Legendary music business attorney John McLean is known to say "There are managers and there are damagers." Here's are my thoughts on it. I hope this helps out aspiring managers and artists.
I just spent a delightful afternoon with one of my mentees talking about work, love, bitch shit, ego, humility, self-awareness, and networking, among other topics. I am almost twice her age and realize that in the decades that I have lived longer than her, I have gathered so many lessons that are meant to be shared. When I was her age I met Sonya Chang while I worked at Paul Simon. She taught me many of my greatest life lessons and am eternally grateful to her.
For those of us who have lived a life full of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual curiosity and development, who understand that every experience--big, small, triumphant, crushing, etc.-is a gift because we are open to learning the lesson presented therein, we owe it to the next generation to share this wisdom.
To horde knowledge and experience is selfish beyond compare. In short, if you have something to teach and you don't, you're a fucking asshole.
It drives me crazy within organizations when everything has to be done by committee. This has a couple deleterious effects: firstly, precious time and effort are wasted and secondly, the authority of the leader is undermined. I've found this to be particularly prevalent in large companies where everyone is shook that they're going to lose their job that they're afraid to make a call.
I understand wanting there to be some sense of democracy, but there are times when a leader needs to grab their nuts and make a decision. As a leader, you have to be okay with failing, and everyone knowing it was your call. I respect that so much more than cowards who have to ask everyone's opinion and then hide behind consensus.
This doesn't just go for execs, it's also the case for creatives. I assure you that D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq don't play their new shit for everyone to get their opinions. Of course they are a lucky few who get to hear the works in progress, but these guys don't sway with every opinion that's proferred. They are so profoundly grounded in who they are as artists, they don't need the external validation.
So if you want to be a leader, understand that it comes not only with the power to make things move, but also with the responsibility to make sometimes unpopular decisions. It's about confidence, both to make the right decision and to stay standing if it's not.
In my 30 years in the industry, I've seen some great managers and a lot of shitty ones. For those of you thinking of getting into artist management, it is imperative that you understand that it is a service industry: no different from Midas Muffler, the drycleaner, the dog walker. You provide a service and get paid for it. You should not be a manager if you:
- can't subjugate your needs and desires to those of your client--your job is to anticipate their needs, not pay attention to your own before theirs
- are primarily in it for the leftover pussy, free weed, booze, and kicks; that shit is the gravy, not the meat
- are seeking the spotlight yourself; if you want to be on the red carpet, go be an artist yourself, don't stand in your artist's light. This desire is exacerbated by the outsized narcissism that social media has created.
There are more disqualifying characteristics that I'll write about at a future date, but these are fundamental in terms of motivation and MO. I'm not saying you can't enjoy the perks, rather that you have to see them as such. They cannot be your primary motivation.
I had the honor of being on a panel for Berklee's 10th Annual Hip Hop Symposium. The topic was the State of Black Music. I spoke about management. Legendary music business attorney John McLean was said "There are managers and there are damagers." So true. I have encountered so many managers--all men--who don't put in the work. They want the pussy, the weed, the spot on stage, the shots on the red carpet. It's all gotten worse in this age of egregious social media narcissism. If you're focused on the perks, then you're not a manager, you're a fucking damager because no one is doing your job. You only function is to see that the artist's needs are getting me, not yours.