How the rise of streaming is making life tougher for artist managers

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How the rise of streaming is making life tougher for artist managers

Tones and I
Words by Christie Eliezer

It’s was already a tough gig, now it’s only getting harder.

The role of the artist manager already began changing drastically about a decade ago.

Hit with plunging profits, record companies started sacking their staff, and managers had to take over many of those duties.

In the interim, many smart new services and apps cropped up to fill the vacuum – ways to engage with fans directly, quicker ways to book tours and monitor streaming sales and royalties.

However, the major problem for artist managers and self-managed artists in the streaming era is that careers can start and end more rapidly than ever.

Tones and I’s rapid shift of Facebook self-description from “Byron Bay busker living in a van and fed by friends” to “global superstar with 1 billion streams” within 12 months is a great example of how hectic things can become.

Whether hers is a one-off or an indication of things to come remains a moot point, but the music industry has addressed the issue at conferences and events in the past month.

Owen Orford, director at New World Artists said at Australian Music Week, that when an act explodes, it’s crucial to know when to cash in and when to pull back.

“Of course everyone wants to get on the biggest festivals, like Bluesfest and Splendour and Falls. But there are other strategies that might be more appropriate to that particular artist.

“What happens when an act’s a runaway train and everybody wants them? A trained monkey could be their manager and record label, and it could be a success anyway.

“So what does the team around them do to make it special? Or does it end up another story that goes, ‘Wow they burned bright and fast but three years later, no-one gives a damn’.”

An artist manager’s panel during ARIA Week agreed that allowing your artist to take time off was crucial even at this time when the world wants you.

Tones and I co-manager Regan Lethbridge says artist welfare is vital. “Enforced breaks is important. Managing with mental health breaks are vitally important. You’ve got to take that super serious.”

He says Tones has got two more albums worth of strong songs and has a strong vision of a long-standing career, so breaks shouldn’t be an issue.

As for self-managing artists, at Electronic Music Conference in Sydney, George Maple revealed that the big career mistakes come when she allows passion to overrule detail.

Entertainment and technology lawyer Ishan Karunanayake also warned against the trend where management, label and publishing are rolled into one deal. If one of these doesn’t work, “You’ll be stuck in all three so be wary of signing those sorts of deals”.