As I continue to prepare my full return to the industry with my forthcoming Hip-Hoppreneur advisory service Ive been having some interesting conversations and negotiations with artists, producers, managers, entertainment lawyers, publicists, and executives.
The more I build and do business with these individuals, the clearer it becomes that there may be no relationship being exposed as increasingly irrelevant and inefficient then that which currently exists between the personal manager and artist.
A good way to look at it is from the extreme caricatures of each position the dumb artist and the greedy manager. Starting from there, I give advice to both sides, if they hope to thrive in the new era we have entered.
Why Artists Are Dumb. As regular readers of AllHipHop.com already know, the second lesson I was taught about management is that , Artises is dumb. That is exactlyhttp://allhiphop.malt.maven.io/stories/editorial/archive/2009/12/08/22049697.aspx) Now, personally I really dont think artists are genetically inferior persons or mentally slower by nature. Most of them are actually brilliant and highly intelligent. However they become dumb in two ways: 1) an unwillingness to educate themselves on the business side of the industry and 2) the lowering of their overall IQ by the lack of emotional intelligence, aka the inability to think rationally about their creativity. On the first problem it is only a manner of reading. If the artist isnt illiterate there is no excuse. All they have to do is visit the ASCAP website and read the section Music and Money (http://www.ascap.com/musicbiz/#mm) and discuss it with a local accountant or lawyer. Or simply call upon Wendy Day (http://www.wendyday.com/), the greatest artist advocate-educator in the history of rap. She freely publishes state-of-the art and constantly relevant information that can make the most ignorant artist capable of breaking down the most successful business managers and entertainment lawyers. On the second matter, the problem is more severe. It revolves around psychic income and the fact that sometimes we enjoy appreciation, applause, praise, and non-monetary forms of reward more than money. The preference for psychic income over money always causes an artist to place creative thinking over critical thinking, which makes accepting criticism and new ideas difficult. Artists with low emotional intelligence are always close-minded. how it was stated to me by a mogul who took me under his wing early on. You can learn more about how that knowledge was shared with me by reading my 360 Deals and Dumb Artists. (
Why Managers Are Greedy. Managers are greedy for two reasons: 1) the music industry accounting system and 2) because artists are dumb. For a few months Ive been getting deep into the history of music industry economics which really do resemble sharecropping arrangements. And there is a straight line between 19th century slavery and the establishment of the accounting system that record labels and publishing houses adapted. More on that in a future piece. But a simple fact must be accepted the financial practices and payment system of the music business was developed by the non-artist and the payment splits naturally reflect that. Managers who bring expertise, business etiquette and a network were always closer to the accountants and lawyers who sealed the deal. On the second point because the tedious details of business administration can kill their creative energy, many artists delegate too much of it to others, wanting to get away from anything that takes away from or kills their artistic, high. An emotionally immature and financially illiterate artist is no match for the 4 Horsemen of the industrys traditional team infrastructure: The Road Manager, The Personal Manager, The Entertainment Lawyer and The Business Manager. The dumb artist gets betrayed and stomped out worse than Dusty Rhodes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2Bv3ZjgvpE&feature=related).
Talent Without Patience, Vision and Strategy Equals Short-Lived Success. This is for artists. As hard as it may be for you to accept talent is not enough to make you a commercial success. That is not just because certain power centers radio stations, channels, and entertainment outlets are controlled by certain forces or because music business decision-makers are not always good at identifying and grooming talent. It is also because branding and marketing skill are as important or more than how well you rhyme. An artist that continues to think they should be on simply because they are hot is delusional and liable to go insane with frustration. Every artist needs people around them who can guide them according to a vision and business strategy. But perhaps more importantly there is a level of patience that is needed that yes, again, I must say the emotionally immature artist tends to not have. It takes time to get meetings, for people to be persuaded, for promotions to take root.
Do You Value Connections More Than Guidance? One of the reasons the traditional personal manager-talent relationship is increasingly irrelevant and inefficient, even unnecessarily expensive for an artist, is because what artists usually retain a manager for, is something they can do on their own if they understood how to network. The vast majority of unsigned or unwilling artists (I call them unwilling because they are unwilling to out themselves out independently with marketing savvy) I know have a manager because they simply want to get in front of someone else whom they feel has the power to put them on. This is such a mistake. Giving 20% of your income (even 50% when the old model production deal comes into play) to someone simply to introduce you to someone else that you can probably meet on your own is, well, dumb.
