Artist Managers must understand their role is now business development

I had an interesting conversation with Lauren Markow today, which helped me come to terms with something I’ve been wrestling with for a while.

Like everything else in the music business, the role of the artist manager is changing. In the good old days (you know, a year or so ago), artist managers largely concerned themselves with helping the artists with whom they worked get record deals, and then – post deal – acting as a liaison between the label and the band.

This is, of course, a radical oversimplification, and certainly neither getting an artist a deal or working with a label is an easy job. However, this was, for at least the majority of artist managers, their role.

Today, for the vast majority of managers, their principal role is different. No longer should they be concerning themselves with getting their artists signed. Rather, they should concern themselves with developing and unlocking value for their bands; i.e. business development.

If, as I think you should, you view your band as something for which you must develop brand equity, it’s no longer about leveraging that brand equity into a record deal. Rather, it’s about leveraging the brand equity to create direct revenue streams, as well as strategic partnerships where you, again, create visibility (thus increasing brand equity) and revenue.

All those hours spent mailing things out to A&R people at labels, taking meetings with A&R people at labels, and, generally, thinking about A&R people at labels, and all those hours fighting with those at the label over marketing budgets, and everything else, now must be hours spent doing – for lack of a better phrase – “business development.”

This, again, brings us to the problem that has plagued the industry for far too long: most managers are completely unprepared to do business development. Most have no proper business training, and, through no fault of their own, will flail around in a market that punishes those without the requisite skills. Thus, most will fail. Some, on the other hand, will take the time to learn business fundamentals, and will change the paradigm.

Certainly, as stated above, there’s a lot of generalities in this here post; many great artist managers have long thought of their role in terms of business development (I’m thinking specifically of people like REM’s Bertis Downs, Kristin Hersh’s Billy O’Connell, Phish’s John Paluska, Dirty Dozen’s Marc Allan, and Dead Confederate’s Dawson Morris – certainly, there are many others; leave me a list in the comments). I do think, though, that most haven’t thought in these terms, and I fear that too many are still thinking in terms that revolve around getting their band signed – sort of the anti business development.

So…go on get educated, innovate, and start building something.

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  1. michaelfikel’s avatar

    I wanna be your personal manager baby
    I wanna do everything I can for you
    Yes I wanna be your milkman every morning
    Your ice-cream man when the days is through
    -Albert King

    Reply

  2. Matt@Kurb’s avatar

    Not only do they obviously have to understand business, y'know as opposed to being hustlers, but they need to understand the internet / new media. If your manager doesn't know how to build a site + blog , do seo, analytics, run myspace, shoot and edit a video . . . then those are just other things your little “business” is going to end having to cost out one way or another . . .

    Reply

  3. jamespew’s avatar

    I like this thinking. It is all about DIY in the beginning. Bands need to find people who can do all the things Matt mentioned and more. But the underlying reason for doing anything with your website, or at a live show etc., should be some form of business development. There are tools and business models for artists out there that work…learn about them and experiment to find what works for your band.

    Reply

  4. NewRockstarPhilosophy’s avatar

    Great post that makes a lot of sense.

    Another great manager: Paul McGuiness

    Even though he's somewhat still stuck in the old paradigm, he knew that touring could be profitable and not just something you do to promote a record. He helped set-up the fan club (paid) and he's continuously looking for other ways to milk the U2 brand (3-D movie, u2 ipod deal, blackberry commercial to promote the U2 360 tour, etc..)

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  5. no deposit bingo’s avatar

    this is a great post! it has a lot of sense! artist managers should know these things.

    Reply

  6. David_Chaitt’s avatar

    bands are businesses. just like any other business, surrounding them needs to be a team of professionals who will be able to fulfill all the services originally fulfilled by labels. the manager of today (whether they want to realize it or not) is most certainly a business developer creating/developing the image behind their brand.

    Reply

  7. bingo uk’s avatar

    this made sense
    great post!

    Reply

  8. offline42’s avatar

    There are lots of factors to consider in starting a business, well if youare planning to start your own business you must be aware to all of these factors

    Reply

  9. drhill’s avatar

    Great article – thanks! Personally I find this a fantastic time to be alive, and be an artist trying to figure out the 'new media' and other conundrums. I would be surprised there would still be a lot of muso's looking for the deal as the arrival into a professional carrer in music. My band was signed to Warner bros – had +/- $250,000.00 budget thrown at a record, it stiffed, and they quit returning our calls. I find myself wondering nowadays what I might do with 1/10th of that money… 🙂 your business development foundation is good advice.

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  10. Musicvideos1’s avatar

    the role of the artist manager is changing.its important they should adjust them self with the changing business need.this post definitely help them to understand their responsibility.

    Reply

  11. Financial Advisor Rochester’s avatar

    this was such a thought provoking post, like in real life, people who don't love their business doesn't seem to understand their business and these people tends not to grow, so first thing is innovate ourselves on new ideas so we can come up with great strategy for our business.

    Reply

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    Your online trainings post is very nice. Get best programs for the online Business Training course of affiliate and business to get success in life.

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  13. Christmas Hampers’s avatar

    Everything is improving even the system of handling artists. Gone are the days that managing is only the work of one person: it's now the combination of two heads to reach success.

    Reply

  14. Cheap Auto Insurance Quotes’s avatar

    this is a great post! it has a lot of sense! artist managers should know these things.

    Reply

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  18. procerinboy’s avatar

    if you end up taking the whole business thing too seriously, you end up losing what the band and the music is about.

    Reply

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