Six prominent country music managers talked shop on a panel today at the Billboard Country Music Summit moderated by Billboard senior editorial analyst Glenn Peoples. Weighing in on day two of this inaugural event were Will Botwin, manager, Red Light Management (Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Dave Matthews Band), John Lytle, president, Lytle Management (Gary Allan), TK Kimbrell, TKO Management (Toby Keith), Doug Nichols, partner, Turner & Nichols (Rascal Flatts), and John Peets, manager, Q Prime South (Eric Church). Here are five lessons learned from the session:

1. 'Stay away' from 360 label deals. Kimbrell: “Everybody up here hates the word ‘360.’” Levitan: “When you look at the dollars and cents, [an artist] may do all the work and get absolutely nothing. Stay away from them as much as possible.”

2. Bucking history, artists today may well need management before signing a label deal. Nichols: “Two years ago I would have said you don’t need a manager until you have you a record deal because there’s nothing to manage at that point. Today I’d say [an artist] may want to have someone if for no other reason than to hear their opinions on what you’re about to do.”

3. Control your own destiny, even if others disagree. Peets: “What you’re trying to do might not align with a label’s skill set. I have radio help, new media help in-house. I think new media benefits from being inside the management company.” Botwin: “Sometimes the label will present you something that’s just wrong.”

4. Manage expectations. Nichols: “It comes down to being philosophically aligned with how a career will unfold and being willing to react when you get thrown a curve ball.”

5. Embrace direct-to-fan. Levitan: “You have to do it. Now fans expect it.”


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