Learning the ropes and pulling strings

Blog by LIVE UK under Artist Managers, Finance, Law & Music Business

The roles performed by artiste managers grow ever more diverse and challenging and the amount of information they need at their fingertips could be considered overwhelming. That, says the Music Managers Forum, is why the organisation is enjoying a resurgence of membership and support, as Keith Coles reports
“A myth that needs to be dispelled is the idea that it can be done with zero cash. It falls on managers to make the first investment and finance is always the biggest issue,” says James Barton, who has worked for the Music Managers’ Forum (MMF) for two years.
“It’s admirable that artistes do as much as they can for themselves. But, I have to say, the earlier you get a good manager involved in your career, the more likely it is to progress quicker.”
A former musician and DJ, Barton started in management in 2005, taking unknown act Orson to a No 1 single and a Brit award. He now runs his own management company and record label, The Blue Team, representing electro-pop act Bright Light Bright Light.
“When you start out as a manager it can be a lonely place and you feel quite isolated. The MMF provides a community, to show managers that they are not alone,” says Barton.
He says the organisation has more than 500 members, who for £100 a year, are given the opportunity to network, get information updates and receive significant discounts on a series of education sessions and management courses.
Jonny Dawson of London-based ATC represents Treetop Flyers, the winners of Glastonbury festival’s emerging talent competition in 2011. The band are set to record their debut album next month.
“I don’t see the current financial climate as a negative. The thing that attracted me most to management was that it is entrepreneurial. You have to be adaptable and think outside the box on projects,” says Dawson.
He admits the manager’s role in the emerging industry has changed in recent times, with securing record deals no longer the major consideration.
“There is no right or wrong way to do anything any more. There are very different routes to take and it’s an exciting time for that reason.
“In management, you spend so long trying to get things off the ground, you don’t have time to read up on everything and get on top of every little bit of policy that’s around. The MMF offers that service.”
Kerry Harvey-Piper co-founded Red Grape Records in 2006 with husband Callum MacColl and evolved her business into management in 2009, at which point she also became a member of the MMF.
She believes the increasing lack of financial support from record labels is a “huge, huge issue for all emerging artistes”.
“The enormous amount of work that artistes are sometimes expected to do before they even look at a label is quite overwhelming,” says Harvey-Piper.
“Managers have an overview of everything the artiste is doing and have to build a plot for the artiste, then go to a label and say ‘this artiste has everything in place’.”
Harvey-Piper’s management roster includes Jake Morley, Hafdis Huld, Black and Liz Lawrence.
Tough challenge
Projex Music’s Ben Stewardson says, “As manager, it’s your job to find solutions to everything and there are so many areas of the industry that need to be covered for the benefit of your band.”
Stewardson, who also manages Model Society and promotes acts in London and at events such as The Great Escape, has been an MMF member for three years.
He admits that managing new acts can be a difficult process, which is reflected in the MMF’s membership. “I’ve known quite a lot of people who were very involved, but who have had to find greener pastures. There are lots of new, young managers, but not that many can stick it out for a long period.”
Niko Michault created Push Music Management with partner Danielle Livesey after taking on artiste Jack Savoretti, who will shortly release his third album.
He says that being an MMF member for one-and-a-half years has helped his company get in touch with the right contacts and opened up opportunities for its acts.
Positive about the next few years for the emerging sector, and particularly managers, he says, “The manager has a lot more power, because he is a lot more involved than ever before. And labels take a lot of interest in who manages an act now, because that can be make or break with a campaign.”
But Michault believes that, although many seek to have involvement in all aspects of their artiste’s career, experts in other sectors are still needed – something the MMF can assist with. 
“For example, live is a whole industry in itself and a full-on job,” he adds.
The next MMF educational seminar, run in conjunction with Wingnut Music consultancy, and covering subjects such as basic marketing, manager responsibilities and accountancy, takes place on 29 March in London, priced at £120 for non-MMF members and £60 for members.
For more business news on the unsigned and emerging live sector see the NXT pages in LIVE UK.

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