A post by Thursday Bram got me thinking about something I wrote years ago about the relationship between artist and manager.
“Musicians get to be the CEOs of their own small companies. And CEOs get to hire staffs.”
I want you to think about your music career as a business that needs to please both its customers (your audience) and its shareholders (your family). Yes, you’ll struggle with some decisions about bridging the gap between your creative passion and the need to earn a living. But you’ll also have the luxury of looking at your success team as a crew of hired guns with the specialized skills to help you grow your audience.
However, if you approach your music career as an attempt to just get picked up by a music management agency, you’re really just looking for a job playing music.
Here’s the problem with that way of thinking. Too many artists envision themselves as “working” for the manager.
That mindset can lead to toxic relationships, especially if you’re an artist who’s eager to take direction from a manager who promises fame and fortune. This month, we’re hearing those kinds of stories about Paramore.
One side of the story frames up Paramore as a “manufactured product” designed to salvage Hayley Williams solo career, with a forceful manager calling all the shots. Another side of the story paints Paramore as a creative collaboration that soured when the media focused the spotlight on the band’s lead singer.
What disappoints me about the reports I’ve heard so far?
I keep hearing artists frame up their involvement with labels and managers in the context of “taking orders.”
Instead, I often challenge musicians to position themselves as the CEOs of their own companies. Bringing in a manager as Chief Operating Officer accomplishes the same goal of allowing the artist to be the visionary. It affords you the luxury of developing a powerful partnership to grow a supportive, nourishing audience.
A strong manager’s going to help you make impactful decisions, but not at the expense of your ethics, your values, or your passion. An effective manager will help you understand the difference between a decision driven by your ego and a solid choice directed by the connection with your audience. A great manager will tell you “no” when you really need to hear it, but won’t force you into saying “yes” to something your gut can’t live with.
When you envision yourself as the CEO of your own company, you can make sharper decisions about the kind of manager you want to hire to run that company for you. If that manager doesn’t live up to your expectations, or takes you down a path that makes you feel like a fraud, you have the power to reconsider your decision and hire (or train) a new manager.