The meaning and role(s) of a “manager” have changed dramatically over the last decade, as the traditional CD/Radio/Retail business model has given way to the “new” music business. Traditionally, a manager managed an artist’s efforts to get signed to a label, and once signed, he/she managed the relationship between the artist and the label. The label itself managed marketing, distribution, artist development (ah, the good ol’ days), radio promotion, producer and writer relations, etc.
But given the state of labels today, the unsigned artist must assume that he/she will never be signed - and build a career accordingly. A traditional manager is often unable and ill-equipped to successfully manage and develop an artist’s career in this new “DIY” environment.
The truly modern manager needs to possess: (1) Internet savvy and a deep knowledge of how to use online marketing, promotion and distribution tools/services; (2) the ability to develop and execute strategic partnerships with brands, businesses, and other “blue ocean” partners.; (3) knowledge of independent financing alternatives and an understanding of financial models; (4) the ability to pull together a creative team (e.g., producers, writers, etc.) around the artist; (5) relationships with booking agents and others who can help create live performance revenue; and (6) an entrepreneurial spirit, since every young artist is really just a start-up company.
Even managers of established artists (many of whom I’ve worked with) find themselves in need of re-education in light of the fact that their artists are voluntarily or involuntarily leaving their long-time record labels. For many, this is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks, and many established managers (along with their attorney and label executive counterparts) are unwilling or unable to overhaul their skill sets to really serve their artists.
If these “requirements” for the modern manager seem like too much to ask from one person, perhaps this is correct. Instead of looking for one manager, I often find myself urging artists to identify the specific areas with which they need assistance, and then determine whether one, two or more “managers” would best fit the bill. In fact, I have personally witnessed many artist-manager relationships fail miserably over the past few years as the gulf widens between the artist’s needs and expectations,and the traditional manager’s capabilities.
Because of this reality, co-management deals should become increasingly popular as artists realize that they are best served by BOTH the established manager with valuable connections and an understanding of the live business, as well as the young manager (with fewer connections and less experience in the traditional music business) who is more capable of creating and managing the artist’s online social media presence, digital distribution and other facets of the “new” music business.
A good manager in the new music business therefore understands his/her own assets and limitations, and is willing to collaborate with others whose skill sets compliment his/her own for the benefit of the artist. For the artist, identifying ideal “management” requires parsing out the necessary skill sets and finding one or more people who can most effectively build a business around the artist. Using the start-up analogy, an entrepreneur would never look for just one person to serve as CEO, COO, VP Marketing, General Counsel, etc. - rather, the entrepreneur looks for the right TEAM of people to build a successful business.
In this DIY world, the very notion of a single “manager” is arguably be out-of-date, and may need to be replaced by a subset of more specialized professionals who, together, can create and manage success for the artist. Artists will continue to be disappointed by their traditional managers until they grasp the consequences of this necessary evolution in artist management.
Eric Galen is a seasoned music attorney and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles, California. Over the past decade, Eric has worked with both new and established artists, producers, writers and labels. Eric’s focus is now on new music business models and assisting his clients successfully navigate the waters of the new music industry.