It’s never been easier to be a producer. Computer programs have turned laptops into home studios. Kids in high school can make tracks, hone their unique voice by graduation, share songs with the world and secure festival spots across the country before they start college in the fall. That’s the dream, and of course, it’s not easy by any means. It takes a good manager to turn a rough talent into a shining beacon — but speaking of that, how the hell does one become a manager?
Amy Thomson is one of the most famous and successful managers in the modern music business. She’s managed marquee artists like Swedish House Mafia and DJ Snake and worked with the likes of Kanye West and Gorillaz. She’s learned a lot of things the hard way and turned failure into grandeur, but the business is ever changing and she’s ever learning. Her daughter recently turned 18, and when she complained of a lack of clear courses and learning opportunities that explore the inner-workings of the music business, Thomson saw a chance to innovate and help others while continuing her own growth.
The result is Mind Your Own Business, a five-day intensive series of courses and discussions led by a textbook of Thomson’s own devising. She and other professional experts will cover everything from music law to branding, marketing, royalties and more. There’s even a class on music business terminology, because things can get confusing pretty fast.
“The number of times someone has come to me who has signed for ‘perpetuity’ and didn’t know it meant life,” she says. “There are trademarks, liability insurance, marketing, digital spends, who you need to hire in your team … This is the sort of thing young managers can be fired for, and that’s not fair, but where is the course which gives them a basic understanding? At the very least so they know the experts they need to hire, what types of fees those people expect, and have they covered all their basics.”
Each day will culminate in an open workshop where students will have the chance to speak up and show the experts what they know. It’s a chance for the old hats to learn from the new school, and it’s a moment Thomson says will “probably be the daily highlight.”
“I’m keen to see the music business through their eyes,” she says. “We are so often tied to old deals where streaming is not even mentioned, tied to albums, vinyl and so on. The world has completely changed. The companies we all work with are slowly implementing change, of course, but are always tied to deals that are so old. Catalog is king, and you are now not only releasing records. Streaming makes your music. The records that keep on paying you are in fact building retirement plans for clients.”
Since the issue of mental health has never been more pressing in the music world, Thomson has taken this opportunity to donate all proceeds from the 995 pound ($1,311) tuition to mental health charities. (Scholarships will be available for students who may not be able to afford the pricetag.)
“In the creative business, for artists but also for people in it, the strain can be immense,” she says. “There is always more to do; social media is in your face every 20 seconds, confusing your goal, creating stress. Trying to promote a record across the globe or travel through timezones, or indeed, even supporting your artists in their low times and high times can take it’s toll. We have seen it time and time again, sometimes with deadly consequences.”
Mind Your Own Business comes to Central London Monday, Oct. 22, to Friday, Oct. 26. Response has stunned Thomson. Current applications now represent more than 300 percent of the 200 available space, and Thomson promises to review all applications with great attention so as to admit those with the brightest minds and hungriest attitudes. Don’t worry if you don’t make this round. Thomson says Mind Your Own Business will be back, maybe a few times a year.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” she says. “I didn’t for a long time, as I assumed people would think I was being extremely arrogant to think I can teach this business, but I’ve been doing it for 20 years now, and I think it’s time. One can only try.”
Visit Mind Your Own Business online for more details and information.