Meet the team: Andres Recio

For this article, we interviewed Andres Recio, who will take care of the business classes at Abbey Road Institute Miami.

About Andres Recio

Andres has worked for more than 25 years in the music industry as a talent manager, GRAMMY Award-winning executive producer, road manager and A&R. Current manager for Alessia Cara and producer Julio Reyes Copello, he has also worked with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Alejandro Sanz, Ricky Martin, Juanes, Nelly Furtado, Paulina Rubio, Kat Dahlia, among many others; and has been involved in the guidance of creative direction of over 8 platinum-selling recording artists.

Andres is Co-founder of AR Solutions, a Digital Business Management Agency, created with his brother Alejandro Recio; A digital market research, real-time data monitoring, web design, web marketing, digital content strategies and search engine optimization company working for artists and companies such as Ricky Martin, P&G, Wisin, Samsung, Universal Music Latino, Marc Anthony, Juanes, Luis Fonsi, Live Nation, Jennifer Lopez, Ricardo Arjona and Nelly Furtado, among many others.

We spoke to Andres through Zoom early in June about his involvement with Abbey Road Institute. What drives him? What’s his role as a manager? How did he get started? What were his biggest challenges? And what makes him so successful as a manager for some of the biggest names in Latin Music.

Hi Andres!

Let’s talk about Abbey Road Institute Miami.

He immediately kicks off…
This is a big dream that we’ve had. And I say ‘we’ because Julio (our campus director) was my first client. We’ve been working together for twenty years, managing his career as a professional producer and songwriter from day one. And we even have a longer history together. He was my sight-singing teacher when I was studying music and audio engineering at the University in Colombia. And I would always see him as being so righteous and such a clear thought of what music should be and how respectful you had to be towards music and musicality. He was grounding and pounding down on the musical values and all about making sure that you didn’t cheat yourself and you didn’t throw away your money. What I mean by that is, when you go to school and you don’t want to dedicate yourself to it, it’s like throwing away your money.

And during that time, I would always be like: ‘this guy, why is he so uptight with all this stuff and so rigid? If he’s that good and he thinks that you have to keep all this because that’s the success of music around the globe, why don’t you go outside and actually do it instead of just teaching in this classroom?’

‘But yeah, to cut a long story short, he proved to me that he was right about everything he said back then,’ he explains laughing.

‘And, fast forward twenty-five years: All of those values that he set on me and all the ones that had the incredible opportunity to learn from him, we all have successful careers. Because his vision of how you should perceive, look upon and live music and how you have to be grounded from day one, when you’re studying and how you need to approach this career in this life, that’s how it actually works’.
‘I’ll tell you a funny story; I have always been a good student. I studied music and audio engineering and studied international business and trade at the same time. And I always did very well in school and in high school and in college. But I only failed one class, and it was Julio’s. (laughing) And I’ve been re learning that class for the past twenty years now’.

Valuable lessons for the next generation of music professionals…
‘Yeah, this is almost a statement. Where we come from and the reasoning behind this has always been his passion and how can we bring all this experience to the present?
Now we are able to put everything he said, that was theory back then when he hadn’t started his career yet, into practice. There’re a lot of blessed musicians that were in those classes that have very successful careers, like the musical director and keyboardist for Juanes, the legendary Latin Rockstar who was the Person of the Year at the Latin Grammys last year.’

The power of networks. Because you brought him in as well right?
‘Yes, I did! And that’s the way it goes. You know, the people that you study with, those are the people that are going to recommend you want to work with you or don’t want to work with you! Because if you’re lazy and you don’t deliver, you know which were the ones that didn’t study, and which were the ones that really made a big effort. So, yeah, I brought this guy in when Juanes needed a keyboard player.
I worked with Juanes from day one, to 15 Grammys after. And at the Person of the Year last year, it felt like I was able to get my life together, closing the big circle. Julio played piano and did the arrangement of a song that Juanes and Alessia Cara (who won the Best New Artist at the American Grammys) did together and they performed it there, for Juanes, at the Person of the Year at the Latin Grammys last year’. (See exclusive “iPhone recording” video below).

‘For me that moment was like an amazing experience, a complete circle of life and how education is so important. And that when you are faithful to music…, which was a phrase that Julio would always run in our heads, “if you’re faithful to music, music will never fail you”. And that’s what happens on the projects that have been a success. I’ve always been faithful to that on the management side, believing that an artist is honest and pure with his emotion and what he wants to deliver musically. That’s been a success of Julio, of artists like Juanes, has been the success of Nelly Furtado and the success of new artists like Alessia Cara.’

