Executive Profile:
Matt Galle

To say Paradigm’s Matt Galle is great at multitasking would be an understatement.

Photo: Meredith Truax

His career as an agent, founder of Photo Finish Records and co-founder of the Bamboozle Festival is a testament to his versatility and tenacity in an unpredictable business.

When Galle talked to Pollstar, it was the middle of CMJ Music Marathon week in New York and he still didn’t miss a beat.

The Norwood, Mass., native got hooked on the music business as a teenager going to punk, hardcore and hip-hop shows.

But becoming a rock star himself wasn’t what grabbed him.

Galle jumped into the business side without a second thought.

“I had a lot of friends in bands. I started going to local shows early on, probably when I was 16 or 17,” Galle told Pollstar. “Some of my friends’ bands started to do well and draw a lot of people. So I would find local venues – churches, halls, whatever – around Boston and set up their concerts for them.”

Click here for the PDF version of the interview.

See also: Executive Profiles Archive. 

His passion for the business continued to grow, and while in college, Galle would schedule his classes so he was free to promote and go on the road with his friends.

“It was tough to do at times, but I did it and got good grades. I went to Bentley University as an accounting major. My dad was in finance and really wanted me to do that but it was boring to me,” he said.

“I ended up transferring to Suffolk University in Boston in 2000 and graduated with a marketing degree in 2001.

“My parents really wanted me to graduate from college. They did not believe the concert business would be lucrative.”

That early experience has since taken Galle to working with acts including Piebald and My Chemical Romance

His current roster includes Austin Mahonefun.We The KingsTaking Back SundayBoys Like Girls, and Mike Posner

He also works with producer/writer Matt Squire.

His promoting experience led him to a job with John Peters at MassConcerts in 1998 where he expanded his knowledge and gained festival experience programming the company’s annual SkateFest.

Galle officially became an agent in 2000 by opening The Kenmore Agency with friend Matt Pike.

A pivotal year for Galle was 2003. He went to work for Ellis Industries and, along with Andrew Ellis and John D’Esposito, co-founded New Jersey’s annual Bamboozle Festival that has featured acts such as Foo FightersSkrillexMuseFall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance.

Galle’s growing interest in offering artists a one-stop shop for development was a catalyst to founding Photo Finish Records in 2006, now partnered with Island Def Jam.

Its roster included 3OH!3, which landed the label its first No. 1 song on the Nielsen SoundScan Top 40 chart with the single, “Don’t Trust Me.”

Since joining Paradigm in 2008, Galle’s ongoing mission to grow and develop his clients continues to pay off.

He had the pleasure of seeing fun. earn two Grammy Awards this year – Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “We Are Young.”

Your early days of juggling promoting and touring seems to have helped your career unfold.

I had already done full U.S. tours, like “Tattoo The Earth” with HatebreedDisturbed, and Slayer around 1998.

That whole summer I was on tour with them and sold merch and learned a lot of stuff from that, as well as being on pop tours.

Seeing a lot of my friends going through the business and hearing them talk about it – what people liked about it and didn’t like – gave me insight to be able to help and work for the artists.

I’ve also done tour managing and been a roadie. I just loved being at the concerts, seeing everything that was going on, and being on the road.

I was like a sponge just absorbing it and it felt like that was what I was supposed to be doing.

How did promoting local bands lead you to bigger things?

The shows started to have good turnouts. While I was in college, some of the national acts heard about the shows and the good turnouts, so I started getting calls from a lot of agents that wanted me to put on concerts for their bands when they came to town.

Some of my friends’ bands would go on the road over the summer, take national tours or long weekends, so a lot of times I would schedule my classes Tuesday through Thursday and go on the road with them and help them out.

Just go and experience how other things are working, meet other acts and promoters.

I started to meet people in different cities and networked with them on how their shows were and what they had coming through.

From there, I started working for John Peters at MassConcerts in 1998. That gave me access to the venues they went into.

