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Meet Mike O’Donnell of Contra Mgmt in Beverly Hills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike O’Donnell.

Mike, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve been in love with music for as long as I can remember. Undoubtedly the most enduring love I’ve known. But it was when I began learning the guitar around age 12 that I knew my life was going to be spent in the pursuit of that love. At 18, I drove up to Boston to apply and audition to Berklee College of Music. And after receiving an early acceptance letter, it’d prove to be the only college I’d even end up applying. It was there for the first time that I met others who were as truly like-minded as me and developed a network of amazing individuals with whom I’m proud to say I’m still friends. And it was there too that I began to learn of the vast business of music; the industry behind the songs.

After graduating Berklee, I moved to New York City where I spent a few years working for an independent music distributor helping unsigned artists begin their careers. However, as the years passed a desire grew stronger to have a more creative and hands-on involvement with talented artists and creators like these. After a lengthy and fruitless application process, worsened by a growing sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness, I quit that job with no plan ahead of me. Two months later, I moved to Los Angeles where I met and signed my first producer clients, started a music management business, and realized the career calling that I had been long waiting for. Two years and counting now, it’s a leap I’ve not once regretted.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I moved to LA with no clear path laid out ahead of me and really no clear understanding of the career I might best be suited for. I knew the music business as a whole was out here but I didn’t know how to break in. I began reaching out to anyone and everyone who would meet with me. Old college acquaintances, friends of friends, strangers I’d meet, anyone willing to just chat. After I found a place to live my days were spent with trying to meet people and then leverage their connections to meet more people. And slowly but surely in those first few months in LA, and first two years, to present day, I’ve been growing a network of amazing individuals. Through them I learned how to slightly better hone in on this dream of mine and how to further make it a reality. Something I’ll never stop having to work on.

I knew nothing about management or when I arrived here, but through gracious friends and the school of hard knocks, I began to learn and continue to do so by the same means today.

Please tell us about Contra Mgmt.
I founded my company to focus on cultivating the next generation of songwriters and producers. Being a musician myself, and having majored in music production and audio engineering in school, I feel I’ve been afforded a perspective that’s unique to many others similarly working behind desks in this music business.

At a young age, I was offered a piece of wisdom that’s stuck with me and I admire it for being equal parts romantic and pragmatic: “Find out what you love in life, and figure out a way to make money doing it.” I believe that mantra truly lies at the heart of music management. It’s about helping gifted creators build careers and a lives around their talents and passions. Aiding them in growing, exploring, and cultivating their craft and finding avenues and channels for them to sustain their dreams into the future.

When a creator signs to a manager they are placing their entire life, their dreams, and their livelihood into that manager’s hands. They’re trusting enough in another to allow that person to be the steward of their whole reason for being. To me, there is no greater honor that one could bestow upon another and it’s with that gratitude that I am fueled every day to help them achieve their greatest dreams.

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