“Doing It Yourself“!
For many independent artists, the D.I.Y option is chosen either by design (because they are perfectly happy and capable of doing things without a manager or label) or by default (because they are unable to attract the attention of a manager or label). Either way, artists have lots of help getting things under way.
In this D.I.Y era, dozens of fan relationship management resources like Reverbnation and FanBridge, among others, are marketed to artists as tools that enable them to engage with fans in a more direct and meaningful way. Other sites enable artists to pitch directly to venues and book their own tours. Resources like Sellaband, Pledge Music, Kickstarter and others enable artists to raise money for recordings, videos, tours, and more. Music libraries and licensing agents (like those found at Music Library Report) offer assistance with music placements in Film & TV productions. Digital distributors like Orchard, CD Baby, Tunecore, IODA and others offer musicians a means to distribute their music directly to fans via iTunes, etc. Social media networks (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc) make it possible for artists to handle publicity duties themselves.
So, with all these resources available to artists, what exactly is the artist manager’s role in today’s D.I.Y era? With fewer artists interested in record deals today, a managers’ role has evolved away from choosing which labels/agents/publishers/attorneys to work with, towards finding ways to best help artists increase their fan base and generate more income.
The manager’s role in the D.I.Y age is less that of an advocate and cheerleader, and more that of an analyst and adviser. The division of labor in the artist/manager relationship is for artists to concentrate on writing and recording songs, rehearsing and performing live shows, and growing and engaging their fan base; while managers analyze data and make strategic recommendations based on the information gathered.
Using resources (often in combination) such as Big Champagne, Next Big Sound, Band Camp and others, artist managers analyze data to help figure out things like:
• which of the artists’ products sell the most (downloads, physical products, custom items, tickets, subscriptions, etc), and which sell the least and perhaps should be discontinued
• what new products can be added and which new revenue streams can be exploited
• which pay models work the best (fixed price, pay-what-you-want, donations, bundles, etc)
• which campaigns are the most effective (virtual street teams, newsletters, videos, chats, vlogs, blogs, etc) and which ones generate the most feedback and results
• which calls-to-action are the most effective (e.g., sign up to the mailing list for a free download, pre-order a limited edition, autographed CD, etc)
• what trends or patterns are developing, and how to best take advantage of them
• which platforms/widgets are most useful and relevant for a particular artist (review demos and sign up for trials to find the best fit)
• which songs, videos, images, t-shirt designs, etc, resonate with fans the most
• who the artists’ “super fans” are, and how to leverage that relationship to generate more sales
• which questions to include in polls to figure out what the artists’ fans want
• which ways do fans most wish to engage and interact with the artist
• what actionable information can be extracted from comments and feedback from fans and listeners
• where are fans clustered and what are the best ways to route a tour
• what does the data reveal that will result in an increase in sales and income
• what are the true costs of the artist’s operations (i.e., what is being earned vs. what is being spent)
• And much more.
While artists can perform many of these tasks themselves (and indeed many do), doing all this alone along with writing, rehearsing, recording, performing music, touring, and interacting with fans will leave them very little time to do much else, and will often cause them to burn out and/or get discouraged when things (as they very often do) don’t go as planned. The managers’ role is to do much of the “dry” analytical work that helps to chart a course for the artist to take, while leaving the artist to create and perform music and engage with the fans.
As an artist manager, however, it is important to keep in mind that there is more to the “business” side of music than what these resources alone offer, and while all these resources, widgets and apps help to reveal a strategy; they are not in and of themselves THE strategy. It is up to the manager to have a deep understanding of how things work in the music business, and along with access to the best available resources, to formulate the appropriate strategy for the artist to follow.
A manager’s role today must be to contribute more to the artist’s career and financial bottom line than the artist can do alone or with the help of fans, friends, and family members. Without such a contribution, the managers’ role will fade into insignificance while artists do it all themselves (even if they don’t necessarily do it all alone).