How do you make them stay close to themselves, staying honest and pure?
‘Well, yeah, on the management side, I would say it’s 60 percent psychology and 40 percent knowledge and…I would say 100 percent creativity! It’s a very creative job!’ He explains with a laugh.
Of course, there’s a lot of methodic and stabs and things that you have to learn through the lessons that you’ve achieved, especially through the mistakes that you make to becoming a manager, but 60 percent is the psychology of understanding the emotions of artists, on how to help them always stay true to who they are and to what they feel. Believe in them, support them and protect them from themselves, which is their biggest enemy. Both on the overconfidence side and the lack of confidence, when they lose it. You have to support them, encourage them to dig deep and stay true to themselves. It’s a lot of protection because the surroundings are very influential.

And as a manager, you have to make their dreams your dreams. That’s key! You really have to take your ego out of the way. You can give an opinion, but you always have to be very mindful. They are the ones with the genius sensitivity, to be able to do what they do. That’s been a big lesson for me. You have to connect and align yourself and share their visions and values.

What are your values as a manager in the music business?
I think that my values are always related to ‘putting the artist first’, then the money and the business’. I believe that’s the main value you should have as a manager. I’m never thinking about the money, because there will be a lot of temptations once you start having success. All I’m thinking is if it’s good for the artist’s career or is it good for my producer. Is this going to do something for them, or is it going to move them away from their goals and their credibility.

I’m always balancing on the credibility side. I’ve dedicated my life and my career to credible artists and producers. And once you set that value, that’s the most rigid line you have to work on. And of course, there are a lot of situations that your values are really put to the test.

Why do you think these artists and producers like to work with you?
He laughs: ‘That would be a good question for you to ask Julio, Alessia, Nelly or Juanes.’ But I would say that my passion for music is endless. You can wake me up at 3:00 a.m. to show me a song and I will always get up and listen. Juanes did that with me many times. And nowadays, on a daily basis, I almost speak more with Julio than my wife,’ he says with a big laugh.

I’m just a musician in love with music. That’s what drives me and motivates me. When I see a creator doing something that’s amazing, triggering an emotion on me, I’m so desperate to share this with the world. And I’m a communicator. So, I would say it’s the passion, I’m just a passionate communicator.

I think why I’ve been successful throughout my career is that I only really care about being happy and making the artists happy. Every day you have many things to be happy about but also many things to be unhappy about. Even when you sell stadiums, you still have a thousand problems. You can have these things sink you down, but you just got to balance it out. To make sure you always live in a midpoint. And those are important things we are really planning to make our students aware of.

You’re a musician. You studied music and audio engineering. How did you get into music?
Since I was a little kid, I was obsessed with music. Always with my Walkman listening to music. I had a rock big rock phase, then went to a huge salsa phase. But really obsessed! And my neighbor happened to be the most respected big band director of Colombia. And his son went to school with me. And when I had to decide what I was going to do in college, my parents told me to study finance or economics, because I was good with numbers. So, I had to go and study economy and finance. But I told my neighbor that I love music. And he’s like ‘let’s start working!’, so, I started working as roadies with the big band and we thought it would be all fun. But that roadie job is hard! That’s a hard gig!

And around then, two months into it, they fired the audio engineer. And I was always very techie and all this stuff, and I’m like, oh, I can do it. This is physics. I’m good with numbers, so I can study that. So, I started studying the catalogues and then I started doing the audio for the big band. I messed up a lot, but I made it work. And then after a couple of years I became a deejay and I said to myself, look, if I’m successful without studying, maybe if I study, I can be the best at it. But I never studied music, so that’s when I went to the university. I kept studying for my finance and economy degree and started music and audio engineering.

Quite an unusual path?
Exactly. And people would always say like ‘you’re crazy!’ Why are you doing these two degrees that have nothing to do with one another?’ But I saw it differently. At a very young age, I understood two things: that I wanted to travel, and that music was an international business. I wanted to learn both things and I had my path pretty clear of what I wanted to do.

I knew that I wasn’t good enough to be a performer or a singer or performing musician. But I did want to be able to learn to the best of my abilities about music, so I can communicate with the ones that I knew are geniuses in making music. You know, only when you cut your finger you know a good carpenter.

Same with music! Only when you try to play an instrument, try to write a song, try to produce a song, you know the geniuses. Every day I want to be a better musician and I want to learn a little bit more about the software that is used. I collect instruments and like to learn to play them, but it’s just to understand and learn the language so I can communicate properly with the people that have that gift or that special sensitivity. The more that I learn and the more I work with artists and producers, the more I am conscious of that.

Andres and Juanes at the Grammys

Andres and Juanes at the Grammys

What made you decide to take the management path?
I’ll give you a really honest answer. When I was a deejay, from ’93 to ’98, working every day, I was the one of the highest paid deejays in Colombia. I would get great reactions, but it also made me realize that being an artist is a very delicate thing. You only have one shot in life to gain respect. Once you do that, you either make it or you’re done. It’s a wrap.