Agents were calling me, so it was a lot easier and I could use their insurance and stuff so things weren’t as sketchy.

How did that opportunity come about?

John would call me sometimes when he had acts that he didn’t have a place to put them and we would promote some shows together.

That worked out our relationship, and then he offered me a job.

What experience did you gain there?

I started doing a lot of shows at  in Worcester, which was their main venue, while still finding places to do concerts in Boston. Venues like , churches and halls.

MassConcerts also had an annual, three-day festival I worked on and did the programming for called SkateFest held at The Palladium. I was also doing concerts anywhere from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

What led you to open The Kenmore Agency?

One of the agents that was selling me shows was a friend of mine, Matt Pike, that had grown up in Massachusetts.

He had moved to New York to work at Artist & Audience with Tim Borror. I had been at MassConcerts for a few years and was still doing concert promotion.

Matt told me he wanted to move back to Massachusetts and start an agency together, and a couple of the bands I was promoting didn’t have agents at the time.

So Matt moved back and MassConcerts gave us the money to start The Kenmore Agency.

What was the first tour you booked on your own?

One of the bands without an agent was called Piebald. They had done well but had broken up and were planning on getting back together for a reunion tour.

I told them I would book it for them.

That was around 2000.

How did that experience go?

Piebald’s tour went well. I was able to get other promoters and agents to take my calls and buy the dates from me because [Piebald] had some sort of demand before they broke up.

This was a reunion tour, so people wanted to see it. That’s how I was able to get my foot in the door.

I already had relationships with some agents because they knew me from my promoting days before I transitioned to being an agent.

People who helped me out early on were Darryl Eaton, Don Muller, Stormy Shepherd, Margie Alban, Andy Somers and Andrew Ellis.

Any lessons learned from that first tour?

I would say the biggest thing was to treat people as you want to be treated.

There were a lot of people who doubted me and wouldn’t take my calls.

I try to be friendly and open to listening what people have to say to this day.

I also learned how to tighten up business deals and squeeze more money out of a show for the artists.

How did you build your artist roster from there?

Piebald was on tour in Long Island and at one of the shows, I met this guy, Eddie, who had been with a band called The Movie Life.

He’d left that band and started a new band called Taking Back Sunday

He gave me their demo tape at the show and said they needed an agent.

I called them the next week, told them I loved it, and “Let’s go.”

They were my second act and started to do really well when their first album came out.

There were also a couple of local acts I was dealing with that I liked and was taking a chance on and I had SkateFest going on in, I want to say 2002.

I was friends with a group called Thursday and they’d played the festival the year before.

I used to promote their shows around the area.

Geoff, the singer, said, “I just produced this band’s demo and they’re amazing. I’m putting them on my label. My agent doesn’t really like it and they need an agent to help them with touring. The band is called My Chemical Romance.”

So I talked to My Chemical Romance and told them, “I want to see you guys live. Can I put you on my festival?”

I put them on SkateFest the following year.

Nobody knew them at all and they totally won over the crowd. I called them the following week and told them, “I really want to do this. You guys are amazing,” and they took a chance on me.

My Chemical Romance then opened for Taking Back Sunday, who was doing 1,000-2,000 capacity rooms in 2003.

What was the toughest part of co-owning The Kenmore Agency?

The back-end stuff was the toughest. It was just tedious. We knew how to do it but we liked the creative part.

It was taking time away from signing another act or two, or developing something else.

And I felt like I kind of hit the ceiling there.

We were packaging a lot of other stuff together in-house.

I could tell the artists were growing and I wanted to continue to grow with them.

How did your move to Ellis Industries come about?

Andrew Ellis and I had a great relationship and he would sell me all of his shows when his acts, such as Dashboard ConfessionalAlkaline Trio, and New Found Glory, came through town.

My acts were growing and I wanted to grow more.

So when Andrew asked me if I wanted to come to New York and work with him in 2003, I decided to make the move.

