What is your chosen approach to signing an artist? I will always include a long ‘dating’ period, where I’ll work with an artist ‘unofficially’ for a period of time to gauge the how the relationship flows, as I put a very big emphasis on personality – focusing on where the conflicts and synergies lay, do you believe in taking a strictly business focus when signing acts or prefer to take a casual route, and befriend clients prior to signing?
In a lot of cases, I believe a manager is a first and last defence against making sure an artist doesn’t get in the way of his/herself, but I also have a tonne of trust in my artists and their ability to know what they want and how they want to get there – I put a focus on finding middle ground to ensure there’s mutual agreement in decision making, where do you find you need to draw the line and put your manager hat on when it comes to making decisions that an artist doesn’t agree with?
Great question. Similar to your method, I believe in a ‘courting’ or ‘trial’ period. Not too dissimilar to a new potential girlfriend or boyfriend.
You have to get to know each other and establish if you’re compatible. Some trial periods haven’t worked out because of different styles in working or communicating and that’s ok because hopefully there is someone that could be a better fit.
I like to establish some basic goals and if the relationship feels like it’s heading in the right direction and the work is getting done (generally 3-6 months), this naturally rolls into a formal agreement and we’re off an running on what I’m hoping to be a longterm relationship. It’s a decent time for legwork to establish if it’s going to work, but that’s just the way it is. If the foundation of the relationship is strong, then you’re set up to try and achieve the goals without having to focus on basic principles and nitty gritty things that form that relationship, it just works.
I see myself as the CEO of the artists business. They’re the boss, they employ me. But by employing me, I’m there to guide and steer the ship in the direction the artist wants to. It’s important to establish what this vision is very early on, so I can make judgement if I think it’s realistic to achieve in the timeframe the artist is suggesting.
When it comes to songs, whilst myself and the label chime in with our 2 cents, ultimately it’s the artist’s final say in most cases. However when it comes to the business side, generally artists’ look to us for advice and we always try and give our opinion in the most ethical and transparent manner. If the artists doesn’t want to do something we’ve given advice on, we can’t force it. If that is a repeated pattern and becomes consistent roadblocks, then the relationship won’t work. This is stuff you nut out in a trial period so shouldn’t be an issue long term.
How to get the most out of opportunities
I guide my entire career with ‘this too shall pass’ (No matter how big the problem or task, how good or bad the meeting, how terrible the day, how big the accolade, how great the success, it’ll all fall away eventually! So don’t sweat the small stuff, appreciate the small things AND the big things – as it can be taken away at any time) tell me, what’s the ONE piece of undeniable advice you’ve received over the years?
Exactly that sentiment. Celebrate the wins and try not to sweat the small stuff. I wouldn’t have lasted this long if I didn’t take on this advice.
Songs last forever but bands don’t. It’s just the reality of a tough industry. So many variables come into play that aren’t just controllable.
The other advice I took on board is to concentrate on my business, not just the artists’. This comes down to branding, diversifying incomes streams, investments and establishing your own 5-10 year plan. What is the backup plan ? Easier said than done!
There is a huge level of trust that goes into artist/manager relationships. On both sides. What approach would you take to building a level of trust with a new artist who may have been burned in the past?
I’ve just made a documentary on this and it’s been an interesting insight to skills I’ve learnt over the last decade and a half. I think it’s about establishing what went wrong previously and pinpointing areas on how to get the relationship off to the right start.
Again, it’s about articulating the goals and business framework and spending time on developing the relationship and not just jumping straight into the work. It’s easy for managers to want to get their hands dirty and help get things moving along but the most important part is taking a step back and concentrating on the relationship framework and building from there.
How to overcome roadblocks/ challenges
Management is not sexy. Not for a long time. You work around the clock for very little money and often few rewards, it’s the same for developing artists – usually working at a loss, often in very isolating environments for long periods of time. I think for myself and my artists, having the unwavering belief in the project, and that the next big break can always be right around the corner, which in many cases it always has been. How do you keep your artists motivated during lull periods and periods of low motivation?
