When artist manager Heather Kolker caught up with Pollstar, she had just wrapped a whirlwind of a week – flying from New York to Iceland to see singer/songwriter Nanna open her debut solo world tour, then jetting over to Denver to catch indie pop trio MUNA play their last dates on Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” at Empower Field at Mile High, back home to New York and then a drive to the Boston area to attend Nanna’s first U.S. stop at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On top of all that, Kolker announced she’s opened her very own management firm, Dreamshop Management, joined by Megan Manowitz as day to day manager.
“Granted it’s only been a week, but the response has been so incredible,” Kolker says. “It feels very good to feel like I’m in a place where I can exercise the vision I have and the things I want to do for my artists. I’m very excited about it.”
Her roster also includes indie folk/rock band Of Monsters and Men (of which Nanna is the lead singer/guitarist) and the solo project of MUNA’s Naomi McPherson.
Kolker got her start in the live industry as an intern at independent Portland, Oregon-based concert promoter Monqui Presents.
“I worked at a club called La Luna, which was a 1,100-capacity club in Portland and there were just incredible shows,” Kolker says, reflecting on the excitement of working in the Pacific Northwest scene in the mid-’90s. “I remember No Doubt coming through on the Warped tour playing before L7 and just looking at Gwen Stefani being like, ‘That’s a superstar,’ and nobody knew who they were at the time. Or Elliott Smith hanging out at the bar because he was a local.”
She moved up from intern to box office manager to ticketing manager and then, after the company started a management arm, Kolker worked as a day-to-day manager for The Dandy Warhols. She eventually relocated to New York and found her way to Marty Diamond’s Little Big Man Booking (acquired in 2006 by Paradigm, which was bought by Wasserman in 2021).
“If anyone’s ever been a mentor for me in my career, Marty’s the one I would point to – he gave me every opportunity and I took every one and really did my best to run with it,” says Kolker. She describes Diamond as “a real force of nature” and “a favorite person – period.”
Kolker notes that agenting at the time was different than it is today, with the trajectory to become an agent at the larger agencies requiring a lot more steps.
“Back then it felt a little bit more like The Wild West. When I started working for Marty, none of the agents had assistants. It was literally four or five agents, somebody answering the phone. I did all the contracts, the admin stuff,” she says.
Kolker started helping Diamond with artists including Damien Rice and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, pushing herself to be a tour coordinator. She found a couple of bands that she says “kind of made me into an agent,” including The Airborne Toxic Event, MGMT and Tame Impala, who she jumped to represent after they supported MGMT in Australia.
After being tipped off to Of Monsters and Men through her husband, who’s Icelandic, Kolker offered to introduce the band to a manager so they could put a team together – and ended up agreeing to manage them. Kolker initially continued as an agent while managing OMAM but, as the band quickly blew up thanks to the tune “Little Talks,” with radio play ahead of being signed to a label, she changed her career path. She joined Mick Management in 2016 and then co-founded Other Operation in 2021.
“Where I’m at now has just been a journey to understand what works best for me and my artists as a manager,” Kolker says of launching Dreamshop. “Like a lot of things, you just need the right fit. If you’re a manager at a company that you don’t own, the business model doesn’t always make the most sense. I knew that ultimately I wanted to be doing something where I wasn’t working under somebody else’s company. Getting to where I am now has just been about knowing what my vision is and getting the confidence to feel like ‘Yes, you can do it yourself.’”
While she enjoyed discovering new artists as an agent, Kolker says she loves management’s role in overseeing an artist’s entire career: “You’re a little bit closer when you’re a manager. Management isn’t for everybody. It’s a real lifestyle. I’m very invested in all the different corners of what my artists are doing.”
Kolker’s dedication to her clients was detailed in MUNA’s Pollstar cover story in April, with the band triumphing after being dropped by its major label. She says that leaving was never an option because she believed in the band “so severely.” Following shows with Taylor Swift, MUNA will play their first dates in Mexico and South America, headline their first festival at Treeline Music Fest in Columbia, Missouri, and join indie supergroup boygenius at Madison Square Garden. As for Of Monsters And Men, the band will soon be headed to the studio to work on its fourth album, as the follow-up to 2019’s Fever Dream, which she is “extremely excited about.”
Though she’s had plenty of people reach out about management over the past few years, Kolker says she’s cautious about which artists she’ll take on, because “if you’re doing it right, it’s a 24/7 job.”
She adds, “I am looking forward to working with something else – not 10 other bands. I’d like to maybe take on one other thing to start as the company grows, but I only want to do it if I feel like I’m truly the right person.”