By George Howard
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 are 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, Whitesmith’s Emily White, 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.
George Howard is the former president of Rykodisc. He currently advises numerous entertainment and non-entertainment firms and individuals. Additionally, he is the Executive Editor of Artists House Music and is a Professor and Executive in Residence in the college of Business Administration at Loyola, New Orleans. He is most easily found on Twitter at: twitter.com/gah650