I think it is very easy for artists to always be working. Whether that be working on new songs, doing promo, touring, all of the above! It can be relentless, especially in peak album cycle when a band is doing 30+ shows, plus travelling and promo.
At the end of the day artists are human who need to be creatively stimulated and challenged but more importantly need solace and downtime like all of us!
Often if artists take the time out to rejuvenate then they come back refreshed and ready to go!
I strongly believe that if you don’t have a delusional, unwavering belief in your artist, you are working with the wrong artist. Or more appropriately, said artist is working with the wrong manager. Have you always hand selected your acts or have you worked with acts put upon you? What are the most important qualities in an artist/manager relationship for you.
There have been various ways I’ve come across working with artists. Some have worked, others haven’t for all different reasons. Managing bands is similar to a marriage. I sometimes talk to my acts more then I do my family, it might sound strange but there is so many layers to an artists business and career, especially if there is more then one band member.
The underlying qualities for me is personality driven. You can be extremely talented, with amazing songs and vision but if you’re not a pleasant person to deal with, I don’t want to be a part of it.
The industry is very competitive and cutthroat, so you need to be willing to work hard, be resilient to criticism and keep on keeping on.
Expectation management is something I’ve found as a critical foundation of a manager/artist relationship working with a number of artists in different capacities, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve always encouraged my artists to reach for the f*cking sky, but to look at the long game and not expect to get there overnight (and without seriously hard work). In what way do you manage expectations without crushing an artists spirit if their version of reality is slightly skewed?
You’re 100% on the money here. I believe this industry is a ‘stayers’ game. If you work hard and continue to release consistent great work, the reward will come. The industry will take notice, fans will multiple and momentum will build. The artists need to focus on the art and the manager needs to hold the map and provide direction, support, networks, business framework and give constructive feedback. That’s all based on trust and respect.
Managing expectations, especially for younger artists is really important. I’ve recently had a situation where a young artist wanted to release an album early 2019 but I had to advise that it wasn’t a great idea and back it up with a list of reasons why. If you have the artists best interest at play and can effectively communicate and demonstrate why (especially if you’re saving them money) then most of the time the artist will be thankful and spirits not crushed.
From my experience in working with both Running Touch and SŸDE, there’s no secret recipe or shortcut to success, and it differs exponentially from artist to artist. It’s a hell of a lot of hard work, mixed with opportunity and some luck colliding with good timing. What’s some advice you can give to new artists and managers entering into what could potentially be a long-term, tough but incredibly rewarding relationship?
A big part of why I’ve enjoyed my management career for the last 12 years is the relationships I’ve had with the artists. A strong partnership is a fundamental key to any successful relationship. Not just in music but in life. And that’s my real kick.
To me a successful partnership comes down to the following:
1) Establishing goals: Identifying the goals of the artist(s) and building a creative business plan that adheres to these goals (5-year plan)
2) Respect and trust: Like every relationship, there are ups and downs, challenges, successes and it’s how you deal with everything that is thrown your way that shows the strength of the partnership. Respect on both sides is paramount. Trust in the form of transparency and integrity is also extremely important from both parties.
Also allowing for boundaries so that when an artist is creating the manager knows to let them have their focus and vice versa when the day is over, the artist knows to talk business at an appropriate time for the manager.
3) Good Communication:This goes without saying. On one meeting, phone calls, especially in busy times when there is a lot going on. What’s App has become a good group form of communication for day to day and touring. Getting on the wavelength and making sure you’re not skimming over detail is key. This comes with experience.
4) Reflection:Not to sound like a corporate HR department but having time to reflect on the 5-year plan and consistently refer to it and adapt is a way to know if you’re achieving the goals and how to change direction if things are working.
