Michael Robinson, affectionately referred to as Mike Rob is a native of Jackson, MS. He is also the 10-year manager of Jackson’s very own recording group, Compozitionz. Mike Rob became affiliated with the entertainment industry in 1989 when Derrick Martin (D’Mar) welcomed him into the band Full Circle, later renamed Infiniti. Infiniti had the opportunity to record a demo and tour for six weeks with Jackson’s very own Dorothy Moore. Determined to gain exposure, Infiniti traveled on this tour with absolutely no air conditioning. However, this did not deter the group from this great experience. Mike stated that although they returned home from the tour with less money than they left with, the exposure was priceless. The group continued to perform at all types of local events for a while, but after not having much luck with being signed to a record label, the group eventually went their separate ways. Not fully believing his own talents, Mike took a hiatus for a while. However, in 2000 opportunity came knocking at his door.
A group that his god brother was a member of, Compozitionz approached Robinson about becoming their manager. The group wanted to start a new project, an oldies act and requested that Mike Rob start on this new venture with them. Hesitant to accept the offer, as he had never been a manager before, Mike decided to take a chance. “If they trusted me enough to ask me to be their manager, although I had never managed anyone before, I thought, hey, let’s go for it.” This began a 10-year artist-manager relationship and currently in 2011, the relationship is still going strong.
How long have you been involved with negotiating contracts?
Mike Rob: About 10 years…about as long as I have managed Compozitionz.
During a negotiation process, how do you use objective criteria to get what you want?
Mike Rob: From my experience in the industry, I know what will or will not work and I use that to back up a decision. I do consider what the group may want, but have to make the decision that is best for the group. If I only go off what the group wants, it may be a decision that could put them in the hole from the beginning or it may be a short-term investment instead of a long-term investment.
How do you separate the people from the problem during a process and how easy or hard is it for you to accomplish this?
Mike Rob: It has gotten easier over the years, but it has been a long time coming. Everyone has their feelings about certain things and being that this is a service industry, every buyer feels that they are better than the next. Being realistic, there will be times when you get frustrated. However, the way I stay grounded is to remember to not further upset a person that is already upset. In the end, people just want to be understood or at least make it seem that you understand. Even if you have to put the phone down or step out of the room for a second to gather yourself, do so and get yourself together so that you can remain professional in front of the client. Remember you are the professional and they are the customers.
How do you deal with the core concern, autonomy during a negotiation process?
Mike Rob: You have to allow artists their autonomy; you have to! As a manager, I am their voice. The group has to be able to trust me enough to know that I can speak for them. However, if something is suspicious, then I will consult with them to see how they feel about the situation. Also, it is important to have meetings. This helps to not silence their autonomy and allows them to contribute. I will ask the group what direction are they looking to go in or if they are impressed with the direction a project is already going in thus far.
During a negotiation process, how do you work towards mutual benefit?
Mike Rob: It is a marriage. Everything goes hand in hand. I always go into a negotiation knowing that if they are happy, I will be happy and the more successful they are, the more successful I will be. However, I have to remember to keep the best interest of the artist in mind, locate mutual ground, and work from there.
How do you go about showing appreciation when trying to schedule gigs with well-known acts?
Mike Rob: You have to show appreciation! Mike Rob smiles: Basically, you have to know how to kiss…well, suck up for a better choice of words. Let them know that you recognize they have accomplished this and have accomplished that and that you are trying to get there as well. However, it is extremely important NOT to seem incompetent. A recent situation went terribly wrong because I did so much sucking up that I neglected to demand the respect that we deserved. You have to balance, not only should you show appreciation, but demand it as well. Let individuals know that you and your client too have great accomplishments and not everything depends on their affiliation.
Has a negotiation process ever gotten to the point where you had to deal with dirty tricks and/or tricky tactics and if so, how did you deal with this situation?
Mike Rob: Always know exactly what you want and what you will be willing to do it for and ALWAYS GET IT IN WRITING! If you do not get these requests in writing, be ready to suffer the consequences.
Let me tell you a true story. Early on when I first started out as Compozitionz’s manager, we were misled. There was this artist that was just about obsessed with David Ruffin from the Temptations. He always performed David Ruffin acts and felt so close to David because they were both from the same hometown, Meridian, MS. Well one day, he pitches this idea to me that I should bring Compozitionz to Meridian for a show where he would be David Ruffin and they would be The Temptations. It would be marketed as David Ruffin Meets The Temptations in Battle. Well, he completely sold me on the idea. I was extremely hyped about it and when I took the idea to the group; they were sold on the idea and hyped as well. We even brought other acts along with us to Meridian including the entire band. He told me that he would take care of all the marketing and advertising, put us up in a hotel, and pay us after the performance. So the night of the performance, only TWO people were in the audience, but we did finish the entire show. After the performance I met with him and he said it was obvious that money was not made because of the low turnout, but he would however work on a few things and get the money to us in a couple weeks. I knew then there was a problem; therefore, I approached the group and explained what happened and told them that we would probably not be getting paid. Well about 6:00 a.m., I decided to take a walk around the hotel to think and the hotel manager approached me. She inquired if I was a part of the entertainers staying in the hotel and once I confirmed that I was a part of the group, she throws another bombshell my way.
She asked if I had any contact information for the guy who put the groups up in the hotel because his credit card had declined and his cell number was disconnected. I told her that I would get that information to her. When I tried to contact him, the number was indeed disconnected in a matter of ONE day. Therefore, I went back upstairs and told the group to hurry and pack up so we could get out of the hotel before everyone checked out and we would be responsible for paying for the hotel rooms.
The hotel rooms were never paid for and I learned a valuable lesson from all of this and that was to ALWAYS GET IT IN WRITING! I did run into him about four or five years later and he had the audacity to come up to me and speak. I just looked at him and walked away.
Hit Single, "Come Over" - One of my favorite songs by Compozitionz
I truly enjoyed my time with Michael Robinson. With a dream of one day being a successful artist in the music industry, I was honored to have the opportunity to interview with him. I learned so much from my interview with Mike Rob and appreciate him taking the time out to discuss the negotiation process.
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