To most musicians, the enduring image of an artist manager is a caricature of a heavy-set, unkempt slob of a man, stuffed into a 2-sizes-too-small, off-the-rack department store suit, chomping on a cheap smelly cigar while sliding a greasy hand unceremoniously into the back pocket of a starving artist. Surely, somewhere in the vast landscape of the music universe, such malice exists. The vast majority of artist managers, however, are a motley collection of well-meaning, hardworking, selfless individuals struggling to make the dreams of someone they believe in come true.
For the legion of dedicated unbelievers out there, this is an article that attempts to shed light on the true value of an artist manager. Following are 8 reasons why a band or artist needs a good manager:
1. Career Guidance - It's often extremely difficult for artists to step back from the day-to-day activities and see the big picture (you know - the old "forest-for-the-trees" thing). A knowledgeable manager can see how everything in the big picture fits together, and can help the artist navigate through the often-confusing maze of activities that seem unrelated yet are all part of a massive jigsaw puzzle. The manager provides career guidance and helps to set the overall game plan for the artist and the artists' team to follow.
2. Cheerleading - Even though fans are the main cheerleaders for an artist, someone has to communicate the same enthusiasm to the music business community. An artist manager will trumpet the artists' message to record labels, booking agents, promoters, media personnel, club bookers, independent retail accounts, etc., in order to keep them all engaged and enthusiastic.
3. Prestige - According to most record industry professionals, there is something to be said about an artist that has a manager. The logic is that if an artist is good enough to attract management, there must be something of value present. In fact, most major labels refuse to sign an artist unless they have solid team (manager, attorney and publicist) in place. An artist without management is just too much drama! Labels would rather deal with someone who knows how the music business works and can make decisions on a non-emotional basis.
4. Buffer - A manager can act as an effective screening buffer between the artist and people that want to do business with the artist. This buffer tends to attract legitimate industry players while at the same time scaring away scam artists. There are no scarier words to a scam artist than "please talk to my manager".
5. Time management - There simply is not enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done in order to further the career of an artist. In between writing songs, conducting interviews, designing artwork for CD's and merchandise, managing a mailing list, filling out copyright paperwork, rehearsing with the band, hiring and firing musicians, updating band websites and MySpace profiles, getting pictures taken, shooting and editing DVD's and YouTube videos, sending out packages and/or updating EPK's, researching, repairing and purchasing equipment, etc., there isn't time to also craft a master game plan, solicit potential sponsorship partners, handle licensing requests, reach out to industry gatekeepers, attend industry networking events, harass labels for tour support, and so on. Some tasks can be delegated to the band while others can be handled by the manager.
6. Accountability - Part of a manager's job is to hold people accountable. What happens when the financial tour support that was promised by the label fails to materialize? Or the check from the booking agent bounces? Or the FOH engineer at the show is MIA? Or the licensee fails to sign and return the contract but is using the artist's songs anyway? Or the beer in the tour van vanishes? Somebody has to keep people honest, and that is most appropriately the manager's job.
7. Good Cop / Bad Cop - Need to fire the bass player but don't want to create an enemy? Let the manager play bad cop and do the firing. Need to re-negotiate your contract and request more of a promotion budget? Let the manager play good cop and keep a positive spin on the proceedings. There are plenty of occasions when the artist and manager can trade off playing good cop / bad cop.
8. Sounding board - A manager, even though basically an "honorary member of the band", is frequently on the outside looking in. Managers usually see things differently than the artist, and can often provide different perspectives, insights and solutions to problems the artist is encountering. Running ideas by a knowledgeable manager prior to making decisions often allows for good ideas to become better and bad ideas to be removed altogether from the to-do list.
So, there you have it! 8 good reasons why an artist needs a manager. Having said all this, however, it is important to note that having a bad manager is worse than having no manager at all. Many wannabe managers think they can just "wing-it" with an artist, and continue to operate with the "lets-record-a-3-song-demo-and-shop-it-for-a-record-deal" mentality, even though the music industry continues to undergo significant changes. New business models are emerging, and only those managers that stay at the leading edge of the learning curve will create successful strategies and provide meaningful counsel to their clients.