What Does A Manager Need To Know? The Industry Answers

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What is the single most important aspect of the music industry an artist manager needs to understand?

Chris Hufford – Courtyard Management/Radiohead

He said, “Human beings.”

I replied: Do you mean that your artists are human beings? That the fans are human beings? That everyone in the industry is a human being who has egos and flaws and passions and frailties?

Then he said, “Exactly……..as is the manager…….& trying to understand/work with one’s own issues is equally important.  The potential for human/human interaction to fuck up cos of misunderstanding/miscommunication/jealousy/greed/laziness/over-striving/just even daft body language/etc/etc is always there!!!”

Jim Runge – Tour Manager, The Black Keys

For me the most important thing for an artist manager is two things. One, to be well rounded and have an understanding of all aspects of their artists careers (Live, recorded, publishing, merchandising).

“The second, is to hire people that cover the things that they might be weaker in knowledge.

“Most managers come in understanding one aspect more than others, or may have a general understanding, but to really do their artist a service, having a team that can dig deeper and make everyone understand more is essential.”

Brandon Hixon – Manager De La Soul

The single most important thing to understand is your artist.”

I didn’t know what he really meant, so I asked if he meant this: When you say your “artist,” do you mean where that person/that group of people is coming from? The psychology of who they are and the music they’re creating and what their goals are?

He wrote back, “Exactly.”

Jim Lewi – Red Light Management

The answer to your question from my perspective is understanding that everything is now the manager’s job. Label, publishing, booking (finding and overseeing an agency), marketing, publicity, strategy, merchandising, fan club, personal issues with the artists, money, imaging, branding, touring, you name it. All on the manager’s to do list.”

Betsy McHugh, Former Co-Manager of Hunter Hayes

As a (former) manager (of 12 years), I always knew it was my job to advise and counsel the artist(s), not to tell them what to do.

“The best managers, in my opinion, know that our single greatest value is in the ability to aggregate information from those who specialize in each of their fields – present those insights to the artist, offer our counsel, and arm the artist with the best information possible to allow and prepare them to make decisions.

“At the end of the day, it’s the artists’ dream and career, I always took it so very seriously that they trusted me, as their manager, to be at the helm of helping them make their dreams, often their only option, come true.”

Dave Lory, Former Manager of Jeff Buckley/Gregg Allman/Courtney Love

“All of it because you don’t manage the artist as much as the areas around the artist. How can you manage a tour manager if you’ve never tour managed? How can you manage side musicians if you’ve never played?”

Will Dzombak, Manager for Wiz Khalifa

“Be kind to everyone, you don’t need to be a pushover, be assertive but polite. You never know who will come back around.

Thomas Leavens, Music Business Attorney

” I think the most important aspect of the music industry that an artist manager needs to understand is how to find value in the transactions that the manager handles on behalf of the artist. Value is not just a matter of metrics – how many dollars, the royalty rate, or the number of anything.

“Value can be found in strategic relationships, data, market sculpting, control, reversions, and other matters that metrics don’t measure. Each transaction has its own value to be parsed out, and recognizing where the value lies in the transaction and how it can be maximized for the benefit of the artist (or when to walk away when there is no value) is the most important function that a manager must understand and perform.”

Brian Schechter – Former My Chemical Romance Manager

That your job is 1/3 psychologist, 1/3 fire fighter and 1/3 foot soldier. They’re interchangable, but that’s the rule I’ve always followed.”

Alex Fletcher – Fletcher Artist Management

In the classical music industry, taste and subjectivity are big factors. I think it’s important for an artist manager to learn the tastes of the colleagues in his or her network, and use that information as effectively as possible when it comes to pitching artists, etc.” 

Co-author David Philp didn’t write his part of the book. He used a special kind of magic that normal humans like yourselves wouldn’t understand.

Ryan Chisholm – Mike Posner Manager/Netwerk Music Group

Shep Gordon would say: “(1) get the money, (2) always remember to get the money, and (3) never forget to always remember to get the money.” So maybe it’s accounting?!

In all honesty, you can’t be a good manager without knowing (at an advanced level) all sides of the business. Whether that’s marketing, publishing, touring, a&r, merchandise, legal/contracts, accounting, etc.

Things are changing so fast, the need to stay on top of the constantly evolving business and all the latest technologies is rather suffocating. But at the same time, it’s the best time to be in the music business and the most exhilarating.”



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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music & Entertainment Industries and Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition.  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.