Inside The Mind Of Kaytranada’s Manager & eOne Music’s A&R, William Robillard-Cole

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Photo by Elie Kimbembe

Photo by Elie Kimbembe

When William Robillard-Cole met Kaytranada for the first time, he instantly wanted to work with him. After booking the then-up-and-coming producer and DJ for a party, Will expressed interest in helping him handle the business side of his operation. The conversation quickly manifested into a reality. Will soon dropped out of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“[My mom] told me, 'If you’re dropping out for the right reasons and you think you’re going to be in a place where this was a good decision a year from now, then I support you.’ My dad was kind of the same way.”

It eventually became evident he made the right decision. With just $1,500 in startup funds, Will created WRC Management, a boutique firm that now oversees the careers of Kaytranada, Sango, Stwo, Lou Phelps and Pomo.

After signing on as Kaytranada’s manager, Will’s first order of business was to book his artist on a European tour to build his fan base. Each stop brought in about €1,00 (~ $100) per night, while the team stayed in two-star, or less, hotel rooms to stay within budget.

Because he was only 21 years old at the time, he often took criticism for his management style and inexperience. Will persevered nonetheless. His plan of action began with building Kaytranada’s buzz using grassroots touring and marketing tactics without the help of a major label.

“I feel like we’re kind of still on the outside looking in, which I think gives my artists a unique approach to the music business,” Will said. “I always tell them we don’t need the music business as much as the music business needs us.”

In 2014, Will brokered a one-album deal with XL Recordings to distribute Kaytranada’s debut, 99.9%. He is now under RCA’s umbrella to release his sophomore album. Though Kaytranada has major label affiliation, Will admits the idea behind getting his clients record deals is a calculated strategy rather than a necessity.

“If we build it up with Sango to a place where he’s got 300-500 million streams, then we can take it to a label and leverage them for a big deal. That’s how I like to use major record labels … It’s kind of like a relationship where you can use the major label system when you need it and kind of dip in and out of it, and make sure you have a smart relationship with it.”

Will is skeptical of major labels’ abilities for long-term growth because of the lack of investment in artist development. Still, his role as the VP of A&R at eOne Music has helped him gain insider knowledge of the major label system. He believes that an artist will only be successful if everyone on the management team and at the record label knows their role and stay in their respective lanes.

“If a good major label A&R is doing their job, literally all they’re doing is keeping that artist that they signed happy and making sure that if they need to work with anyone, that they can […] A good A&R is friends with all the right people and has connections with all the right people. They know how to distinguish successful music from non-successful music, regardless of the taste level.”

Long-term, Will sees himself continuing to find innovative ways to expand his management company. He also plans on building out creative spaces and studios for his clients, as well as Montreal’s music community to take advantage of.

“Now it’s less about paying the rent and more about leaving some sort of mark on the business. [It’s about] my clients being respected and well-reviewed and critically acclaimed, and people still buying the records in 10 years.”