The role of a Manager has changed as much as the music business. In fact, the traditional artist team (manager, attorney, agent, business manager) may no longer be practical. Today many artists believe that self-management and outsourcing functions is the way to go, especially in this DIY era. as a result, more acts are learning to manage themselves and doing surprisingly well. Music Connection wanted to explore this development, so we contacted several DIY acts and a veteran manger to find out what it takes to manage yourself successfully.
By Bernard Baur
RIDDLE THE SPHINX
Riddle The Sphinx are a group of seasoned and formally trained musicians, inspired by a combination of world and classical music. They have always managed themselves, and gotten some pretty impressive results, including multiple awards and Grammy nominations. In fact, the press has called them “one of the most unique bands in Los Angeles.” The act’s members are also humanitarians, aligning themselves with organizations such as Project Peace on Earth, and the non-profit organization HeARTS Giving Hope.
WHY DO YOU MANAGE YOURSELF
It’s the way we’re structured. We never really had a need for management. Part of the reason is that we have a couple professionals (attorneys) in the band who can handle most of the work. Also, we’ve set up a “Finder’s Fee” arrangement in our band agreement. It gives anyone, including band members or outsiders, 20 percent of all revenue generated if they bring in a project that produces income. We found that is a strong incentive to make things work.
WHO HANDLES DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS
We divide most functions equally, with each person covering a specific area. You would think that having professionals in the groupwould give us an advantage. But the reality is it’s often a whole lot of unpaid work. So, if we’re unable to do something because we’re busy, we’ll just pool our money and hire someone to help us for $8 to $10 an hour.
ISN’T HIRING OUTSIDE HELP PROHIBITIVE
Somebody needs to take care of business, and if you can’t do it––for any reason––get help. The fact is many artists will spend more on their bar tab than it costs to hire someone. If you’re serious about it, you’ll either find the money when you need it, or recruit someone to help.
WHAT’S THE KEY TO SELF MANAGEMENT
Being organized and knowing something about the business is important, but I think the right attitude is critical. You can learn to do anything for free on the Internet. But, you should make it “fun.” If you’re not happy doing it, do it differently.
WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER HIRING A MANAGER
I doubt it. We don’t need handholding and what we can’t do, we outsource. But if a manager had some ideas on how to increase our revenue, we’d certainly listen.
HOW DO YOU GENERATE INCOME
I’m a big believer in mailbox income. I’d rather pick up a check than play a live gig. As you get older and have more responsibilities, touring and gigging become less attractive. So you focus more on publishing income and new technology. For example, we just streamed a live show online and made more money than we do playing most venues. The beauty of it was we didn’t have to drive anywhere, unload gear and find a place to park. We just had to set up a video camera and broadcast it.
ADVICE FOR OTHER ARTISTS
When you start out, be prepared to manage yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you until you start producing income. Embrace technology. There are so many tools now, anyone can self-manage as long as they’re willing to devote the time. If you’re in a group, use Google Docs to communicate, have a band meeting once a week, and make sure you know who the point person is on any project. Most of all––have fun… and remember, it’s about the music.