I learned a lot from him.

You also co-founded Bamboozle with Ellis and John D’Esposito in 2003. How did that venture come together?

Before I moved to New York, John was a promoter in New Jersey. He and Stan Levinstone had a festival called Skate and Surf and we would sell them a lot of acts for the festival and whenever my artists would go through New Jersey.

We had a great relationship. Around 2003, they had left their company and John wanted to start a new festival.

He came to Andrew and I because we all liked the same type of music, had similar minds on growing artists and a concept for a festival that we all liked.

We decided to go in on it and put up our own money.

I had festival experience from before so we put the bill together and it did great.

Every year it seemed like it almost doubled in size.

How did Live Nation become involved with Bamboozle?

Live Nation approached us in 2007 and wanted to buy 51 percent of it from us. It made sense to us because the event was growing fast and it was kind of scary for us to put up our own money.

We were in Giant Stadium’s parking lot doing around 80,000 people at that point.

Despite Bamboozle’s success, it didn’t take place this year. Why?

It was time for a break from it. There were differences with all the parties involved, so we didn’t do it.

It was supposed to be a collaborative effort but it didn’t really seem that way any more.

In 2012, we did over 90,000 people for the three days, so we’ll do it again if people want it or miss it.

Where did your experience at Ellis Industries take you?

In 2005, my artists, like My Chemical Romance, really started to take off. Both they and Taking Back Sunday were doing around 7,000 tickets a night.

At that point, Andrew and I became partners where we would share the expenses of running the agency and we’d keep what we brought in.

That went well until 2007 where, again, the acts were growing, the back-end stuff became tedious and some of the artists wanted to branch out into other areas like TV, literature and film.

So Andrew and I mutually decided not to continue Ellis Industries and go and see what was out there with different agencies.

We both talked to other people and had other offers but we ended up going to Paradigm in 2008.

Why did you feel Paradigm was the best choice for you?

I like growing and being a part of my artists’ growth in every aspect – being able to answer any questions my artists have.

Some of the other agencies that do territorial touring or have like 10 people working on it weren’t really of interest to me.

Paradigm had a vision similar to mine and they allowed me to do what it is I do without looking over my shoulder or trying to change it.

I just want to evolve with it and not be boxed in and feel like there’s only one way to do things.

You’d also launched Photo Finish Records in 2006. What’s the backstory there?

In 2003, I started a label called Kickball Records and I was a consultant for Interscope.

We tried that for two years and it was tough.

They were on the West Coast and I was on the East Coast and didn’t have a lot of control over things.

I didn’t like how that was going, so I quit and let them keep the name.

I then drew up a business plan the way I wanted to see it and came up with the name Photo Finish Records.

I needed my own core staff and funding to get started so I pitched it to a couple of people and got offers from Warner Bros., Virgin and Atlantic. I decided to go with Atlantic and hired a staff of about six people.

We did really well. I was with Atlantic for six years and moved to Island Def Jam a year ago.

Why add label exec to your workload?

I always found acts really early and liked developing artists and music.

I wanted to be involved in making albums and putting artists together with different people.

I noticed we were developing an artist and touring is what was driving most of it until it was ready to kick radio in.

I needed staff to help them get from one to 10 on the marketing and radio side.

I already knew I could find artists that would work on tour and build a touring base.

I’ve also worked with and managed a producer who’s also a writer, Matt Squire, for about nine years now.

He’s made albums with Panic! At The Disco, Boys Like Girls, 3OH!3 and since then written songs for One DirectionKe$ha, and Demi Lovato

I was familiar with dealing with that type of stuff for his business, and was already doing a lot of the label stuff.

How did your move to IDJ enhance what you can offer your clients?

They helped me beef up my staff to 10 people so it’s almost like having a staff within a staff.

An artist will have two teams working on them to develop them.

And my touring expertise and any other resources I have are available.

And you also do A&R for IDJ?