And when I was working as a deejay, a guy called Fernan Martinez came with Enrique Iglesias to the place where I was working. And he told me that I was a really good deejay and had a great sensibility for the audience. That was of course great to hear, and I wrote his name down and I started following his career. Because if he could make Iglesias big, he was onto something right!? This guy must be a genius.
And guess who I met in the year 2000 when I had to present a song made by Julio? This guy Fernan Martinez! I asked him if he still remembered me and I told him I’ve been following his career since ninety-three and that I really want to learn from him. So, he got the deal for the song and I started working with him. I’ve been very lucky to learn from this guy that I always had in mind as my mentor.

You also went into digital marketing?
Yeah. I’ve always been a dreamer. I think anybody that is in the music business is a dreamer. And as I said earlier, it’s a very creative job and I’ve always been on the tech side, trying to see what’s the next big wave? So, when I started with Juanes, his fans would still send letters to connect with him. And was like, oh, this is so old school. So, I started to create mailing lists back then and I had my brother who is a mechatronics engineer to help me with that. We started building a whole new section on Juanes’ site and we created a site called Best Fan, for fans to connect, which started growing and we were pioneering with that. After that we moved on to other things, like social media marketing and we designed the web sites for Universal Music, Sony Music, Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi, almost all of the top Latin stars we did. Me and my brother developed that whole concept of connecting with the fans in a more direct way and finding marketing strategies. Once again, you have to be very creative, involving PR, relationships with the record labels, with the fans, with the producers and with the songwriters.

That’s a very strong combination. The management plus the digital marketing.
Oh yeah you have to. And in management you have to understand all these divisions. You have to see the artist or the producer as a company that has different lines of production. And within them you have to develop, so you have to keep backtracking and educating yourself as a manager, always learning and knowing there’s something new coming. For instance, I just developed a new platform which is a virtual venue, where we put all of the 20 plus years of touring, into a digital environment. It’s a new experience of how you can deliver entertainment and communicate with your fans and be able to perform for them. Still keeping a high quality on the audio end and making it more affordable for your fans. You just have to be very proactive and change with the times.

I think that’s also the big thing that motivates Julio and myself to do what we are doing with Abbey Road and the Art House Academy. The fact that we’re going to have young people that are going to be hungry and bring new ideas. And I always see Julio and myself, as 20 year olds. We might look old now, but in our hearts, we’re very young and very open. I think that’s very good.

Andres and Julio at the Latin Grammys

Andres and Julio at the Latin Grammys

What has been your biggest challenge in starting your own business?
There were a lot of challenges. Every day there’s challenges, every day there’s doubt. But the biggest challenge is overcoming your fears. Almost every day you wake up with fears. And I have always considered myself fearless. I mean, when you’re young, the great value of youth is that you are ignorant to the dangers and that’s why you’re fearless. And the more that you learn on the business side, the more conservative you become, taking less risks. But you have to take risks. You need that bravery from youth. And you’ve got to keep that bravery with you. Because there’s always two paths or three paths or even more and maybe they’re all wrong. Maybe there’s only one that’s right. But you have to make decisions. That’s the biggest challenge, decision making. And when you are on the management side, you’re advising somebody to either jump off this cliff where you might crash and die, or you might end up landing into a soft pocket full of cash, success, recognition, self-improvement and self-growth.

And the same question we asked Julio. Why do you do what you do?
That’s a good question. I do it because in my soul, I have a huge need to see people happy. And when I share a song, I hope that it does that. When I share a song, I hope it moves an emotion, even if the song is sad and it makes you cry. I’ve moved an emotion that eventually will make you feel good. That is the reason why and why I love to work with genius musicians. That’s what moves me at the end of the day. I’m always a deejay at heart. I think that was the perfect job for me and I moved on to find a better way to apply a lot of other things. And as I said earlier, there’s a lot of psychology in this work. I care about people. I like seeing people happy. That’s it.

What advice would you give artists starting out?
You have to really educate yourself into knowing what an artist is. That is not to scare yourself, but to prepare yourself because it’s a high level of intensity, passion and discipline, where you have to be a perfectionist in many things. And the motivation has to be your passion for the mission that you have of taking your emotions to the world. That’s my advice, because it’s not for everyone.

And to producers?
For both artists and producers, I would say work on your craft. There is so much competition. You really have to be the best at something. You have something that’s instinct, that’s unique. If you don’t find that uniqueness, go analyze, listen to a lot of music and try to see: OK, what’s up there? Can I do what I do, is it different and does it have something unique. Don’t try to copy anyone. If you’re a producer, if you’re a songwriter or an artist, you have a special sensitivity. Find it.

But you really have to educate yourself as an artist, producer or songwriter. I mean, you have all the tools, they’re like a lot of colors and a lot of paint brushes. But everyone has the same standard brushes and the same standard colors, you know, and everyone paints with those. It’s that one guy that decides to split it open and cut it up, he has a different brush.

