Alumni Spotlight: Supreet Wahi

Alumni Spotlight: Supreet Wahi

Supreet Wahi is a Columbia College alum and a Los Angeles-based music industry professional with over ten years of experience promoting and representing artists Worldwide. After many years working as a senior-level talent agent, he decided it was time to create his own multi-faceted platform for nurturing new artists, and he launched his own music agency: Heath Hen LLC. We connected with Supreet to learn about his own career development, and we asked if he had any advice for emerging music business professionals.

How did your company, Heath Hen, come to fruition?

Heath Hen is a passion project, a vision for a better future for artists, derived from years of experience in different areas of the industry along with noticing its many shortcomings. When I left my position as a senior agent, my goal was to focus on developing artists on an even deeper level, so I started managing acts such as Left Brain from Odd Future / Mellowhype, Dillon Cooper, and others. This allowed me to open things up creatively, strategically, sonically (as I have always been interested in all genres), and open doors which were previously inaccessible only working solely in electronic music in the agency world. By taking that knowledge and utilizing a vast network of relationships with PR professionals, licensing companies, branding partners, and other music industry professionals – we are now able to develop artists much differently than a typical agency model, which only focuses on routing and negotiating tours and festivals. Having the ability to reach into the licensing and branding world to help build profiles on a deeper level while still providing touring services for the artists on the agency is a unique benefit our company provides.

How did you discover your passion for artist representation and work as an agent?

Before I was an agent, I was a talent buyer in Chicago working at venues such as Vision (now Tao) and Spybar. Throughout the many years of building relationships with artists and promoting shows, I learned that I wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the industry and the business. While I was working in nightlife, I was also attending the AEMM program at Columbia at the time, developing my knowledge further about the music industry. Over time, I realized that as a promoter and talent buyer, I was quite limited in how effectively I was growing an artist in the market. I could only promote the “package” or the “artist” as it was built up to from their management. There was only so much you could do to help increase their profile in the market by strategically planning shows. I wanted to take the knowledge that I learned from attending Columbia, coupled with my experience in promoting shows and focus on working directly with artists in order to have a bigger impact on their careers. This drive led me to pursue a career as an agent. My passion for the career choice was refueled as I began to grow innovative artists that I believed in and saw how my work shaped and built their careers.

As a talent agent, what are some unique challenges you face?

Balance was always the most unique challenge with the industry that I have faced and will always face – no matter what role you choose to play (promoter, agent, manager, etc.). There are many hard challenges that come with working in the industry and these high stress positions can eat away at you internally if its not balanced in a healthy way. You see many stories of artists, agents, managers, succumbing to various vices to help cope with the high levels of stress from the long hours, high expectations, and always being on the go. Life balance has always been a huge challenge for me. In the beginning of my career, I was completely focused on work and never really had (or had any desire to have) much of a life outside of my work. Even after I got together with my wife and had a child, I still focused the majority of my time on my career. But over time, this was creating a “burn out” scenario for me, until I found my release outside of the industry – in the water, surfing. For the past two years, I’ve started the day out in the water, by myself, before starting my work day. Along with transcendental meditation, it helps me prepare mentally for the crazy expectations that I have to fulfill every day. Also, just recently, I’ve been able to spend some more time at home with my family as I’ve built solid relationships with promoters and artists around the world and my need to constantly travel has gone down.

You come from an incredible breadth of experience in the music industry.  What are some of the most developmental experiences that you have had thus far?

My most developmental experiences are the result of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my career. I’ve gained more knowledge from each mistake I’ve made than I’ve ever learned from direct training. My path in the agency world was a unique one, which not many people have the opportunity to experience. I was an intern at The Bullitt Agency for only two months when the abrupt departure of an agent left a huge gap in the company. They had no choice but to fast track me, and because I was “thrown into the fire”, I naturally messed up quite a few things in the beginning. Luckily, my bosses at the time were very patient with me and guided me through each mistake I made. Their guidance helped me sharpen my knowledge faster than if I had never been thrown into that fire.

Do you have any advice for students of arts management looking to develop their own entrepreneurial projects?

My advice for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit in the music industry would be to go out there and learn as much as you can, and get to know as many people as possible – network, network network. Relationships are the biggest part of the industry and it took me years to develop these relationships far enough to be able to venture out on my own and pursue my own vision. Also, by working at other companies, I was able to learn as much as possible about the industry while letting my experience fine tune my vision for what I wanted my own company to represent.

Outside of the folks you represent, who are some of your favorite artists or musicians and why?

That could take me days or weeks to fully answer thoroughly since I have always been inspired and listened to many different styles of music, since an early age. A typical work week might consist of me listening to the following: Chance the Rapper, 8 Ball & MJG, Future Sound of London, Laurent Garnier, Tool, Greta Van Fleet, Curtis Mayfield, Andres Segovia, and Jimi Hendrix.