First of all, What exactly does an Artist Manager do?
First of all, the manager is the public representatives of an artist. Managers reach out to partners and filter incoming offers on the artist's behalf. This part of the job involves taking a lot of small decisions, and most of the time the artists are not aware of them. Artists have to rely on the manager's judgment, so the relationships between them must be built on trust. A strong team mindset is the basis of any successful management deal, and that is why the manager is often the closest person an artist has aside from family and friends.
The second responsibility of the manager is to build and coordinate the artist's team, made up of separate partners working on different sides of the industry. Each time the artists progress to the next step in their music career, management has to consider several key partnerships. Those partnerships are necessary to unlock new revenue streams. However, the range of possible offers and deals can be almost indefinite – so the choices have to be made. Such decisions have a huge, lasting effect on the artist career. Most partnership deals are long-term and can have consequences years down the road — a standard recording deal, for example, is a 6 to 9 years commitment. It's the role of management companies to evaluate partnerships. However, the manager never has complete information, and the number of factors to consider can be overwhelming — so building an artist’s team is perhaps the most challenging part of music management.
Even when the artist has an A&R with their label or publisher, it is the manager who defines and coordinates music and video releases, tour strategy and live performance production. The manager is the last advisor to the artist when it comes to dealing with the A&R, and his role is to mediate the influence of all other partners. The labels and publishers will often try to push the artist on the beaten path. Pressure from the A&R departments to "play it safe" can sometimes make it extremely hard to ignore the fear of failure and pursue the creative goals. However, maintaining one's vision and taking chances is an integral part of any art, so the managers often find themselves stuck in a risk vs. safety dilemma.
The nature of the management is to keep things flowing. Managers take care of most of the daily administrative tasks, connected to running an artist's career. They do most of the cyclical accounting, handle monthly cash-flows and run the artist's micro-company. On top of that, managers always tend to fill the gaps. When the artist's career is still young, they program releases with distributors and pack up the gear on stage after the shows. Later on, they run the merch booth and organize video shoots. It all depends on the size of the team, which scales with the artist's career. Here is where the labels, publishers and promoters come in. Traditionally, their role is to scale the team in anticipation of an artist’s success, and not as a consequence of it. The early stages of the artist career involves more costs than earnings, and funding in anticipation is key to building most careers. However, even if the team grows and managers take a more ‘managerial' approach as opposed to DIY one, the list of ‘small things' never dies 😉
Traditionally, the label has been the team that finances most of the release cycle and helps on creative and promotional sides. Nowadays, however, labels are acting more and more as the talent hunters rather than the record makers. The recording industry is trying to bet on safe investments, signing the artist after a couple of songs were already released independently. At the same time, the costs of making a record went down a lot, and the labels don't have to provide the infrastructure as they did a decade ago. This "low touch" approach has brought new types of recording contracts, reflecting the role of the label as primarily a marketing team. In 2019, the assortment of recording partners and deals available to the artists are more diverse than ever before — and singling out a record deal is a business decision as much as it is a philosophical one. For the deeper view of the record business and label deals, check out our article on the Mechanics of The Recording Industry.
When it comes to the publishing contract, there are two main factors to be considered: the publishing advance and the publisher's A&R. Publisher's advance traditionally allows artists to make money before royalties are collected, which can take up to 2 years. The advance can be a substantial revenue boost for developing artists. Hoping that musician will become a prominent recording artist or write music for others, publishers will often sign an artist at an early stage of their career. The publisher's A&R, on the other hand, is essential for artists who need to collaborate: rappers, beat-makers, producers and so on. The publisher's A&R helps find and negotiate collaborations with other performers, and that resource can sometimes propel the artist into the next league. Besides choosing a publisher, artist and managers have to also decide on the type of publishing deal. The music industry offers full publishing, co-publishing or administration deals, depending on the artist's needs and his/her legal status. Check out our Mechanics of Publishing to find out everything you need to know about how the publishing industry works.
Managers work very closely with their agents and promoters, so finding the right people for the job is very important. The agent contracts are almost identical across the industry, as, most of the time, the actual deal remains mostly informal. Agents send artists flying across the world to festivals and venues in major cities like New York and Boston, with no guarantees except for their own word, so the managers always look for someone they can really trust in the booking agent. The relationships with promoters are built on a more contractual basis. Promoters take care of the rent, logistics and marketing. Essentially, they "own" the tour, collecting and distributing the revenues to all other sides. So when it comes to promotion deals, the interests of all parties have to be protected – and put to paper. The live business is a network-based, decentralized and fragmented system, and the touring landscape is way too complicated to lay it down as a part of this article. We’ve explored the respective jobs of booking agents and promoters, including splits and deal outlines, in our Mechanics of Touring — check it out to find out how the live concert industry works.