Last weekend I was hanging out at Luckenbach enjoying the Susan Gibson Band Extravaganza and chatting with the Head Honcho (Honcha?) there, my friend Abbey. She runs one of the most esteemed venues in the world and does an amazing job. We were talking about general stuff like agents and managers, and Abbey said something that stuck out to me…”You can’t manage people.” It’s true. You can manage a business, you can manage a tour, you can manage the merchandise, but you can’t manage a person.
The stereotypical thing to do when you’re climbing the ladder in the music biz is to get a booking agent and a manager. I’ve already waxed poetic about when you need a booking agent and when you don’t, but a manager is an even stickier thing. When is it right to get a manager, and what exactly will they do for you? It’s a nebulous thing. Every manager out there has a different job description based on the needs of the Artist, and they truly are managing everything but the person, because as Abbey already pointed out…good luck trying.
Not to brag, but I think that’s why ForTheRecords aka Team Susan Gibson aka Susan and I have a good thing going is that there is no manager other than us managing everything together…it’s basically self management by a close-knit team. In this case, a team of two. The business side of things gets done – sometimes by one of us and sometimes by both of us. There is freedom for each of us to self-direct individually and then the power of two brains working on an idea/issue/thought. Sometimes we call in other brains, like our friend and graphic designer extraordinaire Emily Shirley who designed the new SG merchandise…and all three of us worked on the design until it was good to go.
I think this business style is a bit groundbreaking for independent artists right now because it definitely involves the Artist in every aspect of the business but it is not so independent that the Artist is shouldering their career alone. We’ve encountered other folks in the scene around here who either
1) do it all alone or
2) hire out contracted people to do booking or management or whatnot
What you get in scenario 1 is a very overworked, stressed out Artist because this business is HARD and without a buddy, you feel very alone very quickly.
What you get in scenario 2 (which is very viable though how it’s been done for decades) is that generally the manager works under a company and with several other artists and the investment is lessened because the manager is spreading his or her devotion among several people and is also ultimately invested in the management’s financial success and maybe not so much the Artist’s artistic/spiritual/emotional well being. The Artist feels a disconnect and it sometimes becomes a “me vs. them” scenario.
The way we seem to be headed in ForTheRecords is a simple business partnership, wherein no one directs the other though there is a common goal and set of mantras to live by. Some of the things we use to make decisions include:
– Opportunities must be win/win for maximum benefit
– If it’s not a “hell yes!” it’s a “hell no.” (Thank you, Derek Sivers)
– How does this opportunity help with our 5 and 10 Year Goals?
Asking these questions and puzzling out scenarios as a team makes things happen much faster and easier. The goals for each of us are the same because we work under the same entity. Mutual effort, mutual reward. The result is a purposeful, intentional version of self-management that so far…works really well.
Independent + Team = Awesome.