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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.”
Angelica Cob-Baehler – Head of Music at The Firm
“The MUSIC has ALL the power. You have none.”
Professor Philp asked this: “Meaning that unless the music is good, nothing else matters because nobody will care in the first place? ”
Angelica’s response? A thumbs up.
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.”
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.”
Melissa King – Tour/Production Manager (Weird Al, The Scorpions)
I find your question very interesting. It is very difficult to say that there is one thing that is more important than another for a manager to understand. Being an Artist Manager is a complex balance of business and personal relationships.
“For the most part, anyone can learn the legalities, how to read a contract, write a contract, make sure production is covered, figure out budgets and make the connections and relationships with other industry personnel to further your artist’s career.
“I think that the most important aspect that a good manager needs to understand is their actual artist. On a certain level it has to be more than just business. Although you don’t want to get too close personally where it affects your ability to manage the artist, you do need to be able to listen and understand where your artist is coming from when they express concerns or issues with any aspect of what is going on with their career. You need to be able to truly hear what they are saying and look at it as objectively as you possibly can.
“I believe that to make a relationship work in this business you need to be able to accept that there are times your artist is not going to want to do something that may be beneficial to their career. You need to be able to listen to their objections and communicate property with them to come to a compromise about the situation.
“Let’s face it – artists are not going to always do what we think is in their best interest. Who knows after speaking with them about it we may discover they were right to feel that way and change our opinion of the situation.
It is very important to have that open communication so that you know when something is or isn’t working for your artist. So that your artist does not have a problem coming to you to discuss issues they are having. I believe that as long as you have that degree of communication, you and your artist, can forge a bond that will make both of your careers successful and be able to be happy in a very stressful industry.”
Dom Anderson – Muse Tour Manager
As an artist manager, the nature of the job is that it requires an understanding of ALL aspects of the music business from record labels & publishing legalities, to touring logistics & international marketing, to creative processes & musical trends.
“However, I would consider that unless you really understand the artists as people, have a close personal relationship with them & join them in the vision they have, it doesn’t matter how much experience or understanding you have of everything else, you will never truly be able to help them achieve their potential.”
Matthew Knowles, Former Manager: Beyoncé
There is no single most important aspect. In order to be a highly successful manager many aspects of the business are equally important for success.
1.) Complete understanding of touring from production, routing, ticketing, ticketing and managing expenses.
2.) Complete knowledge of record labels functions. How can you manage the record label when you don’t know what they do?
3.) Complete understanding of streaming and social media…our new world order!
4.) Building relationships and building your team (Entertainment attorney, booking agent, social media expert, road manager, label, branding partners, business manager).
5.) Lastly Artist development. Something only a few of us truly know how to do unfortunately.”
Paul Sinclair – Head of Digital Strategy, Marketing, eCommerce and Product Development at Atlantic Records
The manager must know enough to be incredibly well informed in all key areas of the artist career, but open enough to know that others know more than they do in each specific area.
“And they should know that they must be the main advocate on behalf of the artist, but if they choose wisely and work collaboratively (label, publishing, etc) then those people can be a direct extension of their team and all tides rise.”
Stephen Schloss – Shawn Mendes Tour Manager
For me, the music industry is the engine behind the art. The most important aspect of the music industry to understand is that it’s about the music and if you feel otherwise, run the other way.
“I couldn’t imagine doing what I do if I didn’t continue to love music from way deep inside myself. And there have been times where I’ve questioned why I’m putting myself through what I have, coming up from the bottom of the business.
“The pride I take in the fact that I make a living and continue to grow in this crazy music world and amongst artists that I worshiped as a kid and artists that I get to help develop and ride the ride with…it’s invaluable and incredible.”
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Joe Riccitelli – GM of RCA Records
How the streaming game in general has affected managers & artists on every level, from royalties to determining how big a streaming hit is compared to a true hit record.”
(Because there are songs that are streaming hits that aren’t Shazaming and aren’t getting much airplay – they’re getting on playlists but not jumping the hurdles a hit has to jump.)
“And to being able to, as a manager, communicate directly with the streaming partners and not leaving it up to the label.”
Joe Conyers III – Downtown Music & Songtrust
Knowing that while relationships do matter(and can be huge in getting success from a label/publisher/etc), it’s worth exploring new vendors and partners that you’ve not considered in the past more than ever.
“Technology is finally moving fast again in the music space and companies that may have been amazing 3 years ago for your last project might not be suitable now.”
Matt Young – EVP Warner Music Artist Services
The best managers I’ve ever worked with realize they aren’t experts in every aspect of a band’s career and they form relationships with agents, promoters, label heads, lawyers, publishers, merch folk etc. to build a team focused on success.”
Mike Mowery – Outer Loop Management
Short answer is DECISION MAKING, but that isn’t an aspect of a the “music industry”. Next I’d say “deal making” and how to effectively guide your artist into making decisions that are simultaneously beneficial to their career while aligning it all with their artistic vision.”
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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.