Born into a non-musical family in the Pittsburgh suburb of Squirrel Hill, Max Stofman, now 25 years old, spent his adolescence attending a preparatory high school and teaching himself various musical instruments. Despite being the only one in his family to play music, a wide variety of musical interests from both of his parents, and an introduction to new genres by a teacher in high school, influenced Max to pursue music as a career. By following dreams of producing music for artists, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for a double major in Music Production and Engineering & Music Business. It was here in his early days of college that he crossed paths with a group of close friends with whom he spent most of his free time, jamming, writing and producing music. This hobby soon turned into a career, seven and a half years in the making, as the manager of a band called Ripe, composed of the many friends with whom he was making music.
Max and I had known of each other for about three years prior our first meeting last November. In that time, I had followed his story and his adventures around the country, but had deprived myself of paying attention to the band that was the cause of all of Max’s experiences that I was following through my Instagram feed. It was last December that I first blessed my ears with the funky sounds of Ripe’s upbeat and horn-driven single “Little Lighter,” which if you pay attention to our monthly song updates on our biography page here on Moxie, you may have also gotten to listen to back in February when I featured the song!
When Max and I met for drinks last November, I don’t think I was expecting such a well-spoken and thoughtful artist to carry on such an in-depth conversation about many topics, but especially music. I grew up in a musical family and have involved myself with as many facets of the music scene in this city as I could. It was refreshing, however, to have Max share such profound knowledge of a topic both he and I are passionate about, most of which he has learned since that fateful meeting of some very talented musicians in his early college years. The moment I knew Moxie Magazine would be starting was the moment I knew Max would be somebody I would want to interview about his experiences managing a nationally acclaimed touring band. Just as he shared so much knowledge with me in November, he has once again shared wonderful insight with all of you readers in this interview. So much so that I could not bring myself to paraphrase his words, and have decided to share his detailed responses with you all, classic interview style.
Before reading below, be sure to check out Ripe on music streaming sites such as Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music. You can also follow the band @ripelove on Instagram, as well as Max @mxhs!
MOXIE MAGAZINE: What does your work as Ripe’s manager consist of?
Max Stofman: The answer to that is always changing based on when you’re asking. Essentially I assess and create goals with Ripe and then determine and execute the necessary steps it takes to drive their career forward and cement their position as the amazing group they are. Whether it’s trying to grow the brand into a new space that will allow for greater opportunities, sourcing key constituents to join the team (agents, lawyers, content creators, merchandisers, sponsorships etc.), managing day-to-day scheduling and touring, crafting a digital media strategy that fosters meaningful & authentic fan relationships, the artist-to-manager relationship is an incredibly intimate process where both entities are bringing their passion and creativity together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
MM: How did you get started in this career?
MS: It all sort of happened organically starting with Ripe during the first couple months in college. When I originally came to Berklee, I was more so passionate about producing bands and working with them intimately in the studio/recording process. What I thought of “music business” was the last thing that I had any interest in. Then Ripe kind of just happened as a group of new friends coming together during parties and jamming/writing songs together. People liked what we were doing, so we started recording it. Naturally being excited about what I was doing, we started sharing the music around, a lot, and people liked that too. Next thought was, “Hey, we should do this at a party, and invite people!” Next thing I knew, I was booking shows for them and talking about them to everyone and planning how we can make Ripe a part of our week on a regular basis; I essentially fell into the role naturally. The same parts that attracted me to producing thrilled me by the pursuit of bringing an artist to the world. Seven and a half years later, we’ve found a way to make it our lives and full time jobs.
MM: How would you describe Ripe’s music and them as a band?
MS: In its most stripped down form, one could simply say that Ripe is a 7-piece pop/funk band. As the project has grown over the years, we’ve come to the realization (half crafted and half organic) that the music we’re creating is far more than just a genre, but rather a sustained experience and extension of a growing community of friends and family.
Now before you call me on dreamy jargon, what I mean is that Ripe aims to redefine the concept of joyful music and vulnerability. I also like to think that it is further an extension of who they are as a band. Whether the medium is through your speakers/headphones at home or work, or at one of their shows dancing with pure bliss in a crowd of fun loving friends becoming family, Ripe creates a sense of joy through their music. The happiness is heavier and more meaningful than simply a distraction from the negative. Almost every aspect of their music and performance comes down to spreading a joyous and uplifting message that can resonate and spread like wildfire amongst their fan base with desire to create a better and more connected world.
MM: What’s your background in music and do you still play?
MS: While I was the only musician growing up in my family, I surrounded myself with music and, through my own volition, played anything I got my hands on: drums, piano, guitar, and I even had a sitar for some time that I traded a painting for. My dad raised me on Earth Wind, & Fire, Tower of Power, music that was infectious with groove; my mother showed me the richness of songwriting in the 60s & 70s with The Grateful Dead, The Band, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell and such. For fun I played in eclectic indie rock bands with friends. I came to Winchester Thurston for high school and was inspired by the music teacher John Maione who turned me on to jazz and convinced me to join the jazz band when I knew nothing about the subject at the time (and had less than a year of experience on the guitar). He was a huge motivator for me; we became quite close, and ultimately it was Jazz guitar that brought me to Berklee four years later.
