The blogger's guide to artist management (part 2)

Having established (below) that I didn’t make a great job of it, you’ll hereafter appreciate that this fact doesn’t prevent me from sharing my opinions on the subject of music artist management. Sounding semi-educated without testing that ability is the role of every commentator, skilled, experienced or otherwise.

So, you want to manage talent? Frankly it’s a tough gig, and probably getting tougher. Breaking a band these days is harder than ever – there are more routes to ‘market’ or to the audience in general, but finding the right one and ‘exploiting’ it successfully is extremely difficult.

The future is a difficult territory to map. A manager needs to be aware of trends and understand the elements which will favour his or her act best. Some of this can be gleaned from looking at history and the career path of similar acts. This will be despite the fact that your act might like to think that they’re one of a kind.

In the past the aspiration of every artist was relatively simple, they all wanted to get a record contract, a deal with a label, in order to get their music released into the world. Success could be measured by the size of your contract, how many labels were fighting over you and what the winning company were prepared to put behind you.

People can now sit in their bedrooms and get music into worldwide circulation, getting people to notice and appreciate it is a different matter though. Getting people to pay for it is harder still.

The amusing, or distressing, thing is that after all the hype about ‘freeconomics’ and the ability of artists to create their own social networks thru and with their fans, this has still not resulted in bands having the ability to create their own break-through to global success. The latter element still seems to revolve around finding a large company to manufacture, distribute and effectively market your music. No-one has yet managed to do it solely; no-one can do it without help.

So, what are the roles of the manager? Part advisor, counsellor, life-coach, solicitor, publicist, entrepreneur, accountant and music business expert – combine some or all of those elements and you may be successful.

Everyone talks about the only money for artists now being in live performances, but in order to gain an audience you have to have created a name for yourself – and this is the element which remains the most difficult. A good manager has to know how to ‘cut-through’ and to make an act ‘stand-out’

A good manager acts as a conduit between the artist and the world at large, allowing his charges to create and vent their artistic temperament whilst he effectively ‘sells’ it. Some acts are capable of doing both but they are something of a rarity. If I were to list the key attributes a manager needs it might go something like this:

• An unstinting belief in his/her artist(s) tempered by a good sense of commercial reality.
• Deep pockets.
• An existing or recent link to a semi-successful act.
• A knowledge of the market – generally and specific to their act.
• Common sense.

Sounds relatively simple, but rarely is. The most difficult part might actually be in managing the expectations of the people you’re working with. It goes without saying that most acts have to possess incredible self-belief, a problem which finds most managers jettisoned – even when they may be on the verge of success. The roadside is littered with managers who found themselves surplus to requirements as a band signed to some label or other – simply because the label knew someone who ‘could do a better job for them’. Artists are frequently blinded by the promise of success; you can never expect the same loyalty that you may waste on them.

Given that it’s such hard and frequently unrewarding work, why does anyone take it on? Inspiration and belief is everything – occasionally you come across an act who you wholeheartedly believe needs to be heard by many more people. When this moment comes you’re possessed by a compulsion to do something. Whether you work in the music business or just love music these moments are like revelations, epiphanies – when you’ve had one you can do nothing but your best to make it work. That being the case I can only wish you luck.