Trust In The Artist + Manager Relationship

KDonoho9 asks:

What is the best way to gain the trust of your client? It seems to me that always being straight with your client, sometimes telling them what they don't want to hear, would develop a trusting relationship, but as we've gone over in class some artists are very easily upset when it comes to information they don't want to hear. From your experience, are there any sure-fire ways to develop a strong trust between yourself and a client? If I am the manager I want my client to bring any problem they have to me, regardless of that problem's nature.

Hartmann responds:

Trust is not assigned, or awarded, it is purchased by action, earned through achievement and reinforced over time. Honesty and integrity are vital components of any business relationship and they are requisite ingredients between partners. Performers come to the music industry lost in the fog of showbiz, blinded by self-confidence and driven to succeed. They quickly learn that building a career in music is a team sport. Their first marriage is to a Personal Manager.

The person to whom one entrusts all of his hopes and dreams must demonstrate a myriad of qualities to a potential client. Business acumen is at the forefront of the manager's contribution to the career building process. A combination of social skills, power personality and accumulated knowledge of the historical trajectory prepares managers to conduct the business of music. A clear understanding of the systems and mechanics of the entertainment industry accelerates the growth and development of any commercial enterprise. Most musicians need a business partner.

Personal values define who we are to our friends, associates and fiduciaries. Our behavior and conversation create the perception of who we are as people. An artist wants his manager to be honest, charming, intelligent, creative, flexible and visionary. If a potential manager advocates honesty, it can be presumed that he values the truth; and that he will be honest in his dealings. If he suggests that you lie , cheat and steal, it should be presumed that he might do that to you.

It is the manager's sacred obligation to always tell his client/partner the facts as he perceives them. Protecting clients from the hard stuff is not doing them a favor. No human enterprise ever goes perfectly well and the best laid plans always go awry. Success accrues to those who can adapt to the changes. When a manager presents the newest problem with the same grace as the last glory, he is preparing the artist to deal with the adversities they will surely face in the future.

Errors and blunders provide opportunities for managers to prove their integrity and honesty to their clients. By claiming responsibility for his mistakes, rather than shifting blame to others, a manager can demonstrate his strength, security and character to his partners. Empathy and caring backed by a twenty-four-seven commitment to the artist's business and personal concerns reinforces the strength of the artist + manager bond. The job is of "personal" service and nothing is off limits. Meticulous care and constant attention are the cornerstones of their relationship.

The trusting is the hard part; everything else needed to build a business around a body of music, can be learned. When choosing business partners, trust carefully, and when you do, trust totally.

The Future of Music Video Question

Casares asks:

We were told that music videos, in today's industry, are pertinent to the construction of a fan base as they, along with concerts, attract listeners and sustain their interest. The speaker discussed the problem with music downloading and how it has effected CD sales, arguing that music videos are necessary for artists to gain exposure. However, with MTV/VH1 slowly declining, do you think music videos are as effective as she argues them to be?

Hartmann responds:

Throughout the silent film era live musicians accompanied the action on screen with spontaneous piano or organ performances. The first talking movie, "The Jazz Singer," was a musical. From the earliest days of motion pictures, music has provided a key creative element to the art form. In return movies have been a significant promotional vehicle for songs and recordings of every genre and style. The filming of individual songs is not a new idea.

MTV didn't invent the video, although it did become the home for it. From the moment of its August 1, 1981 launch, music television instantly became the promotional tool that could drive a hit record to the top of the charts. Record company promotion men seeded their "priority" records at rural and suburban radio. The ones that gained traction added stations and gravitated toward the major market super stations. A video component was added to the hit songs and the labels lobbied MTV to put the video into rotation. The exposure was enormous and virtually insured top five status.

The immediate success of MTV inspired a number of additional cable TV channels that were nourished by an endless stream of free content pouring out of the record companies. In the eighties, as the postmodern era was peaking, MTV was struck by the cyber-sword. As the Music Renaissance dawned the record companies tried to destroy digital distribution and in so doing precipitated their own demise. MTV was driven into the ratings game and a struggle to survive.

The life preserver they originated eventually created a major paradigm shift in television programming. The term "reality" entered the video lexicon and the medium became a window into the lives of extraordinary, and sometimes ordinary, people and events. MTV is no longer the primary source of music video. The advent of Youtube has introduced a new and powerful weapon into the promotional arsenal of music artists. Video is bigger than ever.

The music industry is in a state of explosion. Each genre of music is engaged in a competition for the attention of a niche audience. The ubiquitous presence of Hip Hop has declined as rap music evolved into its classic form. The vacuum created as the most popular music genre shrinks will be filled by a new contender. History dictates that a superstar will emerge to consolidate the global audience. Every existing genre holds the possibility of being the one to produce a star.

A primary ingredient for any successful artist competing in The Music Renaissance is video. Every new artist must create a video record of their daily activity; and every song should have a video attached to it. The artist's web site should contain the archive and it should be free to all visitors along with the streaming of the music itself. Great thought and care should go into the video concept and execution. Production value will not be as important as creativity and style.

Artists and their management teams must embrace the dual nature of story telling when designing their product. With low cost video and recording readily available, there is no reason not to add a visual aspect to the recorded music. The presentation of image and style is vital in attracting and retaining a fan base. We receive eighty percent of our data through our eyes and what is attractive to any given niche can be analyzed, designed and marketed by that picture that is worth a thousand words. Video is here to stay and it is more important than ever.