Especially now when technology is accessible for everyone, you really have to be creative and honest. And I would say just be honest. An honest song is not about super layering. It’s a guitar or a piano and a voice. Just a simple, truthful emotion that you can connect with. If you can make your neighbor or your sister or cousin cry with a song, that’s a good sign.

Nelly Furtado and Andres Recio

With Nelly Furtado and Chris Smith

How important is teaching for you?
I think in management, you’re a teacher every day. I enjoy sharing and teaching is sharing. And seeing that you can make dreams happen is a beautiful thing. And I think that the older we get, the more that we have to share. That’s the path or cycle of life. You live life, you learn, and you have to pass on the torch, so others can make better things. That’s the essence.

Which qualities do you need? If people want to do the work that you do?
You have to be humble, creative and emotionally smart. Emotional intelligence is key because you always have to keep your calm. Because that’s the only way for you to be able to think properly. And it’s a key quality to be positive, proactive and again educate, be eager. There’s so much to learn. It’s endless.

What is your ultimate goal in life?
My ultimate goal now is being able to raise two great human beings, which are my two kids. That’s my honest goal. If I can set a good example for them of work ethics of knowing that you can be happy and teaching how to be happy. That is my goal in life. And that you do what you love, which in my case, I love music. That’s what I’ve lived all my life. And I fed my family with that. I think I’ve been successful, so I can teach success and my goal is just keep being successful. And successful for me is learning to be happy.

You say, ‘I love music and that’s what I want to do’. But in general, when people say they want to work in music they talk about being a producer, being a musician or an artist. But you took a different path, into management. And that’s also music. At Abbey Road Institute students learn all the different aspects of working in the music industry and they eventually choose which direction they want to go. What’s your take on this from a managers’ perspective?
Yeah, it takes maturity and time. Once again, it’s about understanding your position. I mean, I can produce and write a song. I’ve written songs and have credits on songs and productions. But I ‘m not a producer and that’s not my goal. I just give support in the process of creation. And that makes me happy. I understand my position. I avoid going a lot to the studios when the artist is creating. Because what happens is that you can’t be objective, when the artist is in a songwriting or creative process. I only go in on specific moments, when it’s key.

Because when you’re a manager, you always have to have a clear decision and opinion and be able to look at the bigger picture. You can’t tie yourself emotionally to what’s happening in the room. Because once you see the whole big picture, decisions that you make right there could kill great ideas or take the song in the wrong direction because your perspective still has a commercial view. So, you’ve got to be very smart and be able to understand how you can help in the process. So generally, the way that it works is, I just stay behind. They go do their sessions and then once the song is done they show it to me. And that’s when I listen so I can give a more objective opinion from my position and role as a manager.
You know, we all have different roles in the process. Not everyone can be a quarterback. Not everyone can be the pitcher. Everyone has a role. And I would love to be able to share the fun side and importance of management.

So, in essence, what is your role as a manager?
It’s very simple. The role of a manager is smart advice, being an advisor. However, at the end of the day, the final decisions are always taken by the client. My role is to advise and help the decision making. For instance, I can say: look, I think that you should definitely go right. The artist might ask why. Then I will explain; Well, because of A, B and C. And the artist might say; But I think that I should go left. Then it’s my role to inform them about the risks. And ask them why they want to take that decision? And I might not agree. But I’ll support them. ‘Go ahead, done’. And then you have to really own that as a manager. Your job was to advise. And again, getting your emotions also out of the way, getting your ego out of the way. It’s a very hard thing. And trust me learning to be a manager is a big challenge. But it’s all worth it from my point of view.

Last but not least, Abbey Road coming to Miami. How is that for you?
Oh man it’s incredible. I was part of the process from when Julio had the first idea. And I was like, ‘wow, man, this would be amazing’. I think that what Abbey Road Studios and the Institute stands for is so much similar to what Julio stands for and what he stood up for all his life. And for me it is a perfect match. And for Abbey Road, believing and trusting also in Julio to be able to join and bring all that credibility and all that knowledge is amazing. Abbey Road Institute brings so much knowledge and experience and what they represent on a global scale is so powerful. And also seeing that on this side of the planet, there’s a lot of talent that needs guidance. And once again, you need to keep passing the torch of that knowledge, so yeah, I love it. I’m so, so excited. I’m a big fan of that.

I had the opportunity to be there at Abbey Road Studios and record there with Alessia. That was such a great experience. Now our mission is to paint. Paint the road (the famous zebra crossing) right here, right outside Art House Academy and Abbey Road Institute Miami, so we have a piece of Abbey Road. That’s also a statement. I firmly believe that we can do great things here.

Thank you Andres!