Three Simple Things Artist Managers Can Do To Help Their Clients (but usually don’t)

Artist managers want to help their clients. Really. They do. Yet there never seems to be an end to artist websites that fail to deliver the most basic elements that arts marketing professionals need to adequately publicize their clients. Sure, a number of artist manages farm that work out to a publicist but in the end, the manager is still the point where that buck stops.

It is fascinating to hear complaints from both sides of the fence; artist managers grumble that arts marketers don’t do enough to promote their clients and arts marketers complain that artist manager content roadblocks make it next to impossible to do a good job. Fortunately, this ins’t a chicken or egg conundrum and the first place to look is in the direction of artist managers. To that end, here are three simple things artist managers can do to not only help their clients maximize exposure but become an arts marketer’s BFF.

1) Use doc/docx format

Problem: The arts marketer is creating copy for the organization’s website, a press release, copy for the program book, and one or more email blurbs. This task requires source material they can copy/paste from into a website content management system, desktop publishing software (such as InDesign), and an email marketing client (like MailChimp). With everything else on his/her plate, the arts marketer has about 20 minutes to spend on the entire project. But when the source file is pdf, an 800 word bio that should take a minute to copy/paste into each of those systems turns into a 15 minute grind of manually correcting line and paragraph breaks, lost spaces, and a host of other formatting nonsense. That leaves five minutes for adding photos, proofing, etc. so our arts marketer is left with a Catch-22 of add as much content as possible but have it look sloppy or cut it down to a fraction of what it could be in order to shove it across the barely acceptable threshold. Guess which option is most attractive.
Solution: This one is easy; provide all promotional content in doc/docx, not pdf. Moreover, don’t load up a user friendly format with a bunch of specialty formatting a designer said was all the rage. Keep it simple; use a single font family from the websafe crowd (such as Arial or Times Roman), no embedded images, and use headers and special formatting (like blockquotes) sparingly.
Tip: If you want arts marketers to love you, create special versions of promotional material for different purposes; such as one with all of the nice looking bells and whistles in pdf and doc/docx but another with the basic formatting that makes copy/paste dreamy. Likewise, make shorter versions available in addition to full length versions to make certain your message remains true.

2) Provide Two Quality Standards For Images

Problem: An arts marketer needs to include an artist’s headshot in an email blast but the only copy sent along by the artist manager is a print quality image at 300dpi, 3200px wide, and 5MB in filesize. Did I mention that the arts marketer doesn’t have the resources and/or skill sets to properly edit the photo to the email client’s required websafe standards? Adobe Creative Suite isn’t free and most groups don’t have a dedicated graphic design pro on hand to resize the image and as a result, your artist’s image gets left out of the eblast or, worse, is inserted via an awkward hack job of an edit (well, getting the croptacular version on is technically publicity, right?).

Solution: All images need to be available in two standards: websafe and print quality. Websafe images will be 72dpi, anywhere from 768 pixels to 1280 pixels wide, no more than 100kb filesize, and jpg or png format (optimized). Print quality is a high resolution format suitable for (wait for it) print publicity; these will be 300dpi, at least 1200 pixels wide, 2MB in filesize on up, and one of several high quality file formats (tif, eps, etc.).

Tip: Be a mensch and provide three aspect ratios (the relationship between width and height); portrait, landscape, and square. Arts marketers will not only be more inclined to use your artist’s photos (quantity and quality) but you won’t have to worry about finding any awkward looking cropping or images you wish they didn’t use because they found the ratio they need via Google images.

3) Don’t Make Them Beg For It

Problem: Remember the scenario form #1 where the arts marketer only has 20 minutes? Good, because that’s now 15 because some time burglar from finance just sucked up some of your client’s marketing prep time to show their colleague a funny cat video (like this one). But when they go to your client’s website, it turns out that none of the promotional content is available for download. As a result, the arts marketer says “f*ck it” and opts for only listing your client’s name and an unlinked URL to the website. They spend the extra 10 minutes watching more cat related video content.

Solution: This is another simple one, don’t make them come to you requesting info, they don’t have time for that; instead; make sure your client has the content online and make it easy to find on the website.

