Interview With

Joey Papoutsis

Co-Founder, Keel


Joey Papoutsis

Artist Manager and Co-Founder at Keel

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Juris Doctor

Syracuse University

Bandier Program for Music and the Entertainment Industries




To develop the careers of great artists, songwriters, and producers. I took an entrepreneurial approach to the music industry throughout my career, and Keel is the realized representation of that spirit. 

Everyone at the company shares these principles and strives to do great work. We want to create a positive company culture and maintain a high level of professionalism.


This year, we are razor focused on album projects and finding new ways to market and promote music. Most of the artists on our roster are taking the next big step in their career this year, so we want to build strong narratives that tie in with a well-executed brand vision—for example, a new live experience in conjunction with an album campaign.

We had an exciting new signing in the urban production world. Looking forward, we are developing the producer and writer side of the business. Our vision is for our producers and writers to be involved in developing artists from the ground up. Finally, we are laying the groundwork to break two new artists in 2020. We look at things on a minimum of a two-year timeline to help develop and achieve our artists' goals.

In the next five years, we would like to build label and publishing ventures in partnership with the artists we represent. We also aspire to build an in-house creative agency. The goal is to bring more management services within Keel and better serve our artists.


We are partnered with a great agent and agency, Jay Moss and Paradigm. From the beginning, we took a strategy of building Louis the Child like a rock band as opposed to an electronic DJ. This meant booking them in all ages and 18+ live music venues. We also said no to bigger club offers and focused on support tours and small capacity venues. They started as a support act, moved onto direct support acts, then early slots at festivals, headline tours, and headline slots at festivals. The hard work and longterm strategy worked out well. 
The LTC guys also put in the extra effort to meet and hang with fans. They built an incredible culture and community around their music. I think this is a big reason for their loyal fan base. Fred and Rob genuinely appreciate every fan in the crowd. It's a special thing, and I am grateful to be part of the movement.


Streaming will continue to be the most significant driving force in developing artists. The biggest breakout artist of the year, Billie Eilish, had little terrestrial radio until recently. We don't see any reason this trend will not continue.

That being said, radio is still a critical component to reaching mass music audiences. Over the next ten years, terrestrial radio and satellite radio will continue to play an important role.


The law school experience factors into my work every day. I pursued law school to become an entertainment lawyer but found my real passion in artist management. Law school was invaluable in developing my professional writing and communication skills. It trains you to work hard, stay focused, and manage stress.

A chunk of my work as an artist manager has to do with contracts and negotiations, so when someone in the office has a contract question, they turn to me first. Some of the greatest managers in the business began their careers as attorneys. I think my time at Chicago-Kent helped me become a better manager.


Not treating everyone with kindness and respect. There are plenty of overly difficult and unreasonable people in the business, don’t be one of them! But there are so many kind and amazing people in the industry. I think being a nice person and great manager go hand in hand.


Still incredibly important. Almost all the songs in the Billboard Top 100 are released by major labels. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Labels provide tremendous marketing, promotional and A&R resources. 

Since I started working in the music industry, distribution companies are picking up more and more of the market share. I think that trend will continue. In the current landscape, artists can get further along in their career without label support, so distributors serve them well in the early stages—sometimes even when they are established.


Read more books about music! I love reading books about legendary music executives. I think it's essential to learn from the people who came before us.  A few of my favorite industry books include, Who Is Michael Ovitz, Blockbusters, Hit Men, The Operator, and The Song Machine.

I have a few mentors in the business I can always turn to for advice. Managers should always be learning and finding ways to better themselves and their business practices.  



Sign up for our mailing list now, and keep up-to-date with the latest in tech, music , and advertising.