I’m currently on six projects each with different teams. One of those is well known Nashville painter, Shelia B. I’m finding the only difference between marketing a painter and a musician, artist development-wise is I’m going to a gallery instead of a concert.
NEKST: How do artist images grow?
Deb Haus: When deciding how to launch an artist visually my advice is always don’t get above your raising. You want to be extra cool, but the fans have to give you the permission to do that. Miranda Lambert’s a good example. I worked on her first two albums with the Sony team. Look at that brilliant video she made this year and compare it with her early work. That great, hip Pistol Annie vibe wouldn’t have worked in her very first video. But now her fans have allowed her to get there. And Miranda’s done an amazing job because she is authentic and totally herself.