Tip: Don’t put content online only to hide it behind an access wall. That’s just mean.

In the end, if you follow these tips then there’s no good reason for any arts marketer to complain and they will love working with you.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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9 thoughts on “Three Simple Things Artist Managers Can Do To Help Their Clients (but usually don’t)”

  1. I don’t send out bios often enough :-), but I do similarly have to send program notes. At the risk of sounding like a nerdy caveman, I like to keep this kind of text in plain text files. Yep. Good ol’ .txt files. I use Markdown for formatting, which lets me send text as an HTML file, which is non-proprietary and allows the other person’s computer to use whatever typefaces are on their machine. Since my stuff is stored on Google Drive and Dropbox, I can just send links to them as well. That way, if I find an error, I can correct it once and not worry about the version-tracking Tower of Babel mess.

    • Txt files rock. I love people who send along content in that format, even better is when they include whatever HTML tags they want for formatting. Oddly enough, I still don’t encounter a lot of arts marketers who use Google drive, dropbox, or even OS based solutions like OneDrive or iCloud. Part of the issue is the number of providers available and if that market ever evens out and/or the providers play nice with one another, I’m hoping that will change.

  2. As a program book editor, I say: Yes, Yes, Yes! (And yes!) I would also add these:
    1. Date online biographies (as in the date prepared, not just the season it’s for). Don’t make us read it three times to try to glean when the bio was last worked on and how current it might be.

    2. Don’t conclude bios with stern instructions about how the biography “must not be edited” or that all edits must be approved. First, it’s unrealistic, and we don’t have time for that. And we almost certainly have a house style to adhere to that will require edits. Second, good editors know their readers, their regional locality and their stuff. Chances are they will *improve* that bio a hundredfold. As long as I am finding gross errors of fact (e.g. orchestras that don’t exist because the artist misremembered and the manager didn’t check…), sloppiness (misspelled opera titles, missing accents…) and shocking English expression, I’m not going to feel much inclined to seek the “approval” of the person who prepared it. (Although when I do find a serious error as in the aforementioned non-existent orchestra, I do usually let the manager or artist know.)

    3. Finally, wearing a combined artistic administrator/editor hat: instead of preparing one hybrid biography that pleases nobody, managers should take the time to write two completely different “bios”. The first bio should be in well-written prose, interesting and readable without being too eccentric. And it should include the sorts of things that concertgoers actually want to know, like where the artist comes from, how their career got going, what makes them tick musically, etc. (amazing how often a bio says nothing about an artist’s background or musical story). It should *not* be a series of tedious lists. The second bio should be for the artistic administrators who are seeking artists for their programming. Certainly it can begin with a short par or two about the artist, but then we do want those lists. Only… present them as lists instead of trying to dress them up as prose. And make them comprehensive. Give us the orchestras they’ve worked with, the conductors, the opera houses and the productions they’ve appeared in, list their roles or concerto/recital/chamber repertoire. List, list, list; don’t be cagey about dates, and make it easy for us to skim and assess that info. But don’t try to make the one bio serve both functions.

    • Good points Yvonne and I agree about having a narrative and traditional version of a bio. I suggest that to clients on a regular basis, the trick is about half of those I work with tend to be very uncomfortable with the narrative version and end up ditching it. Likewise, some artist managers I’ve encountered are very resistant to the idea; instead, they embrace the traditional “been here,” “done that,” “know these people” approach.

  3. THANK YOU! I cannot tell you how many times we’ve received a “hi-res” image for use that’s 15kb .gif from the manager. Or the reverse a 25MB tiff for the program book. (Un)fortunately, I know the Creative Suite, so they don’t suffer the slings and arrows of a PicMonkey redo, but I’ve cloned out some pretty wild stuff to avoid the nasty-grams from our supporters. Leather low-cut bustier for all your client photos (actually happened). Well, not anymore. Or a Word document logo!?! All those “quick fixes” take HUGE amounts of time that we don’t have.

    Bad translations of bios – another killer, yet quite amusing.

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