The music industry changes fast. Artists need to adapt quickly, and so do their managers.
In the past, acts often lost money on tour, so they could promote their albums. Artists and managers alike would reap the profit generated from the hefty sales of their recorded music.
First, piracy took a huge chunk of that profit, and then streaming took the rest. All of a sudden artists started breaking even or losing money on their recorded music, and instead making their money playing shows and touring heavily.
While this is nothing new, it does represent a huge shift for management and artists alike. But its effect on management is interesting and largely overlooked.
In the past, artist managers would get a cut of artist’s album sales, and it would act as a salary for years to come – even if the artist fired them.
Sunset clauses meant that albums released while the artist was under their management umbrella continued to pay dividends.
Now that there is less money in album sales, artist managers are making money on their share of ticket sales. The problem is, once a tour is done, so is the cash flow.
The music manager’s job has changed a lot. Management now must be heavily involved with promoters all around the world, and a great deal of their time is spent looking for the right live opportunities for their acts.
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Why Bruno Mars & Others Are Firing Their Management
Management typically takes 10 – 20% of an artist’s gross. Obviously, this is a lot of money.
Depending on your contract, there are a lot of ways a management company can take an artist for a ride.
Bruno Mars is now without a manager, because in 2013 his manager, Brandon Creed, sold half his company to Scooter Braun and Live Nation’s Artist Nation – which boasts more than 60 well-known music managers.
Brandon Creed sold half his company for a low eight-figure sum, but did not tell Bruno Mars – his biggest client.
Essentially, Bruno’s management monetized their artist-management relationship, with no discussion. And then, they didn't share any of that revenue, despite the fact that those relationships are a two-way street.
So, in 2016, when Mars found out, he split with his management.
Now, all of his management operations are done in house by a staff of people.
This has pros and cons.
A major pro is that Mars is now keeping 10 – 20% more of his gross. When you’re making millions – that’s a lot of money.
He also has complete control over his business, and is able to execute his artistic vision with a team of staff that are paid solely to do that work.
On the other hand, having complete control over your business means more work. Sometimes, it’s better to let someone else make decisions, so you don’t have to think about it.
Mars’ day-to-day business is handled by Aaron Elharar, who does not seem well-known or very experienced in music management. But according to his Linkedin profile, he has experience in “enterprise business development”.
Likely, his day-to-day manager has the power to make a lot of sweeping decisions, so that Mars doesn’t have to be bothered with a million tiny questions.
This model is used by many of the top grossing artists in the world.
Taylor Swift keeps her management in house because she preferred her existing support network.
Beyonce broke it off with her management (who was her father) to achieve greater creative control.
Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and Diddy – the top three artists in terms of net worth – keep their management in-house as well.
For many in the hip-hop and rap scene, keeping your management in-house is part of your identity as a self-made mogul. Build a rap empire and keep it to yourself.
If None Of These Artists Have Managers, Do You Need One?
The idea of keeping your management in-house and instead hiring a team of people to work for you is interesting.
You get to set the pay, you get to decide what goes on, and you don’t have to cut anyone into your business.
I’ve done this on a very small scale.
At various times in my short career, I have hired admin assistants and booking assistants to deal with large amount of paperwork or busywork that I just couldn’t do on my own (or in some cases just didn’t want to do).
To be honest, it was awesome, but too expensive.
It costs a lot to pay someone to do a job well, and nobody has time for somebody who is representing your business but isn't doing a good job.
When it comes to ditching a music manager as an indie – beware.
For every artist who makes it big without a manager, there are 100 other artists who would never have gotten where they are without one.
A good music manager is your biggest ally and should be one of your closest business relationships.
A good music manager will connect you with people who can push your music. They’ll organize showcases, facilitate deals, organize release strategies, meet with people on your behalf and more.
The primary reason those huge artists can go without management is that they are already famous enough. They don’t need someone going to bat for them with promoters – promoters are literally tripping over themselves trying to book them.
Music managers who are building an artist are doing a very different job than music managers who are dealing with a major artist’s day-to-day.
Keep Your Music Manager – But Hold Out For The Right One
At this point, your biggest ally is going to be your music manager. But you need to hold out for that person.
You should not ally yourselves with someone you are not 100% excited about working with.
Ideally, your management relationship will last your entire career. Changing managers is complicated and can get messy.
But while you are waiting for the right manager, hiring people to help deal with the administrative side of your business makes perfect sense to me.
It is hard to keep up with the barrage of emails and to-do lists as an artist – you still need to make art somewhere in the midst of it.
If you need to hire someone to answer emails on your behalf for a while, or hire someone to send out a dozen contracts, do it. It will make your life easier and develop good relationships with people who may be able to help you again later.
I would suggest holding out without management for as long as you can. The further you go without management, the more desirable you become. You don’t want to be begging for management, you want people begging to manage you.