Promote That Man!

I received an intriguing email in response to yesterday’s post about artist promotion; in particular, the reader was confused about the nature of the relationship between artist and manager as it applies to marketing.

Who is responsible for creating the “official” online resource for a soloist, the manager or the artist? I’ve seen pages at artist management sites that have content to download like bios and pictures but I have also come across websites run by that same artist. In some cases, they provide exactly the same information but for some artists, the info is different. Shouldn’t the manager be responsible for all of this to make sure everything is consistent?

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-051aThat’s an excellent question.

The relationship between an artist and his/her manager can vary from one pairing to the next but the most direct answer is an artist manager hustles gigs. Granted, since this is one unique segment of the field that is an entirely commercial enterprise, the correct answer in the strictest sense is “make money for the firm/manager” but I digress.

Artists typically pay managers some form of nonrefundable retainer and a percentage of their earnings per engagement. Beyond that, it isn’t common for managers to offer much beyond that relationship; as a result, managers typically maintain a very small online reference portal for each client; in many cases, it is a single web page within the firm’s site.

Generally speaking, the only instances where managers become more involved is when clients cross a popularity threshold. When that occurs, they may suggest the artist hire a specific publicist/PR firm (the quid pro quo briar patch there is a fascinating topic for another time); in turn, the manager will function as more of a project manager and “decider” on how the promotional components look and feel.

Things get really interesting when this three way relationship begins to evolve into a power struggle. I can say, with a great deal of confidence, one of the more entertaining situations to watch unfold is when a powerful publicist begins to encroach on a manager’s territory or when a manager begins overruling a publicist’s promotional strategy. The ensuing turf war is the stuff summer blockbuster movies are made of.

As a related aside, stop by an artist’s “contact” page and take a look at what sort of info is listed. Is it a single contact form or are there mutually exclusive listings for publicity and representation? If so, does one receive prominent treatment over the other?

Nonetheless, that’s not how the majority of manager/artist relationships function. Instead, most artists never cross that popularity threshold and are responsible for much of their own publicity; i.e. websites, ancillary photography, bio copywriting, etc. In the end, this is why you’ll encounter multiple points of contact, all of which serve as official online resources.

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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