Anti-Industry Attitudes

DaveTDVD asks:

How do you deal with an artist who has talent but has an anti music industry attitude and feelings of mistrust against it?

Hartmann responds:

Here comes Collegiate Rock. The postmodern record business was built around artists who excelled in the local honky-tonks, bars, night clubs and concert halls that proliferate around the country. The best of the best prospered and moved to the big city. From Nashville, New York and L.A. they were assumed into the music industry systems that linked the activities of performing and recording. The singers and songwriters around whom the bands were constructed started young and rose from the streets. Rarely did they stop long enough in their vision quest to acquire an education. Now, thousands of colleges and universities offer courses in the business of music.

It stands to reason that the graduates of these programs are better prepared to address the issues of integrating art and commerce than their predecessors. In the past, artists worked hard for years and eventually figured out how to play the game of showbiz. With a modicum of talent, a lot of aggressive action and a little luck an artist might get "discovered" and have a viable career. The process often relied more on luck than talent; but that won't work in The Music Renaissance.

University educated musicians come to the music industry with artistic skills developed over many years. Millions of those little "Guitar Heroes" graduate to real instruments very early and they demonstrate highly advanced writing and performing talent by the time they reach college.

Through university business, marketing and economics programs artists acquire a completely different set of tools with which to engage the challenges of an industry in search of a new business model. These contenders for stardom are not lost in the fog of showbiz. They are not obligated to the systems and mechanics of the postmodern record business. Young artists don't need the established power structure to endorse their talent. They can exploit it themselves.

The paradigm has shifted. The record business has consolidated down to four multi-national corporate giants that control the manufacturing, distirbution, promotion and marketing of ninety percent of records sold through brick and mortar outlets. The glue that holds this system together is broadcast radio, another industry in transition. When every iPod and iPhone is a self programmable, custom radio station, terrestrial radio becomes a default delivery system.

The major labels really don't have much to offer a truly talented artist. If a new act has a certain business acumen and a knowledge of Internet systems and protocols they are better off without a record company. In fact a non-corporate image is uniquely attractive to the potential fan who is often searching for a tribal identity. The public has seen enough cable TV to know that the record companies are the traditional enemy of the artist. The fans prefer to deal directly with the act.

When I meet a young band, the first thing I ask is, "What are your short and long term goals?" When they tell me they want a record deal, I know they haven't got a clue. If they tell me they want to start their own record company and own their copyrights and masters, I know they get it. If they demonstrate a complete distrust of the record business, I think that maybe they have a chance to win in The Music Renaissance. A good business education is the best place to start.

A Literary Agent asks:

Will book publishing suffer the same fate as the record business?

Hartmann responds:

The handwriting is on the wall and there is no god powerful enough to stop digimodernization. Reading from paper is too expensive to survive as a great American pastime. Furthermore, it is economically and ecologically unsound.

The big publishers will gobble up the little ones in a vain attempt to grab a few more high profit sales. But, just like the fate the ones and zeros imposed on the record business they will die, crushed under their own weight. So what's new? This is what technology does to everything sooner or later. Somebody builds a better mouse trap and everybody wants one.

Well guess what, everybody has one and the more they play with their computers the faster the old paradigm shifts. And as scary as that may sound to you, it's the best thing that ever happened to authors of creative works. When the price dust settles reading on screen will get millions more people into the mix. More words are read online every day than are accessed from all other sources combined.

It is so Socratic that each and every dreamer can write a book. Why not? Eeverybody is the star of his own movie and all this reading is going to produce a different kind of author. For lack of a term, lets call it "reality writing." Unfettered by the editorial process, the new writers will shred the envelope. The will break all the rules, because they don't know them.

What these cyber-writers bring to the table is freedom. Freedom to create, freedom to publish and most importantly freedom to collect if they write something truly great. Yes, millions will publish a few copies for their friends and family, but think about the potential if you produce something everybody loves. After all it is the entertainment business and only the very best stuff makes the best seller lists.

It is impossible to say what the public will embrace in the long term. History shows that everything just keeps changing. The good news is that if a great book is written and published by the author it will find an audience eager to play and willing to pay. What they won't buy is marginal work.

When the good stuff hits the Internet millions will acquire it for free. A fraction will pay out of appreciation and respect. That minority will be infinitely greater in size than the entire extant book market. The author could sell millions of digital copies in a day. There will be no commissions and no publishers share. The price will be less than five dollars and the author will never have to work again. Of course, he will and he will keep the profit.

Some people will always read from paper books, but they probably ride horses and have eight-track players as well. It's time that the corporate money machines were eliminated from the process and their well demonstrated greed insures their demise. No assasination is required, they shot themselves in the foot and now they are frantically watching themselves bleed out.

Let authors stand on their talents and when they deliver let them keep the money. The world of publishers is doomed, the world of authors is born anew and it is the most exciting time in reading. Some brilliant agents will reinvent the monetization of the business model and all will be well in the land. The winners are the readers and writers. The losers are the powers that used to be and within a decade all that will remain is the ashes of the status quo doused by zeros and ones.

John Hartmann © 2008 – 2024