Wayne Lee - Journey of a Legendary New Orleans Talent Buyer for Tipitina's and House of Blues

One series comes to a close, and another begins with my conversation with Wayne Lee. This is the final episode of the New Orleans series, but also the first episode of the Talent Buyer series. Yes, this one is a double header. Wayne Less is New Orleans native and one of its legendary Talent Buyers. He’s a true staple to the New Orleans music scene. His journey began in 1999 when he became the assistant under Sonny Schneidau at House of Blues in New Orleans. Throughout his journey, Wayne Lee has also worked at Live Nation in California after which he returned to House of Blues New Orleans for another year, prior to booking for the legendary Tipitina’s.

When I first moved to New Orleans to work at House of Blues, I actually saw more shows at Tipitina’s for the first two months of living there. It truly is a magical place with endless amounts of history, and a stage graced by many of the biggest stars in music. In this conversation, Wayne Lee shares stories from some of his favorite shows, lessons from his journey, advice to being a Talent Buyer, and many stories of some of the great artists from New Orleans. This was a really fun conversation, and a great way to merge two series’ in one. Enjoy episode #022 of Making It with Chris G.

Highlights from the Episode:
Lee describes what a Talent Buyer is (6:25)
Beginnings in the industry (7:30)
What makes talent buyers stand out (9:25)
Lessons learned from a corporate structure (10:30)
First and favorite bands Lee booked (12:15)
Lee’s experience working with Trombone Shorty (14:20)
Brief Jazz Festival description (15:15)
Lees favorite Jazz Festival lineup he has booked (15:35)
Favorite Jazz Festival moments (17:20)
Lessons Lee learned from his mentorship with Sonny S. (18:30)
What someone interested in talent buying should know (20:30)
Lee’s mentors (23:40)
Advantage of living where the industry is (25:15)
How Lee balances a busy life (27:00)
Stories about Mark from H.O.B (28:55)
Ideal Path for the aspiring Talent Buyer (30:00)
Places to visit in NOLA (32:00)
Story behind Longhair (35:25)
Lee’s influences (38:10)
Favorite Allen Toussaint stories (40:10)
First ‘Holy Shit’ moment (42:00)
Evolution of deals (45:40)
Ways to build relationships between promoters and agents (49:15)
Biggest challenge with agents (52:40)
Biggest misconception of a talent buyer (53:45)
Rapid fire questions (55:00)
Making it to Wayne Lee (1:02:05)

Quotes from Wayne Lee:
“Sometimes it’s not about what you like, it’s about what they like.”
“Be flexible and functional”
“Not every band is the same. Not every agent is the same. “
“Don’t just worry about the headliner, make sure the support act is taken care of.”
“Learn the players and who you’re dealing with. Don’t take the shortcut.”
“Establish good artist-management-agent relationships.”
“Try not to use your own money.”
“You’re never off when you have your phone.”
“You gotta do face time. Shake hands and kiss babies”
“It’s a fun gig if you love it, but you have to love it.”
“Be professional and be prepared”

Links to people, places, and things mentioned:
Sonny Schneidau  
Trombone Shorty
Rebirth Brass Band
Big Sams Funky Nation
Lenny Kravitz
JJ Grey & Mofro
Lettuce Funk
The Greyboy Allstars
Michael Jackson
The Soul Rebels
Dr.John the Night Tripper
Nora Jones
John Mayer
Linkin Park
Kevin Morrow
Mark Roberts
Neville Brothers
Kermit Ruffins
Louis Armstrong
Professor Longhair
James Andrews
Allen Toussaint
Stephen Marley
Stevie Wonder
Bob Marley
Fats Domino
Lil Wayne

Places & Things:
House of Blues  
Springhill University
Live Nation
Jazz Festival  
Civic NOLA
Preservation Hall
Maple Leaf Bar
Tipitina's Foundation   

“Making it” to Wayne Lee:
“Being able to survive. If you wake up and you’re happy Continue to build on your knowledge and at the end of the day you can look back and say ‘hey that’s pretty cool!’ “