Are Australian artist managers at crisis point?
Australia’s community of artist managers is at “crisis point,” with so many of its professionals battling fatigue, zero financial security and their work is a mystery to so many friends and family.
That’s the warning from Maggie Collins, the media and music industry veteran whose management firm Morning Belle guides the careers of Donny Benét, DZ Deathrays and others.
The plight of artist managers, who are overworked, underpaid and unseen, has been documented in cold, hard reports. Collins’ social post, however, puts a human voice to the issue.
In it, Collins points out, “We are not super humans. We are fucking exhausted. An alarming amount are suffering serious mental health problems due to burn-out because we have to do so much more than a manager of decades ago.”
And when that work is done in a developmental stage, “we take 20% of almost nothing, it takes about three years to maybe pay-off, and then we face the threat of major competitors taking our artists and reaping all the rewards.”
A study published last year by the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN) found many a huge disparity between the haves and the have-very-littles, with most musicians under its umbrella earn less than $12,000 each year. A fifth of that sum is, well, peanuts.
After surveying the landscape at an Association of Artist Managers (AAM) Australia meeting, and a gathering of The Seed Fund, Collins let rip on how her management colleagues are being let down by the industry.
Retention of working artist managers is “shithouse in Australia” and it’s “even worse for women.”
“Managers are nurturers,” continues Collins, “we are carers, we are educators, we are motivators, we make things work, we’re the bad guy when we need to be (despite how hard it can be), we cop the backlash so our artists don’t have to, and we do it all with volatile income streams, in silos, walking on eggshells hoping we’re making the write strategic decisions for our artists who we love.”
The bad rap from Hollywood films doesn’t help, where biopics on N.W.A., Queen and others characterise managers as somewhere between sleazebags and conmen simply doesn’t help.
“I can’t tell you how sick of this I am and how desperate I am for things to change. We are the lifeblood of the industry (behind the artists),” continues Collins.
There’s strength in numbers. Collins calls on fellow artist managers to join the AAM, which represents more than 300 active managers and is helmed by executive directory Catherine Haridy.
Otherwise, if things continue without change, “contemporary music as a whole is gonna have one big ass problem on its hands. A healthy manager can foster healthy artists,” writes Collins, “and isn’t that what we’re trying to achieve?”
Collins’ comments are echoed in an op-ed by Luke Girgis, CEO of The Brag Media, owner of TIO, who called on artist managers to “start getting paid what they deserve,” for the betterment of the entire industry. The artist manager is “arguably the most influential and contributing factor to an artist’s career,” Girigis noted.
Until things do get better, just keep going. Speaking to TIO on Monday morning, Collins explained, “My mantra is ‘endurance’. I use it when I’m running up a hill, both physically and metaphorically.”
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.