While over the last decade power may have shifted from the record labels to artist managers, who are also being forced to assume more of the label tasks, the record labels still have an important role to play in developing new talent.
That was one of the observations that came out of the artist managers panel at the 10th annual Billboard Touring Conference, held at the Roosevelt Hotel today and tomorrow, Nov. 14, in New York.
While some think that the power in the industry has shifted from labels to artist managers, Crush Management co-owner Jonathan Daniel, whose firm handles Fall Out Boy, Train and Panic At The Disco among other acts, said that only applies to managers handling successful artists. But for managers of developing artists, that is not the case.
In fact, today’s music industry climate presents managers of developing artists a far more challenging field, even with all the new online tools, said Mick Management president Michael McDonald, whose firm handles John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne and others.
Panelists acknowledged that managers have to shoulder more label roles nowadays, due to the industry’s downsizing. “We need a deep bench,” to fill the void left by labels, said Red Light Management GM Jonathan Azu. That’s why companies like Red Light Management have digital staff and radio promotion staff, he said.
Nevertheless, panelists agreed that labels are still needed to break developing artists. “I wouldn’t minimize the labels’ roles,” said World Audience principal Larry Jacobson, whose firm manages Avenge Sevenfold. “At the end of the day, no act has ever broken worldwide without a [major] label,” McDonald said.
Its true that labels don’t spend money on developing acts like they used to, but that’s because they have less money. And sometimes they don’t offer great ideas, “but if you insist upon it,” they will step up on behalf of acts, at least the staff in the foreign offices of major labels will, he said.
While the labels aren’t less important in developing baby artists, nowadays you need more help from other areas of the music industry, Jacobson added. You need strong partnerships from promoters and merchandise companies too, he said.
Where the labels seem to be dropping the ball is on mid-level acts, the panelist said. Nowadays, they are not bringing money nor ideas to the table for established acts, even though they may have been instrumental in once breaking the acts, said a panelist.
Bon Jovi Management manager Paul Korzilius agreed that managers need other partners to develop new talent. He urged agents and promotors to find a way to work together for developing talent.
Touring is a key ingredient in developing talent, maybe even before going to radio, panelists said. Maroon 5 “played 300 dates before we went to radio,” said Career Artist Management CEO Jordan Feldstein, who manages that act. Moreover, playing everywhere is important, he added, even minor tertiary departments here in the U.S. as well as being committed to international tours.
Another key ingredient in helping to develop acts through tours is getting them together on the right package, said Crush Management’s Daniels. If you put to bands together on the road, who might do 500 each on the own, together they can do maybe 1,500, on top of which they can cross-pollinate fans, Daniel explained.
Finally, managers said leave nothing to chance when it comes to radio, especially bringing in outside writers, which sometimes might be resisted by artists. Radio is incredibly competitive and having established songwriters involved in the writing process helps improve chances for a hit song, one of the panelists said.
While different parts of the industry–labels, promotors and agents–may claim they are essential to developing artists, managers say they are the architects that tie everything together. Besides, managers “are the only ones who wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about the career of their artists, Jacobson said. “And they are the only ones willing to take phone calls [from artists] in the middle of the night.”