In Part Six, I went over the ups, downs, pros and cons of parents who manage their kids. This is lucky part seven, the last in a series of articles about music management. In this last installment I will go over the manager / investor archetype.
“With Money Comes Compromise.”
I don’t know where I first heard that, or if I am lifting a fairly famous quote without attribution (by all means call me on it in the comments section if I am), but this statement has never been more true than in the case of a manager who gets his or her gig with the band because of the ability to invest.
It is a funny thing about the music business: I have watched the same scenario play out time and time again, where people who are successful in other industries take a look at the business, make a judgment on the people in the business and decide that they can do it better. What people either don’t know or seem willing to forget is that the music industry seems to function more like Roulette than anything taught in a Wharton MBA class, and many of the rules that govern most other industries seem not to apply. The most obvious difference is that people are willing to invest millions and millions of dollars every year into products (read: music and artists) without knowing if there is any demand for these products. Thank God music still makes people feel something and makes them forget the bottom line though, or we’d all be in trouble. With that in mind, there are some pros and cons about having a manager who becomes a music manager not based on their experience but because of their ability to fund a career.
Not to state the obvious, but having some money to invest in your career is always a good thing, and it is the Achilles heel of most artists (unless of course you are cynical, in which case, the real Achilles heel is talent). If you are fortunate enough to find someone to invest in your career the first thing you need to do is to have a complete understanding of what this will cost you in terms of your back end. No one who is making an investment in art (if you have found someone who is just handing you cash, then I have a sick father who needs an operation and a bridge I want to sell them) will do so without making a land grab for your future rights; it’s just the way the world works. And it is the same in any industry.
It can be really difficult if you are eating Cup-o-Soup for dinner and dodging your landlord at the beginning of the month to turn down an investment of any kind regardless of the back-end cost, but I urge you to think of your career not in terms of one day, one week, one year but a lifetime. Is $50,000 worth giving away all your publishing on anything you ever write for life? I hope not … but you never know. That said – just understand what you are relinquishing in exchange for investment today and if need be, spend some money on a good music lawyer.
As I have mentioned earlier, part of the problem with an investor in music is the distinct possibility that they won’t fully understand the business regardless of their successes in other industries. At times this kind of manager needs to be managed by the artist because the minute they begin spending any cash on someone’s career a whole host of people with questionable services will arrive like sharks who smell blood. While the cash is flowing, it can be a fun ride, but I assure you that investors will always look down the ledger on a project at some point and there had better be some signs of a return for the party to continue.
I’m sure many of you are scratching your heads and wondering if the above is a common phenomenon. I didn’t think so either until recently trying to negotiate a client of mine on to a tour only to find out that there were dozens of offers from unsigned artists willing to pay for the privilege of opening up for a name-brand artist. These people do exist and it does happen more often than I had once thought.
If you are lucky to have someone like this in your orbit, just make sure you know what this investment will cost you in terms of your possible future earnings, and that you and this person have an understanding and share a common vision for your career; otherwise, you could wind up being a death metal group opening up for a Bee-Gees Tribute band if you aren’t careful.
That about does it on music management. I will be back to doing more interview content shortly.