Yes. They gave me a consultancy position so if I want to sign already-established artists directly to Island, I can.

I signed one act called .

They already had their own label that they did self-releases on, so it didn’t make sense for them to sign with Photo Finish.

How do you manage to juggle so many responsibilities on a daily basis?

I try to plan ahead so my wife is aware, my kids are taken care of and I try not to travel as much as I used to.

I’ve been to Japan and Australia three times each and those are long flights.

For the artists I have over there, I want to be there and know everybody they’re going to be working with.

It definitely takes a lot of planning.

I want to take the time out to take my kids to school every morning and make sure to spend time with them on the weekends.

I try to leave the office by a certain time so I can see them before they go to bed every night.

How do you keep yourself from getting burned out?

At those times I try to step away from the phone and the computer and not think about it.

What helps a lot is having good people that work for you.

I have five people that work with me on the agency team and we all help each other.

On the label, I have a staff of 10, so being able to delegate helps.

Mike Marquis has worked with me on most of the stuff I do and he’s like my right-hand man.

He’s had a part in growing the label and we have a similar vision.

Is it hard to delegate since you’re used to being hands-on?

Not when you have people that you can trust. You can put [a task] into their hands and know it’s going to get done.

But certain things, I will always deal with myself.

What would you say are the most significant changes in how you do your jobs?

With the Internet, you can do anything you want quickly.

Anyone can be an artist with a website and music online, and get to the top of a chart quickly by getting a lot of hits.

And something that I’ve learned over time, and been doing more of, is to only work with good people.

I could like an artist a lot but if the people involved with the artist don’t have a good reputation or is someone who’s going to make my day harder, I won’t work with them.

I want to have fun with what I do and be happy when I come to work. I try to be picky about what I take on so I can give new artists the attention they deserve.

What has remained constant?

I think it’s still making strategic decisions on who you want to put your time and effort into.

I always go with my gut musically on what moves me – something I can hear and want to be a part of – as opposed to trying to do something that other people are doing or following any trends.

You’ve got to stay true to yourself.

Have the changes in the industry affected your strategy for building an act?

I think it depends on the act. Certain acts can crossover into different worlds and will fit in on certain festivals.

Some acts have electronic fan bases, but I also have mainstream stuff that can work for electronic or indie festivals.

When an act is further along in their career headlining and doesn’t want to support, I think you have to be more strategic.

There are a lot of acts touring in certain seasons.

Maybe it’s just the economy in general when you’re not getting three major market tours out of an album cycle.

Just be strategic in what rooms you’re playing and how much meat on the bone that you’re leaving so you can come back.

Is it trickier now to set reasonable ticket prices for concerts and Bamboozle?

I think it’s important to gradually move up your ticket prices but not jump too fast.

With service charges and stuff, ticket buyers pay attention to that.

It’s important to make your bill diverse and have acts that are meaningful on it to make it into an evening where people want to go out and see a whole concert, not just to see the headlining act.

It helps a lot if you make your ticket a value.

It’s really important to be sensitive in your pricing unless you’re an established festival that sells out in advance every year like Lollapalooza, Coachella or Glastonbury.

In that case, the name/experience alone sells.

Still, it’s hard to predict.

What do you enjoy the most about wearing so many hats?

Working with an artist from the beginning, seeing that artist really grow and take off and being able to grow with them as part of their team.

And when I come across an artist and I’m really blown away by their music but they already have an agent, they may not have a label.

What would you say are the highlights of your career so far?

I would have to say one is My Chemical Romance selling out Madison Square Garden in advance.

A second one is having a No. 1 song on Top 40 on my label – 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me.”

We’ve sold 10 million singles by them and close to 1 million albums.

The third was watching fun. win two Grammys this past year.

Working with [lead singer] Nate [Reuss] for 10 years and just believing in him and seeing it come to life, it was awesome.

They thanked me onstage, too, so I was even more excited.