How changes in the industry change the roles of managers in artists’ careers
My biggest challenge in this career – managing multiple artists is finding time outside of work for ‘real life’, there is a never-ending succession, I must admit, I’m an absolute workaholic and a little OCD when it comes to finishing tasks, however, management is undeniably a cycle of never-ending work. Where do you draw the line between artist/manager relationships, and where do you find work-life balance? Is there even such a thing?
Without sugar coating this, it is very challenging. Especially given we work in a global industry that works on different time zones.
What I have learned over the years is to accept there will be very busy times around album launches/ big tours and try and do small things to keep things in check, i.e. eat healthy food, 7 minute workouts, keep booze to a minimum, get rest and try and do something with friends/family to keep a level head.
Years ago I missed a friends wedding and highly regretted it, so I now make sure my work doesn’t interfere with important family and friends milestones.
I also have a young family now which has made me keep a level of balance out of necessity and a reminder that there is more to life than hard work. My artists understand this and respect it.
Ultimately, if you ignore the signs and keep working away, you will burn out and that’s not good for anyone. By introducing a small level of balance into a daily routine it will help combat the stress and keep you more focused and batteries charged. I need constant reminders of this because it’s easy to make excuses.
I’ve been working with Running Touch for almost four years, since before the project even had a name and are very lucky to have such an incredible working relationship in addition to a really honest and beautiful friendship which has flourished from so many years of my relentless phone calls and texts multiple times a day for the past few years (Poor guy haha!) What’s worked best for you in terms of maintaining positive working relationships with your artists? Do you find you keep a clearly defined line between professional vs friendship?
WATCH: Greg Carey explain management essentials
Congrats! That is a rewarding feeling and success itself. Many managers have different styles but the most successful business relationships I’ve had with artists is where there is a deep friendship and respect within the business partnership. It goes back to establishing trust early in the relationship by demonstrating respect, hard work and achieving mutual goals. There is always a fine line given you’re a business relationship first and foremost and sometimes you can cross a line but if there is strong and consistent communication and mechanism in place to deal with the ups and downs, then generally you avoid compromising the relationship.
I’ve been working with SŸDE since the boys were both 16 years old, along with a number of other young acts where you take on a whole new role of ‘managing’, where it’s required you take on the role as a mentor, older sibling, parent and a number of other roles all at once – whilst somewhat expected, there is a whole other level of responsibility that comes with managing young artists, What was something you wish you knew prior to managing artists?
Like a lot of managers, my entry into artist management was out of pure love and passion for the music. I think if I knew how tough a career it could have been, I’m not sure I would have spent a majority of my 20’s going for it. The naivety and passion was the thing that drove me to want to help artists.
My Bachelor degree was in Communications so I had some basic skills across this level but I never thought of myself as a business person. That had to change quickly.
I had some great mentors around that I could always rely on to ask questions and guide me on my career path as an artist manager. The AAM (Association Of Artist Managers) was also a great resource for this. Conferences like Bigsound were really helpful for networking and learning more about the industry in my early days.
I and a group of young managers started a collective called Club Vent about 10 years ago, where we met weekly to discuss issues, share resources and ‘vent’ about our artists. Some of those managers are managing HUGE artists today. That was a great thing to have been involved in.
To answer your question directly, having some experience in artists’ who are going through mental health-related issues could have been extremely valuable to me. I thought I was able to do this on my own but it is a whole different skill set and profession.
Lauren and Greg will both speak at EMC’s “Grow Your Own – Why A Managers Business Is Just As Important As Their Own” panel, which will discuss the challenges and different paths associated with developing longevity for artists and their relationships with managers.
