Tag Archives: Music Industry

From Russia to LA: Daria Khovanova’s Journey into the Music Biz

Daria Khovanova
Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova shot by Isabella Behravan

It takes far more than music alone to keep the music industry running like the finely-tuned machine it is. Anyone with dreams of graduating from garage demos to packed stadiums needs the support of somebody with the connections and know-how necessary to make that dream a reality. For those lucky musicians whose sounds and skills have earned them her discerning confidence, management coordinator Daria Khovanova has been an invaluable lifeline in a highly competitive business.

Long before she worked her way up the ranks to her position as management coordinator, Khovanova knew her path in life would lead her to the industry. Born and raised in Moscow, she began training in piano and music theory when she was only six. As a teenager she was glued to MTV and VH1, which led in part to her lifelong love of American and British music. The local bands weren’t her style, so Khovanova set out to explore the scene out west.

“I was never inspired by the music industry back home, in Russia. There were no bands I was excited about. Most of them came from abroad,” she recalled. “So I started travelling to Europe early on to go to shows and music festivals. While also seeking out any book I could find in the vein of ‘How To Make It In The Music Industry.’”

The worldly experience she gained from her travels proved invaluable. She began establishing and growing her professional network, discovered countless new artists and influences, and built the foundation for her future career. Before long, she landed a life-changing position that gave her an opportunity to get some hands-on experience working in the field she loved.

“I managed to secure an intern position at Monotone. It’s a management company run by Ian Montone, and it has a pretty amazing artist roster including Jack White, The Kills, LCD Soundsystem, The Shins, and Vampire Weekend,” she said.

With a myriad of illustrious clients that includes legendary 12-time Grammy-winner Jack White, Monotone is exceptionally discerning in who it hires. Luck played no part in the decision to offer Khovanova the internship; even then, in her earliest days, it was clear to anyone in the know she had an innate gift for navigating the ins and outs of the labyrinthian music industry. Her natural aptitude for finding, fostering and cultivating talent is what’s enabled her to rise to the top of her field.

During her time at Monotone she discovered her talents and passions made her perfect for the role she now fills. As a management coordinator, there’s very little Khovanova doesn’t do for her clients. Khovanova is there at every step of her clients’ careers, watching like a hawk and constantly ready for any opportunity or obstacle that might arise.

“As an artist’s management coordinator you wear many hats, and that’s what I enjoy most. There’s never a dull moment,” explained Khovanova. “I realized a long time ago that working in music I didn’t want to be stuck in the office. Maintaining personal contact with the artists is of great importance to me, and it’s something I think the artists appreciate also… It’s important to be in it together, share adventures together and grow a bond.”

That level of personal involvement in the creative process requires a delicate balance. Khovanova never veers in the direction of being either controlling or detached; her finely-honed talents enable her to find the perfect middle ground where her clients are never interfered with nor neglected, but given exactly what they need to thrive. That philosophy, and Khovanova’s unbounded passion, are a large part of what her clients consider when they choose her as their ally.

Years spent immersed in the music scene of Western Europe, followed by her experience at Monotone, made Khovanova a formidable figure in her field. Through skill and sheer perseverance she earned the trust and partnership of Los Angeles rock band Allah-Las. Active for a decade in the L.A. scene, Allah-Las have become headliner darlings of the indie music scene in both the U.S. and Europe. After a long friendship between Khovanova and the band, she became their management coordinator in 2017.

“We met at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, through mutual Angeleno friends who are now based in Berlin. We stayed in touch and crossed paths many times in Europe and Russia,” she recalled. “[It’s my job to] secure endorsement deals, take part in merchandise development and production, manage touring and advancing shows, book flights and accommodations and make sure everything runs smoothly on the road.”

It’s virtually impossible to name an aspect of the band’s day-to-day schedule that Khovanova isn’t personally involved in. She’s the wizard behind the curtain, and everything she does as the band’s management coordinator revolves around her longtime love of the music they make.

“Their music is timeless, not affected by trends or new technologies. They like to record the tried-and-tested, old-fashioned way, which I think is very appealing,” she described. “Well, they take you in and you become part of a family. There is a certain magic in being on the road with a close-knit group of best friends… They always manage to put a smile on your face somehow. There’s never a dull moment.”

The camaraderie between the band members and Khovanova is invaluable when it comes time to plan and manage the band’s innumerable events. That was especially true when the Allah-Las headed to Texas to play the Marfa Myths festival. Khovanova handled nearly everything for the trip, ensuring it was an epic show for band and fans alike.

