So yes – there are a ton of managers, booking agents, record labels out there who have a whole bunch of clients and who are charging them all similar amounts. It makes you wonder – how can one person, or hell, even one team manage, book or sign all of these bands? Also – aren’t there conflicts of interest? I totally understand why indie bands looking to get to the next level might struggle with these questions. I certainly did. It’s important in the music industry though to look at things from every perspective in order to properly figure out what’s going on, and by dissecting the prevailing philosophies in the world of management, booking agencies and record labels, going beyond the veil if you will, then we will be able to see why in many cases it actually makes sense to have as many clients as possible. In a world where everyone knows everyone else, there are surprisingly few people who can really help you.
One of the key things to realize, is that there are very few bands who generate enough income to sustain a personal manager. Beyond that managers are people too – they want to explore other projects, try out new options and expand what they do. The same goes for booking agencies and record labels. Obviously the billing structure is different for each of these, but the principle remains the same. A big band grossing on the low end of six figures a year is probably not going to support anybody, unless they are being colossally ripped off. At the same time, those bands need people on there team to help them work. It’s impossible to run a band of that magnitude on your own, I mean maybe if everyone in the band has a background in the industry and contributes, but even then. So where does this leave us? It means we need a support system. The thing is – you don’t want to be the only people your support system is helping, you want the people behind you to have as much experience as possible, right? That seems to only make sense.
As I’ve grown in the management field I’ve found that what used to take me hours can now take mere minutes and that as my understanding of the music industry grows so does my ability to get shit done within it. This is part of why managing multiple bands helps .Not every band needs all the same things at the same time, so this is a great way to get experience and maintain relationships across the board. The example I like to use is that I oversee about twenty album releases a year whereas the average musician probably only has an album release once every two years or so. I’ve obviously go a little bit more experience when it comes to handling these types of things. This is just one example though. It’s the same reason you want a booking agent who works fifty tours a year instead of three. He’s going to have a much wider network of people to work with, simply because he has to do so much more.
That being said – I understand the argument with regards to overwork and conflicts of interest. This is a hard one to refute, or even talk about since so much of it is case by case. I think that overwork especially is something that you need to be careful with. Before signing on with a manager, ask other clients if possible what their workrate is like. You can’t just say that “Oh this person handles fifty artists so I shouldn’t work with him” because I know people who do that and are fine. Odds are a lot of those artists are at a slow point in their careers anyway. The same applies for conflicts of interest. When you are hiring a manager it’s essentially like hiring an independent contractor for any small business. You want to make sure that they have good morals ad are someone you can work with. For example – everyone needs a plumber, but if a certain plumber was a jerk who screwed up a bunch of stuff and was mean then no one would work with him. When hiring a manager you need to look at them personally and decide if you think they would suffer from conflicts of interest.
The desire to make a quick buck has hurt the music world as much as any industry. It’s the self serving attitude that makes people afraid of conflicts of interest. Hell, sometimes the self serving attitude isn’t even outright. Some folks might inadvertently hurt you because they are trying to get the best possible outcome for as many bands as possible. In music, a utilitarian approach is perhaps something to consider – but if your band is paranoid about this kind of thing then be sure to take the time to verify that whoever you happen to be working with will take good care of you. You’re essentially hiring someone to be responsible for your future ,you can’t just assume that because someone claims to have a lot of artists they are a good manager. It boils down to personal reputation, and to some degree if you get screwed over by hiring the wrong person, it’s kind of your fault for not doing your research just as much as it is theirs for not doing their job.
Most agencies and companies out there are legitimately trying to help artists out, it’s just that not everyone is as good at it is you would like them to be and not everyone is going to be able to meet your own personal standards. The fusion of professionals and amateurs in music, and the need for solid advice that actually works is ridiculously hard to deal with and reflects a lot about our current state of affairs. The real takeaway from this article is that you really should want a management company, booking agent and label who manage to balance a personal touch with a far more massive set of resources. I know it’s a hard balance to strike – but it’s one that is always worth it.