If there is one thing I love, it is music! It is one of my deepest passions. It brings pleasure, peace, and enjoyment to my life. It is also why I have chosen to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, specifically music and film. However, having an avid love for music, I can say that I am not some amazing artist with mad skills. I cannot rap, sing, or play a wicked guitar riff, but I do have great management and leadership skills. So, I believe being an artist manager would be a win-win situation for me.
Artist management is a tough role to play. It is also why an artist should have an artist manager, because the duties an artist manager has to carry out and take care of are numerous. An artist that tries to self-manage or go without management at all is not going to be very successful, especially if the artist plans to make it big. And even if the artist has success without management or self-managing their career, it is not going to last very long once things get more complex. An artist should be able to focus on what it is they do, which is performing, singing, and/or writing. The artist manager shall handle the rest of the business affairs and negotiations.
Marc Oswald, artist manager of Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson, and Cowboy Troy, uses the theory of the “wagon wheel.” He says that you can picture the wagon wheel as the artist’s career. The artist would be the hub of the wagon wheel, while the artist manager would be the grease and bearings around the artist. The spokes coming off the hub would be the components that the artist manager needs to orchestrate. Each spoke would represent each part of an artist’s career: touring, promotion, publishing, distributing, recording, merchandising, public relations, booking agency, record label, etc. So you can see where this would become very overwhelming. The artist manager needs to keep this wheel perfectly round in order for it to keep on turning and rolling down the road of success. If one spoke is damaged in any way, the wheel starts to become weaker.
Now that you have a general understanding of what an artist manager does and the importance of having one, what do you do to become or get started as an artist manager? Technically, an artist manager can be anybody. They do not need to have a license, like a booking agent, and they do not need some fancy degree from a college. However, an artist manager should be somebody that knows the industry and has the right connections. Having specialized education and experience within the music business industry is definitely a plus. The artist manager needs to be one of the artist’s closest friends, because they are there to protect the artist’s best interests. But, the artist manager cannot be a “yes man.” In many cases a spouse, family member, or friend will become an artist’s manager. Why not? You know each other. Most likely for a long time and have built a solid relationship. But again, it is not the best option to choose. Complications arise when family members or spouses get involved, often ending in a damaged relationship.
The artist manager needs to articulate the vision of the artist with control, strategy, resourcefulness, and initiative. Basically, they need to have gumption! To do this, it is important to build a rapport with each other. David Purcell, from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education, says that building a rapport is one of the best ways to start working with an artist as their manager. Ask questions and talk with other bands and artist managers. Find out or observe what they are doing correctly or incorrectly. Be aware of the current trends, especially in the city or state you start managing in. Try not to rush things so much and find the needs of the artist. Although there is an urgency to achieve goals and be successful, it is vital to take the time to build a relationship and do things with care and consistency. Make it part of your management style.
Speaking of management style, everyone has a different management style—some worse or better than others. The key is to find the style that works for you and the artists you are trying to work with. If you feel that managing one artist is enough for you to take on, then your management style can be more focused on how it works for that particular relationship. However, if you think having a few clients on the roster is ideal, your management style might have to be very versatile. This is also where knowing what genres you would like or can work with comes into play. If hip hop or rock music are not your forte, then it may be best not to work with an artist in that genre. Stick with what you know and are passionate about, but also be aware of how the other genres work.
To wrap it up, I would like to share an excerpt from a book written by Xavier M. Frascogna, Jr. and H. Lee Hetherington, called This Business of Artist Management:
What It Takes to Be a Manager
“How does the manager help the artist succeed in the music business? Through contacts and an insight into the industry. By opening doors and making sure the artist is ready to step through them. By being prepared, realistic, and flexible, by preserving and following through. Having a strategy for the artist to make his or her own opportunities, rather than leaving success to chance.”