EMC 2018 SPEAKERS (In alphabetical order)
Acaddamy *NEW* Amastro *NEW* Arlo Enemark, Xelon *NEW* Anand Krishnaswamy, BBE *NEW* Andrew Cotman (Stoney Roads) *NEW* Aniela Swiatek (Thinking Loud) *NEW* Alessandro Pavanello (Kanjian Music) (China) August Cohlmia, Alchemist Group (China) Ben Tucker (For The Love) Bec Robertson (Headspace and Bass) *NEW* Beth Yen *NEW* BLOND:ISH (Canada) Brux *NEW* Brynn Davies *NEW* CC: Disco! *NEW* Chad Cohen, United Talent Agency (USA) Charlotte Lucy Cijffers, DJ Mag (United Kingdom) Chris McDonnell (Eventbrite) *NEW* CKD *NEW* Dan Morgan *NEW* Dave Ruby Howe (triple j Unearthed / EMCPLAY LIVE) *NEW* David Whitehead, Roland *NEW* Double Agent Eamon Chiffey (Trebl Group) Emily Collins (MusicNSW) *NEW* Feels *NEW* FlexMami Frank Rodi (APRA AMCOS) Fryderyk Kublikowski, Splore Festival (NZ) *NEW* Gilles Peterson Greg Wilson Hayden James Human Movement Hood Rich *NEW* Ian Bron, Paradigm Agency (USA) Jessica Krishnaswamy, BBE *NEW* James Frew, Emanate *NEW* James Mathison*NEW* Jane Slingo (Electronic Music Conference) *NEW* Jason Webb (Tixel) *NEW* Jay Mogis, Nightlife *NEW* Jay sounds *NEW* Jesler Amarins (ADE) *NEW* John Watson (ELEVEN: a music company) Klaus Heavyweight Hill Kids at Midnight *NEW* Kimberley Bianca *NEW* Kyle Bell (Rhythm & Vines) *NEW* Lars Brandle (Billboard / The Industry Observer) *NEW* Leanne de Souza (Association of Artist Managers) Lauren Mikkor Lauren Neko (Australian Institute of Music) *NEW* Leotrix Linda Marigliano, triple j *NEW* Loren Granich, A Club Called Rhonda (USA) L.O.U. Lynne Small (PPCA) Matt Bird (White Skye) Michael Rodrigues, Time Out / Night Time Industries Association *NEW* Mickey Kojak Mike Warner (Chartmetric) (USA) Mirik Milan, VibeLab (NETHERLANDS) Mo’Funk *NEW* Morph *NEW* Murat Kilic, Gazecoin *NEW* Ninajirachi *NEW* Oliver Hall (Bolster) *NEW* OSKI *NEW* Paul Stix (undr Ctrl) *NEW* Petrina Convey, Sony Music Australia *NEW* Renee Hermsen (Live Nation) *NEW* Richard Mallett, APRA AMCOS Rob Harker, Supermodified Agency (ASIA) Robbie Lowe *NEW* Ryan Everton, Globelet (NZ/AUS) Ryan Wilson, Listen Up Asia (Hong Kong / AUS) Sam Mobarek (Mob Music) *NEW* Sampology *NEW* SASHA (United Kingdom) Set Mo *NEW* Simon Moor (Kobalt) *NEW* Simon Caldwell *NEW* Sippy *NEW* Spook *NEW* Stace Cadet *NEW* Sunshine *NEW* Steven Papas, BBE *NEW* Toni Tamborine (Neighbourhood) *NEW* Tyson Koh, Keep Sydney Open *NEW* Trinity *NEW* Uda Widanapathirana (Mellum / Inertia) *NEW* White Sky (AUS) Wyn *NEW*
Wednesday 14 November – Thursday 15 November, 2018 Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, UTS Ultimo
EMCPLAY LIVE Wednesday 14 November – Thursday 15November, 2018 The Landsdowne, Chippendale
Continuing Friday 16 November – Sunday 18 November, 2018
Featuring The Rio Revel with SASHA, Greg Wilson, Late Nite Tuff Guy, Cid Inc, Hoj & The Owl Saturday 17 November 5pm – 3am, Manning Bar