Things That Make You Go Buh?!? Conservatories Getting Into The Artist Management Racket

At first, I thought it might be a joke but sure enough, Norman Lebrecht’s post from 7/20/21 about Curtis Institute going into the artist management business is entirely legit.

I still have nothing but unanswered questions about the San Francisco Conservatory acquiring Opus 3 Artists as some sort of value add for students and now Curtis is apparently getting into the game.

On the surface, these decisions scream “bad idea.” But since the conservatories have been tight-lipped about these programs, it may require reaching out for a chat to learn more.

One of the most immediate concerns is good old-fashioned exploitation. It’s not difficult to imagine that someone took a hard look at the revenue model behind college sports and thought “how can we get in on that sweet money deal using free talent?”

Beyond that are no shortage of lesser, but still important, concerns. If nothing else, it’s tough to miss how all of this is moving academia one step closer to parody becoming reality.

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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