“[My job included] liaising with festival organizers and the record label, Mexican Summer, in preparation for the festival, negotiating set length, order of appearance, financial compensation, and more,” Khovanova said, describing the details of her unbelievably packed agenda. “I also did scheduling, handled the van rental, seeking out and booking the best accommodation options within close proximity to the venue, arranging advance shows, renting backline if needed, hiring and flying out the sound person the band trusts for the show, handling guest lists, and often settlement at the end of the night.”

Marfa, Texas
Daria Khovanova in Marfa, Texas

Handling the Allah-Las’ show at the iconic Marfa Myths festival speaks volumes to Khovanova’s abilities as their management coordinator. The festival has become a renowned showcase for artists, filmmakers and musicians at the forefront of the industry. Many of those who’ve shared their work at Marfa Myths, like Allah-Las, already have huge followings internationally. Others are receiving their first major exposure before going on to become household names. For a band like Allah-Las, nailing the perfect set at Marfa Myths meant a chance to gain thousands of new fans and an immeasurable boost in publicity. Thanks to Khovanova’s tireless work, the show went off without a hitch, further cementing her already stellar reputation.

Khovanova is extensively involved in groups and projects in addition to her work specifically with Allah-Las. She is a key member of Reverberation Radio, a creative collective of musicians who discover, create, and curate the best new tracks and deep cuts from artists around the country and internationally.

“Reverberation Radio is a close-knit group of record collectors who create weekly mixes of largely forgotten tracks drawing from decades of strange pop and instrumentals,” Khovanova described. “All members of Allah-Las are part of the collective and regular contributors to weekly mixes that come out each Wednesday.”

Working with what is essentially a think tank of musicians, Khovanova’s role is to ensure Reverberation Radio receives every possible opportunity to grow its brand and reach. By coordinating with artists, venues and event planners, she is constantly hard at work finding new ways to expand Reverberation Radio’s presence in the digital media landscape. Because of the close ties between Khovanova, the Allah-Las’ band members and the collective, she is uniquely qualified to bridge the needs of both groups. And with the westward move of a legendary East Coast venue, the popularity of Reverberation Radio exploded.

“There would often be Reverberation Radio DJ’s at the Allah-Las’ shows to ensure the right atmosphere. Lately though, with the opening of Zebulon – the legendary Brooklyn venue that relocated to LA in 2017 – the musical landscape has changed,” she described. “The Reverberation Radio dance party grew from playing smaller bars to being the most popular dance party to go to…, often with lines of people forming outside trying to get in. No one expected that kind of success, and it’s become a monthly event.”

Daria Khovanova
Daria Khovanova at Zebulon

That venue, Zebulon, is another example of a huge success that is covered in Khovanova’s fingerprints. In the time since it opened in L.A., it’s become one of the premiere Saturday night spots for the city’s young and trendy to dance, drink and discover new artists. Working hand-in-hand with Reverberation Radio, Khovanova has a key role in making the club what it is.

“I also work at Zebulon, where Reverberation Radio have a monthly dance night which has become the successful and well-attended ‘Party at Zebulon.’ Zebulon has become a new centerpiece to the nightlife in L.A. for people looking for a higher quality of music and art,” she said. “I do social media, marketing and some booking at the venue.”

The full list of duties she performs for Zebulon is seemingly endless. In a nutshell, she is responsible for all communication between the venue and Reverberation Radio. It’s a big task with bigger stakes for both the venue and the collective. Her results, however, speak for themselves. With the immense growth of popularity of both Zebulon and Reverberation Radio, the groups’ success hinges on the talents of Khovanova. Just as she’s done for Allah-Las, she’s guided both the collective and the venue along the path to becoming hugely influential forces in the industry. Through her constant networking, negotiating and coordinating, both have prospered and expanded their audiences exponentially.

What Daria Khovanova does best is organically develop mutually-beneficial relationships between musicians, venues, and the groups that promote both. The music industry is a complex network made up of thousands of tiny pieces all moving independently of one another. What Khovanova does is bring order to the chaos. With personal experience in every part of the process, an unrivaled talent for finding and making the connections her clients need, and a vast understanding of how the industry works from top-to-bottom, she is by far the most valuable asset her clients have.

.

 

Advertisements

Working at Both Ends of the Spectrum: Acclaimed Music Producer Dragi Ivanov

Deondre Jones (ShotsbyDre)
Producer and engineer Dragi Ivanov shot by Deondre Jones

Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.

As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.

Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.

Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”

Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.

“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”

Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.

“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”

It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.

With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.    

Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”

Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”

The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.

For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.

In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.

Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.

“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”  

The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.  

For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”

The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.

In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.

He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.

“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”

The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.

“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”

“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.

Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto

“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.

“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”

In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.

“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”