Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The art of management

The most important decision your band will ever make after choosing your name? Selecting your manager. The second most important decision? Deciding if and when you need a manager. Every single week, I come across bands and their managers and, …

Tue, Nov 16, 2010, 10:09


The most important decision your band will ever make after choosing your name? Selecting your manager. The second most important decision? Deciding if and when you need a manager.

Every single week, I come across bands and their managers and, a lot of times, I wonder what the hell the band were thinking about when they took on this eejit to represent them. You’ve started making music, you’ve started writing songs, you’ve done a couple of gigs and you want to crack on to the next level. You hire a manager to do the cracking on for you – and especially the work you’re too lazy and uninterested to do – and you think you’re on the home stretch. Sometimes, you are – and sometimes, you’re back where you begun and you don’t even realise it yet.

There are a couple of theories about where to go for a manager for your band. Some people firmly believe that the best managers are the ones who grow with their act, managers who start working with a band when they’re in the shed or the garage and who move on up as the band moves on up. They start out as the pal who couldn’t sing or play an instrument and become the band’s rep who will fight their corner every hour of every day as they move onto bigger records and tours. As the band grows in stature, the manager grows and learns too. Everyone is on the same learning curve together.

Then, there are people who testify that the best manager for your band is someone who has already been through the wars. This approach takes the tack that your band will progress faster with someone who knows the pitfalls and has the contacts to oversee the move from next big thing to the next level. As an extension of this, this is another approach which says you’re best to get hooked up with a management company who already manage a couple of acts. Yes, you’ll be one of a stable of acts, but there are benefits to being part of that crowd (such as tour supports, label contacts etc).

Most of all, you need to know when the time is right to hire that rep. Too many times, a new band will hook up with a character because he or she promises them the sun, the moon and the stars. Chances are that (a) the dude couldn’t even draw the sun, the moon and the stars on a piece of paper and, more importantly, (b) the band don’t need a manager right at that moment.

The right answer when it comes to the management question? It depends on you and your band. Each approach has advantages (as outlined above) and drawbacks. The newbie may be eager and enthusiastic, but he or she may well make mistakes which will cost you dear in the long run. Are you certain they know what your band are about and what you want? Are you happy to see them represent you to media, agents, promoters, record labels and publishers? You might want to ask yourself why the experienced industry hand is no longer working with any of the bands he fought for. And if you’re not the biggest act on the management company’s roster, a time will come when another act’s tour or new album will be a higher priority for all involved.

Two things have sparked this bands tips’ post. The first is how “The Promise”, Thom Zimny’s documentary about the making of Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness On the Edge of Town” album, deals with the management story. Mike Appel was Springsteen’s manager (and producer) up to “Born To Run”, when Jon Landau took over both gigs. There was a lengthy court battle between employee and employer over this falling out (Appel being the employee and Springsteen the employer – many bands seem to forget that the act is the one who really calls the shots), which was eventually settled. Appel went away and, to the best of my knowledge, never found another Springsteen to manage. Springsteen and Landau’s partnership continues to this very day.

The second is this post from Josh Ritter. He’s in the middle of a “Making A Life In Music” series on his blog and this post, which sees him interviewing his manager Darius Zelkha, is the pick of the series to date. Any new bands looking for advice on how to choose their rep may well get some pearls of wisdom from this.

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