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News September 6, 2019

Five takeaways from BIGSOUND’s Splitting The Pie panel on artist management

Former Assistant Editor
Five takeaways from BIGSOUND’s Splitting The Pie panel on artist management
Terry McBride addresses the panel

One of BIGSOUND’s many forums this week took-on the issue of artist manager payments at BIGSOUND 2019, with Cath Haridy of Cath Haridy Management & AAM acting as moderator.

She was joined by Media Arts Lawyers’ David Vodicka, owner of face-less Amit Nerurkar and Selet Music CEO Stephen Wade, while other experts including Nettwerk’s Terry McBride said their piece from the audience.

Here were TMN’s Top 5 takeaways from the panel:

Artists Needs To Be Educated

A recurring point was the issue of artists not fully understanding the process of being an artist manager and therefore finding it difficult to understand their worth.

The panel discussed the fact that further education is required, with Nerurkar saying it was one of his biggest challenges.

When artists don’t want a record deal, it means “you do end up doing everything yourself,” he says.

“The biggest problem we face is education about a manager’s role. They have to understand what you do.

“For them, it’s like ‘I give you the song, now why isn’t it where it should be?’ There’s a hundred things you have to do to get it there.”

Management Deals Are Outdated

In Australia, artist managers are relying on the same terms of management deals that they have been for many years.

These terms often include a sunset clause of 3-5 years. One of the reasons this is the case is that most artists are so invested in the artist they don’t focus on their own business needs, especially when they first take an artist on.

“In Australia, because it’s a small market, people tend to do things a little bit looser [when it comes to deals],” explains Vodicka.

“There’s constant tension between working out new terms [for a management deal] and relying on the same old terms. There’s not a thought to the long term.

“I tend to find managers make emotional decisions… especially when they are a friend of the artist. They give more up [for the artist].”

Quit Questioning Your Worth

Nettwerk’s Terry McBride agreed that artist managers need to start getting a better deal in Australia, especially when it comes to intellectual property rights over the music their artists create.

“Managers have a moral crisis in trying to get commission out of an artist. Quit questioning your worth.

He pointed out that mixers and producers have intellectual property rights over the music for perpetuity, so why don’t artist managers who are “a far bigger part of the overall creative process” than mixers and producers.

“Quit questioning your worth [to the artist],” he says.

“Intellectual property pays you when you’re sleeping. Forever!”

A Problem Entrenched In Music Culture

Haridy spoke on behalf of the Association of Artist Managers and said that it’s key that artist managers work together in this way rather than compete for artists which can drive down their worth.

“As a cohort of artist managers, we need to stand together,” she says.

Part of the issue comes from the fact that most people don’t actively decide to become managers, and “most young people just fall into artists management… somewhere along the line you have to think about yourself.

“At some point, there’s a flip in the way you see yourself.

It all stems from “a cultural problem [in Australian music] that needs to change” in terms of the way artists managers are valued.

Managers Are Not Labels

McBride rammed home a point about managers being asked to do everything a label does and do more and more label stuff because artists would rather they just do it all, but “managers are not labels”.

In the end, he says that if our culture changes it will be beneficial for the whole industry, including artists.

“If a management company is profitable and sustainable, the managers make better decisions on behalf of the artists.

The problem at the moment is that managers are chasing money not a strategy, because they are struggling to get paid.

“You need to build an infrastructure within this country where managers are valued, because that will help everybody!”


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