Should I Hire a Retainer-Based Manager? Part 1

Should I Hire a Retainer-Based Manager? Part 1

We have a bunch of really great posts lined up. Our private Facebook group had a bunch of really great conversations last month so I’m happy to share some of that content. Just so you know, our private Outerloop Coaching Facebook group is for those who have bought one of our programs so if you have done so and haven’t joined the group yet – please let us know!

Upcoming emails are on answering questions on releasing singles when you don’t yet have the album or EP recorded, plus a great example of a well put-together EPK and what all the elements are. This is some really great advice I can’t wait to share.

We were recently asked: “How do you feel about retainer-based artist management?”

First, let’s talk about WHY some managers are now seeking retainers of their developing artists:

I preface this by saying this is MY opinion and my opinion alone. I believe Mike and I disagree on this so it’s probably worth trusting the opinion of the guy DOING the work (him) over the guy just watching him do it (me).

That being said, the music business has changed. It is rarer and rarer for those who “luck” into success and more and more common for those who bust their ass to reach audiences worldwide in greater numbers than ever before – some can monetize that for financial independence and others can’t.

Traditionally, managers have made their money as a percentage of the money their artist(s) make(s). When modest success for a band meant much greater financial rewards (and the industry was built to drive those financial rewards rather than, as it stands now, much of that financial reward comes from the direct labor of the artist (ie performances and live merch sales instead of brick-and-mortar CD sales). The “big pay-off”, in financial terms, is increasingly rare.

The amount of effort is flipped for artists, no different than before. The developing artist takes a hell of a lot of work, with little financial compensation. And then the amount of labor on the part of the manager gradually decreases as the success for the artist increases. Mind you, great decisions are now more valuable (and more costly) than ever before, but artists sometimes abandon great management because the manager’s role has changed and either the artist no longer wants to pay a manager’s commission now that they’re making more money or they want a “big-time” manager who works with other “big-time” artists because, let’s be fair, star-f%$king isn’t much of a spectator sport. I witnessed versions of this multiple times when working in management myself in the early oughts.

So, managers for developing artists work their ass off for very little money and are just as likely as not to never see the rewards of that work once the artist is no longer developing. What’s to be done? How is a manager supposed to work with developing artists while still retaining a career in artist management?

Well, some managers are working on a flat fee basis. Some are demanding a retainer. Some of these managers are both successful for themselves as well as their artists when doing so.

Some are not…

(to be continued next time!)

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