The Importance of Good Management

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The Importance of Good Management

This is Celia Hirschman with KCRW for On the Beat.

In the changing environment of the music business, there are few immutable facts. One is the importance of experienced individuals to advise on the pathway to success. The music world may be unstable but artists still need to earn a living for themselves. The person they rely on most to help them navigate these waters is The Manager.

An experienced manager understands the fragile nature of the psyche of the performer, while helping to build a strong team of professionals around him for the artists' long term career growth. The role is often far reaching. Managers hire the attorney who advises on all deals including the record label contract, the publishing agreement and the licensing transactions. The manager works regularly with the booking agent, who brokers all the live performance deals. Once a label contract is agreed, it is the manager who works directly with the record company to build the artist's profile.

And since most major labels have a lot of artists on their roster, having a manager with strong communication skills, good professional relationships and an effective personality can make the difference between success and failure for the artist.

A good manager chooses wisely the artist they want to represent. This is not just a 9-to-5 job, but rather it's a 24/7 relationship with late nights, weekends and early morning calls from anxious artists and team members. They keep their perspective in balance, recognizing the significance of what each conversation can do. They fill the role of statesman, promoter, strategist, educator, and guidance counselor.

The pay is on a percentage. The standard commission for their services is 15 to 20 percent. And since the role of manager is so important to the career of the artist, it's not unusual to have a sunset agreement, allowing the manager to commission revenue for years following their departure.

Experience is not always considered in finding a manager. In some cases, the role of manager has sometimes be relegated to a family member, or an over enthusiastic fan. Rarely does this work out, and most artists are forced to make much harder decisions further down the road when the consequences of inexperience become costly. Also, some artists prefer to manage themselves. Occasionally that is effective, but more often the artist lacks perspective, and fails to run a successful business and hold a dynamic creative recording and performing career together simultaneously.

Lack of good management is an epidemic problem in the business. That is primarily because the income to artists, and therefore managers, has dropped dramatically. Also, there's no school of artist management in rock n roll. To be effective, you've got to know the game and the players in the field, so the majority of good managers have worked in another area of the business - often at a label, or as an agent or an attorney. But these days, most seasoned executives don't want to risk management later in their career.

I expect the role of management to change in the coming years. There's not enough money to keep a lot of good managers afloat, so they'll look to join forces with other entities.

Some of the more successful management companies have already started their own labels, with booking agencies attached. This allows artists to have a dedicated group of professionals working as one company, instead of several divergent companies attempting to follow a single vision. It makes a lot of sense to me, since the way consumers buy rock n roll has changed so much, it's not surprising that the trade needs to change as well. Look for a number of other creative deals to be struck in the artist & management arena in the coming months and years.

This is Celia Hirschman with KCRW for On the Beat.