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Do Artists Really Need Managers Anymore?

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This post is part of a series called Creative Session: The Business of Music.
The Complete Social Media Strategy for the Musician and Engineer Part 1

Over time the music industry has been constantly evolving and managers have continued to play a pivotal role in the accomplishments of the artist they represent. But do artists really need managers anymore?

It’s a bold statement to make, but one may argue the old school management model has left it’s best days behind. However that’s not to say managers won’t or can’t diversify to meet the new needs of artists in the 21st Century.


Favours for Favours

The old school management model heavily relied on favours, a manager was only as strong as their contact list. The key word was exploitation, armed with a collection of highly powerful contacts a manager could basically sell to the highest bidder.

You may think, WOW! That’s great for the artists who are being represented by a powerful manager and in some cases it is. However there are always two sides to a coin, as artists were prepared to meet the demands and compromise themselves, it enabled their manager and their record label (if they had one) to make more money out of them. After all it is a business right?

Obviously not all artists wanted to compromise, which generally resulted in either a split between the manager and the artist, or the artist receiving less attention than other artists the manager represented.

If the manager and artist partied company the artist quickly slid back into obscurity while the manager swiftly moved onto the next big thing.

But in the 21st Century the outcome would be immensely different.


Change Is The Key Word

The reality of the modern music industry is change. It’s constantly changing quicker than most people would like to think, this results in artists diversifying and embracing the “do-it-yourself” culture.

In the past the manager was an integral part of moulding a music career for the artist they represented. They assisted on multiple levels from finding producers, and seeking record deals, to dealing with agents and the media.

However the most important role a manager could assist in was the development of the relationship between an artist and their fans.

You may be thinking what’s the difference between then and now? Artists still need fans to exist and I would fully agree you are correct, however the way an artist interacts with their fans has been completely transformed.

With the rise of music downloads and peer-to-peer networks the music industry as a whole took a massive hit, they were stunned in fact. The business model that had worked for decades suddenly had changed, the consumers and more importantly for you, the artists now had more control and more power.

So if consumers and artists had more control and power, what do managers have?

For artists on major labels managers will still be demand however in 21st century the music industry is now all about small business rather than big business.

That’s not to say big businesses won’t keep having success with artists, because they will, they have money and contacts however artists who manage themselves will be the real success stories of the future.


You’re In Control

The most important thing an artist, particularly a band (if this applies to you) can do is to assign each member a role. In the early days of your career you are only performing for a short period of time, use the time off stage wisely.

Members need to be at the top of their game at all times, you never know which doors may open for you.

Imagine your band is like a motorcar without an engine it won’t start and without wheels it won’t move. Apply this methodology in a similar way and fit the pieces of your musical jigsaw together.

Think big, to my knowledge no one has been arrested for it yet. Artists only fail because they lack the persistence and drive to keep pushing.

If a member of your band can design a website or a poster, assign them the role of marketing and promotions.

If a member of your band is good at speaking, they need to negotiate on behalf of the group, use all the skills you have at hand.

It’s better to distribute all the roles equally because actually learning individually will be more beneficial in the long run and make your band stronger as a unit.

Each member needs to know and learn in detail exactly what a manager’s job entails. The experience you gain now will be invaluable in the future, it will also aid you to make correct decisions with your career.

Book gigs yourself, arrange tours yourself, radio plays, promotions, merchandise, EVERYTHING. The only person that truly cares about your image and your music is you. Build contacts and heavily network, after all “a manager is only as strong as their contact list.”

The secret to being successful is to be professional and establish a name for yourself. Sounds obvious right? It’s harder than it sounds.

OK, so I’m going to give you a good tip: When starting out play everywhere you can within your hometown, then move to play everywhere you can within a 10 mile radius. Keep moving the radius further and further until you are fairly well established act within a 50 mile radius of your hometown.

In the old days a manager may have well promoted you or had the contacts to get you on the line-up for a venue out of town but you’re doing this on your own so you need to make it happen yourself.

By making it happen for yourself you are firstly creating the contacts who in the future will help you, and secondly you’re establishing your name and more importantly your “brand” to your “core” fan base.


The World Is Your Oyster

The world is your oyster is a statement that is heavily over used but is 100% relevant.

As described above the development of your core fan base is essential, you don’t build a house without foundations right?

From the old school management model a manager would have expanded an artist’s fan base through promotion. Promotion through traditional media (radio, TV, magazines etc) costs money, and assuming an artist is at the early stages of their careers; money may not be readily available.

This is where the game changes. In the past artists heavily relied on traditional media outlets, what other choice did they have? Clearly this resulted in their reliance on their manager, agents and record label for promotion and distribution of their material.

However artists can do it for FREE, you may be shaking your head with disbelief, FREE? Did you say for FREE? Yes I did.

Nobody complains about getting something for nothing, and it positions the artist in a win-win situation.

The artists’ songs are getting “out there” and the listeners, which most likely will turn into fans, have received something for nothing.

Word of mouth is still the best form of promotion and for all the contacts a manager has, consumer power/people power has a far greater influence in the grand scheme of things. A revolution doesn’t usually occur from the people at the top right?

Make it happen, you’re in control.

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