Artists need to follow the example of Wall Street and movie finance where finders fees and producers credits and points are given in exchange to someone who makes introductions and arranges a deal. What artists really need today is guidance and confidence in their own ability to build a team that can execute a strategic gameplan. Too many artists are just mentally lazy and are too insecure making decisions according to the latest fad or trend - and sell ownership of their career and future revenue to the latest person who is connected to the flavor of the month producer, label, artist, or clique. But what happens when the hot new connect loses his job or when she no longer can get her phone calls returned? Youve married someone looking from outside of the house, looking into it, just like you. An artist needs someone to teach them how to keep their image-brand-reputation in alignment and keep track of business models and contracts. With the mp3, HD Internet, Facebook, Twitter, websites, email, social events and conferences no artist needs to give excessive ownership of their career to someone who knows people. After the connection is made, what else do you have left to offer the rest of your team or new people you need to bring into your circle to advance you in new ways?
Can They Go Places You Cant? Having said that, the first lesson I was taught by my business mentor when I got into personal management was that your artist clients want to know that you can go places they cant. This principle is sound, yet I see artist after artist surround themselves with their boys and crew an entourage of unqualified persons who may be personally loyal to them (well see how long that lasts) and who might be able to beat somebody up, but who are business and professional liabilities. They drive more opportunities away from you then they bring, with their bad advice, lack of professional etiquette, and sometimes envyious and hidden resistance to the artists growth (after all, if you grow you may leave me behind). Im not a mind-reader but I am pretty good at telling when an artist is being influenced by sycophants (ass-kissers) and friends who have attached themselves to them in the hopes that they too will be put on. What makes me attractive or at least interesting to artists and clients is that when I left the music business I went places that most artist cant or dont in the world of politics, economics, and international affairs. That means Im different and can possibly add something to their career that bring something to their creativity and professional development. As much as people front, unalike attracts and like repels in certain ways. Agreement is the basis of love and people dont marry on the basis of hate and disagreement, but differences are complimentary and we all need parts to make up a whole. No artist needs a manager who cant think out of the box, cant go places they cant or who thinks their rolodex matters more than a vision, strategy, and wisdom executed and applied in pursuit of the best interests of their clients.
Be Selective. This is for the managers. Simply because a person is talented and you have connections and can offer guidance doesnt mean they would make a good client for you, or that you are the best person for them. In taking on clients to advise (not manage!) I am being extremely careful to not get involved with great talents who are going to be high-maintenance, needy, and lazy mentally. When people ask me what personal management is, at its worse I say baby-sitter and hostage negotiator. If you are a sensitive person and pay attention to details, you are a mark for the worst kind of artist client the dude or lady who plays off of compassionate people and slowly but surely makes you more their best friend, Mom, Dad, or legal guardian (without the paperwork) than professional confidante and guide. There is no 20% that is worth the headache of an artist who not only is a knuckle-head, but one who also drains you emotionally and spiritually, and worst of all, puts your own personal safety, and that of your loved ones in jeopardy with their mistakes and errors. I always have felt that the worst thing a person could do is take advantage of the vulnerability that kindness and duty can create. Too many artists are manipulative in this way, and I often find it is the emotionally weak manager, addicted to the psychic income (celebrity, fame, praise, status) that comes from being associated with talent or a high-profile personality who is also dumb. Perhaps it is helpful for managers to think of great talents who are manipulative and high maintenance in terms of an extremely physically attractive person with low morals and low intelligence. You can help them and occasionally collaborate but do you really need to marry them?
We are social beings and relationships are necessary to enjoying life and succeeding in business, but when one side is greedy and the other side is dumb it is a recipe for disaster. Managers and artists do still need each other, but a lot more growth is required from both, if things are to work and money is to be made.
Lets Get It!
Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. Hes a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and currently a Member of the African Unions First Congress of African Economists. Cedrics the Founder of the economic information service Africa PreBrief (http://africaprebrief.com/) and author of The Entrepreneurial Secret (http://theEsecret.com/) . His Facebook Fan page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Muhammad/57826974560?ref=ts and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com.