EC Hall of Fame: Levitan blends creative, business sides

Long-term approach pays off for manager of Kings of Leon, Ke$ha and others

The Nashville Entrepreneur Center is more than a place for visionary business people and companies. The Trolley Barns facility also has a hall of fame. The range and depth of the Nashville entrepreneurial community is on display with the hall’s inductees, who made their mark in fields that include publishing, hospital management, finance, fulfillment and music business. Combined, the honorees have created thousands of jobs nationwide — but also close to home.

Nashville Post commends this quintet of entrepreneurs for their work and the legacies they have created.

 

 
What do Kings of Leon, Michael McDonald and Ke$ha have in common?

Very little and also one very big thing: Ken Levitan.

Levitan’s Vector Management has been home to an incredibly diverse array of talent over the years: Hank Williams, Jr., B-52’s, Emmylou Harris, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trisha Yearwood, Peter Frampton, Meat Loaf, Lyle Lovett and Patty Griffin to name just a few.

Levitan got the bug early, working while an undergrad at Vanderbilt on the school’s concert committee to bring acts like Genesis, Hall & Oates and Carole King to the campus. After three years at the University of Dayton School of Law, he returned to Nashville and hung out a shingle, negotiating deals for musicians like John Hiatt and Foster & Lloyd. Eventually, though, he wanted to do more than just prepare contracts. He wanted to be part of an artist’s career.

“When I was practicing law full time, I shopped a lot of artist deals, and I simply got tired of investing that much time and expertise in my artists’ careers and not having the creative positioning to really provide direction,” Levitan told the South by Southwest festival. “Management was the perfect platform for my interests.”

After a stint running a record label, Levitan re-opened Vector in 1998 and hasn’t looked back. Vector is one of the most successful management groups in the industry.

“You have to balance the creativity and the business side to really make sure the artist maximizes his or her own goals,” said Levitan, who serves on the boards of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Country Music Association.

“We really want to try to build box sets and long careers instead of one-hit wonders,” he added. “We are in a time when everything is quick-hit oriented. We try to take a long-term marketing approach. One thing we're trying to do for our experienced acts is build up their ownership of their masters."