When Andrew Gertler stumbled across an unpolished YouTube video of Shawn Mendes covering A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” four years ago, he immediately began searching for any form of contact information.
He eventually found Mendes’ mother’s Century 21 email address and expressed interest in managing her son’s career. It quickly blossomed into a serendipitous business relationship, one that Gertler holds cherishes so much that he refers to Mendes as a partner rather than a client.
“When you’re a partner to an artist, you’re thinking long-term,” he said. “You’re thinking about what are we going to do over the next 20 years. That’s always been my goal, to find artists that have the potential to span decades.”
It’s a lofty target that Gertler has been aiming at since he began his management career over a decade ago with Chicago hip-hop artist Rockie Fresh. At 19 years old, Gertler assumed a management role for the fledgling rapper, and eventually signed him to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group. While enrolled at the University of Vermont, he took an unpaid internship with Atlantic Records in New York to sharpen his expertise in the music business.
But when Mendes signed to Island Records in 2014, with Gertler’s guidance and counsel, the task of elevating the career of a budding pop star proved to be an uphill battle.
Because of Mendes’ strong presence on Vine, Gertler had a difficult time convincing peers, and the public, that the underaged singer was destined to have a long-term career. His debut single “Life of the Party” sold nearly 150,000 units in its debut week, but the song failed at radio, twice.
“The reality is, it wasn’t easy to earn the respect of people," he admitted. “It was hard for people to buy into the concept of a young Viner that is a career artist.”
Nonetheless, he strengthened his resolve.
In addition to taking advantage of the social media following Mendes had already built, Gertler employed grassroots marketing efforts that included sending the singer on a handful of tours as a headliner, as well as an opening act on Taylor Swift's 1989 tour. The relentless undertakings produced three Billboard 200-topping albums, garnered over 50 million combined Instagram and Twitter followers, and aided in Gertler's plans to build Mendes into a stadium act by 2019.
Gertler, 30, looks to continue to grow his company, AG Artists, into a business that solidifies Mendes’ staying power and attracts more long-term career artists in the process. He takes inspiration from the monolith built by his dream mentor, David Geffen, who recently ranked No. 56 on the Forbes 400, with a net worth of $8.7 billion.
“His success was based on building great businesses for artists,” he says of Geffen. “That’s what I’m interested in, which is, how do you fulfill the vision of creative people.”
Though Gertler is 45 years Geffen’s junior, the Under 30 alum has a simple plan to achieve his goal: “Do a few things well.”