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The Role of the Manager in the Studio

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This post is part of a series called Creative Session: The Business of Music.
The Role of the Musician in the Studio
The Business Side of Building a Home Studio

When it comes to the role of the manager in the studio, the first question to ask is: should managers be in the studio at all?

At the end of the day, it depends on whether the artist is comfortable with their presence. Forgetting the manager’s professional role for a moment, an artist’s good performance in the studio depends on many factors and that includes whether they feel comfortable expressing their creativity in front of those certain individuals they’re with at the time. This is a personal matter, not a professional one.

This article was previously published on the AudioJungle blog, which is moving on to a new format in 2010. We'll be bringing you an article from the AudioJungle archives each Sunday.

I think it’s important that you do feel comfortable to be yourself around your manager. If it’s an awkward relationship like the one you might have with your accountant or lawyer, they might not be the best fit for your band.

If the manager is in attendance at the session, it’s best that they act as though they’re guests, simply present to enjoy the making of an album they’re devoted to getting out to the public. If the band is definitely comfortable with receiving suggestions on a musical level, then it’s okay for the manager to make them, but he or she should be unobtrusive.

What is not okay – and this doesn’t just happen in the studio - is when the manager decides that it is their right to demand that something be done differently, whether it is because of their personal preferences or because they think it’d sell more albums.

Albums that are made with selling albums in mind, well… they suck. And they don’t sell.

Albums that are made with true creativity and love for the craft have a much better chance of succeeding in the marketplace, and that means the artist has to take control of the creative process.

That said, there’s a trend of the words “creativity” and “experimental” being used to apply to terribly unaesthetic noises mashed together to create “groundbreaking new genres.” In this case, it goes without saying that any of the commercially polished stuff will do better!

As a manager, it is your responsibility to talk to the artist in advance and find out whether they’re genuinely comfortable with their presence at the session. Making the most of that session is in the manager’s best interests, so if their presence will stifle performance, they shouldn’t ever push the issue. If the artist is comfortable with your attendance, you should find out what level of input would be appreciated. If the answer is none, you need to respect that whether or not you think it’s a good idea.

As an artist, take the initiative to make your manager aware of what you’re comfortable with. They might not bother to ask. If, in the studio, your manager is getting in the way of creative production, you should always politely but firmly deal with the situation and ask them to stop. This can be difficult to do at first since many musicians put their managers in a position of power and authority internally.

As the producer in the room, you might be asking if should you step in when the manager is obviously frustrating the artist and their creative process. Remember the musician and the manager have a relationship both personally and professionally that you probably don’t share, so stepping in can be seen as butting in. That said, musicians may not be used to giving a manager a firm “no,” so they may look to you as the professional to give them some assistance and back them up on a creative decision.

Bottom line: a good manager is an excellent thing to have. They look after the business of your band. That said, you, as the artist, look after the creative production. Businessmen do not, and should not.

This concludes our look at the roles of various industry professionals within the studio. You can go back and read the other articles in this series at these locations:

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