The Three Essentials of Management
The key ingredient to making an artist management relationship work
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Whether you’re an artist attempting to secure a manager, or an aspiring artist manager attempting to work with an artist, in order to be successful you must be cognizant of three essentials: passion, connections, and capital.
This series of articles is written from the perspective of providing advice to the artist looking for a manager, however the information is equally applicable to those interested in a career in artist management. The goal of the series is to provide both the artist looking for a manager, and the individual interested in management with the needed perspective to increase their odds of success.
At a certain point—after you’ve made a demo, played some gigs, and started to develop a following—you may be approached by someone who is interested in managing you. Most likely, the people approaching you at this early stage of your career will be friends, family, fans, or people who work at the venues where you perform. Some of the most successful managers in the business originally came from this pool. Bertis Downs, for example, began working with REM when he and members of the band were college students together in Athens, GA. Brian Epstein worked in his family's furniture store that had a little music division in it when he was asked to go see a band. That band was the Beatles, and he became their manager. Rusty Harmon was a college student and an intern at a management firm, who showed a young band around when they came through town. You may have heard of this band, since they’ve sold about a gazillion records and won two Grammys under Rusty's management: Hootie and the Blowfish.
However you and your manager come together, and whatever role the manager finally ends up playing in your career, there are three characteristics that a manager must have in order to help your career effectively—both before and after you get a record deal. Those characteristics are passion, connections, and funding. If your manager has passion, he may be able to succeed without the others. However, if your manager is without passion for your music, your chances of long-term success will be reduced. The best-case scenario is, of course, having all three.
Why Passion is Important
Friends, fans, and families who become managers typically have one massively important thing in common: they all are extremely passionate about the artist they work for. Typically, they feel that the artist is great, and while they often don’t have a surplus of connections or capital, they believe they can make up for this through sheer force of will fueled by their passion, which they have in abundance. As mentioned above, this can and does happen. Passion, combined with energy (often youthful) is a very potent mix that often knocks down many barriers and allows an artist to experience real career growth. Managers in this type of situation often believe that lacking the experience, knowledge, connections, or money actually allowed/forced them to try things that other more “experienced” managers would have dismissed. In so doing, they create innovative strategies that further the idea of career development. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I would add, it is also the stepmother of innovation. The beautiful thing about the record business is that there are very few rules. When a manager is passionate enough to make the artist succeed—no matter what rules they have to ignore, break, or rewrite—that is often the best type of manager to have.
Such relationships force the band and management to work much more closely than they would in a more traditional management/artist role. This can create an open and honest relationship from day one. In other words, because a beginning-level manager is not going to be able to say, “I’m going to get you touring with this other artist I also manage, and I’m going to set up a showcase for you to perform in front of my A&R friend from Sony,” he or she must involve you—the artist—in the decision/planning. Instead, they must say, “Listen, let’s figure out what our resources are and begin building something in an organic fashion.” This method, while perhaps being a slower route, is a good one, as it directly and closely involves you, the artist, in the process of your career development. A close relationship often has the positive side effect of being an honest relationship. Closeness and honesty are imperative, and will give you a far better chance of avoiding the all-too-common litigating over accused improprieties, resulting from the artist not knowing what the manager is doing, but believing that, whatever they’re doing, they ain’t doing it honestly.
Passion is the key ingredient to making an artist management relationship work. If you find someone who has real and genuine passion and isn’t a complete derelict, you will be better off than many. Ideally, however, your manager will also have the connections and the funding.
In the next segment of this series, we’ll examine “The Importance of Connections.”