Back in the day, a manager’s job was essentially to get an artist signed. They needed to introduce them to labels who would take a chance and then invest time and money into them. Nowadays thanks to the internet’s enabling of mass music creation, labels will only sign on ‘data driven’ artists. That means you could be the most beautiful, charismatic, talented, badass musician in the world but if you haven’t been able to generate 100,000 streams on Spotify or if your song isn’t being used on TikTok, the label won’t see dollar signs and thus are highly unlikely to take a chance.
What does this mean for managers? Well, a manager’s job is now to make sure that data is, well, driven! The manager should help the artist get those numbers and generate multiple revenue streams so that labels don’t only offer a deal but pass over a fair contract. However, with the lack of funding (manager’s essentially work for free until the artist makes money, it can be hard for artists to find managers that possess the necessary drive, connections and smarts to push the work and career of the artist. For this reason, many artists are managing themselves.
However, many times, it is not out of choice but out of need that artists manage themselves. It requires much time but not only that, as an artist it’s tiring enough focusing on the musical and artistic journey, writing the songs, co-producing, finding the producers, the mixing engineers, the master engineers etc. As an artist who manages themselves, you have to think about both the artistic and the professional side which requires two sides of the brain. You wear two different hats, you’re having to be both Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian, the networker and the performer. It’s exhausting.
The artist-manager relationship is, however, much like a marriage. It’s an old cliché but it’s true. You communicate on a daily basis, it’s an intense relationship filled with highs and lows and similarly to a romantic relationship, it’s better to be ‘single’ than to give a toxic relationship a chance. In fairness, not all manager-artist relationships are ‘toxic’ , some are just ‘meh’ which can be just as damaging to your career. If you don’t feel listened to by your management or supported then in the long run there really is no point. There will be a day, much like in a relationship, where no matter how many heart to hearts you have with your manager you’ll see them as a walking ick who doesn’t want the best for a career you’re making a hundred sacrifices and risks for and that’s when it is time to get out.
There is a difference between the musician’s and business person’s mindset, though. A lot of musicians make the mistake of continuously taking the same steps for each launch, blindly believing that the music will speak for itself every time. However, an individual with a business sense won’t have the same emotional tendencies: they will be more likely to come to the quick conclusion that if a strategy doesn’t go according to plan, it’s time to try a new one.
Manager’s aren’t always 100% necessary but a good strong team is. Whether it’s your makeup artist, your social media assistant or friends who also work in the industry, a second opinion is always necessary even if it isn’t the word of a designated manager.
Jessie J recently opened up on Stephen Bartlett’s The Diary of a CEO podcast about having the same loyal team for a decade but unpacked her difficulty finding a good manager, admitting to having had six managers in the past ten managers and recently letting go of her latest. She mentioned that she has never found a manager who shares the same passion for music and artist branding that she does. As a proactive female artist she also noted a tendency for managers to leave her to do the bulk of the work and research as someone that is so ‘on it’. Many artists, ones much smaller and newer than Jessie, have experienced the same.
For female artists in particular, it is hard being so ‘on your game’ because it often doesn’t get recognised. As a female artist myself I continue to be patronised in conversations with managers and other members of the music industry. I recently had somebody explain the difference between algorithmic and non-algorithmic playlists to me (if you’re in the industry you’ll know how obvious the difference is) in response to me asking a question about a completely different subject…yeah, I was shocked too.
However, it isn’t all gloom and doom, many independent artists find a great sense of control and focus when managing their own careers but this also requires a decent amount of knowledge of the industry which can’t be researched and only experienced through time spent in the madness.
All I can say for now is that musicians deserve better and the music industry needs to shape up.