It’s rare, but once in a blue moon I do [still play music]. I love whenever I visit home, I’ll sometimes sit down at the grand piano at my mother’s house and get lost for a little. I am by no means done as a musician however, for now my musical passion is being fulfilled in a different capacity. I’ll always have the musician in me and I know its something I’ll get back to.
MM: What are your long-term goals, for Ripe and for yourself?
MS: I see Ripe’s goals in two parts: The first is to continue building in the live market playing bigger and better shows and to scratch the surface on more international markets. It is almost unbiased that they are an incredible force on the stage, and that will continue to be one of the strongest aspects of our business. In Boston we’ve seen them grow from a band selling three tickets to two thousand. Now we are starting to see that momentum scale nationally as we can do about 250-500 tickets or more in most markets throughout the U.S., and we want to keep growing that. All of this was done without a full album released and bootstrapped mostly as a startup organization (no labels/publishing, limited PR). Now we are releasing our debut album, headlining throughout North America, bringing on a dedicated PR team, and are ready to take on the next chapter of growing that.
The second part speaks to our bootstrapped process and is something we’ve also done so well on, which is to continue building our engagement with the fans and the strength of those relationships. While we aren’t necessarily “anti-establishment” to the label system at all, in this modern age, bands are able to thrive independently due to rise of current media and technology. There is no statistic in the world as powerful as how many “engaged” followers an artist has – it is those fans that give back tenfold. Fostering unique ways to engage with our audiences, rewarding our most passionate and loyal fans, and creating amazing discussion-worthy content in our digital strategy has been elemental in how we’ve gotten into such rapid growth in the past two years. Continuing to be innovative in those processes will always be a long-term focus of ours.
As for me, I’ve very recently relocated to Los Angeles after 7 years in Boston. I’ve had an incredible experience in Boston, growing and accomplishing feats in unchartered waters on my own and with Ripe that I could’ve never fathomed when it all began. The decision to come to LA for me came from the desire to grow to the next level as a manager starting to make a name for myself. LA is a city where so much of the industry comes together and where a lot of the groundwork of the music business gets done. While currently I’ve been pretty laser focused on prepping the new release, my ultimate goal in coming here is to create a new infrastructure for myself with a team of likeminded, passionate individuals, and bring unique skillsets together to further catapult current and future clients onto the global stage. I am grateful for all my experiences thus far and still recognize that everyday is a learning experience, so I’m also excited to dive into the new opportunities and friends and partners that will come with my new home in LA.
MM: What’s the most important thing you have learned in this job, music related or not?
MS: One of the most important lessons I’ve taken from this job comes from the value of working with a team under a common goal. The realization that every internal trial and tribulation you come across stems from a mutual love of the same thing will improve every way you approach and overcome challenges. Acknowledge others’ perspectives; everybody needs to be able communicate with respect just as much they listen. Carry integrity with you and treat everybody with kindness and respect through genuine interactions, you never know who is going to be important to your job down the road.
MM: What are you excited to see and learn as you continue?
MS: I think just adding to the personal goals list in regard to my recent move, I’m excited to learn what is to come with being closer to the action. I have a many great friends here who work with some of the most critically acclaimed artists in the world right now, and I look forward to join the scene and learn about the hustle that’s at the top of our industry. I’m excited to explore more cross-collaboration across the creative and tech industries, and seeing how different sectors can work together to create inspiring and important work. I love seeing how far we’ve come, but what is even more exciting to me is how much more unchartered territory and things still to accomplish lay ahead.
MM: Do you have any advice or aspiring music managers?
MS: The first thing I stress is patience, and persistence. Its like capturing lightning in a bottle when you see artists that blow up overnight with a viral SoundCloud or YouTube hit, and no matter what anyone tells you, there isn’t any real formula to plan that. What a lot of people don’t realize is that most “new” artists that are starting to hit it big have been grinding it for many years prior. It’s a slow build but with great music and persistence, the doors will be knocked down, and the opportunities will come in.
Further advice I stress is to not be afraid of being a little bit of a yes-man/woman. Management careers don’t begin from your couch. Put yourself out there, get to know people and open your mind to where others’ perspectives may come from; it’s the key to building healthy relationships, and in most all situations as a manager, it’s a collective dream you are working toward. Lastly never be complacent. Celebrate your wins but remember your struggles; every win is only ground zero for the next big challenge to overcome.
A big thank you to Max for sharing so much with us here at Moxie! We hope you enjoyed everything he had to say. Below is one of Ripe’s most recent singles, "Flipside." Take a listen!
Photos provided by Max Stofman and Paradigm Talent Agency.