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The Shady Manager

Do you know a shady manager?
Do you know a shady manager?

The shady manager can be a very nice person with good intentions. But like they say “The road to hell is paved with people with good intentions.” There are a lot of versions of “The Shady Manager” such as the version featured in this photo…the greedy music shark who stabs his artist in the back and then proudly boasts about it to his colleagues and friends…but I’m not writing a book here. At least not yet…. so for now I’ll just stick with one particular type and I’ll try to keep this short and to the point...

Today I’ll write about a guy that may have had a brief encounter as a recording artist about 25 years ago, that he would often describe as his claim to fame. Oh he'd tell ya all about the many "A listers" he knew, how he'd fly around in his private jet sipping champaign. How he wrote hit songs for major pop artists. He never had any receipts for any of those tall tales he'd ever so eloquently speak about. But he was so damn convincing and so charming. You'd just believe him anyway. Today he’s old and bald, goes by the name Mike Moth. A very charming African American guy, originally from Texas, currently residing in a small town in NJ…but still he wants to give music biz one last shot. So he sets out to find a talented singer and gets word of a handsome young kid name Roger. To Roger’s parents he’s a dream come true. He sounds like he knows his shit. He’s got great ideas, very knowledgable about the music biz and he seems to really believe that Roger can be the next big thing. Now Mike does a lot of things really well. Like he’s the KING of social media and advertising. He’s willing to invest and sacrifice if it will lead to Roger’s fame. He understands the concept of branding an artist and so therefore he manages to build up a local fan following and an image that makes young Roger appear like a rising star. Everything is working out fine at first but here is where Mike Moth begins to make poor choices:

MIKE WON’T STAY IN HIS OWN LANE. If you are MANAGING an artist you may be wearing many hats but just be sure to know which hats to wear. Generally speaking, a manager may be the promoter, agent, accountant, overseer of advertising and promotion and/or the developer of your talent and image, just to name some of the possible roles. Managers are there to help grow and guide your career and with the exception of a 15 to 20% cut as a return on his investment, the success of an artist is in their BEST interest…well that’s how it should be anyway. But often, as in Mike’s case, EGO sets in. Mike can do a lot of things well but being a producer is NOT one of them. He records his artist in his living room using music he downloaded from a random beat maker, a generic music software and a cheap mic. Roger’s voice sounds flawless but Mike’s final mix makes Roger sound terrible! As a Manager you must know when a task is out of your league but Mike’s ego wouldn’t let him involve the talents of other great writers and producers. He’d rather risk the career of his artist by putting out terrible music then to select a professional music producer to handle the production. After Mike completed Roger’s final mix he then hit social media to announce it’s release and in an effort to generate more excitement he added that his music was actually produced and mastered by a team of prominent celebrity producers in L.A….Yes he decided to embellish the story a bit to boost the public persona of his client. it’s cool to be associated with big shots in the industry but that’s the type of lie that is sure to catch up with a shady manager one way or another… but more on that in a different blog…Anyway….you gotta know your strengths and weaknesses as a manager and not be intimidated at the thought of being out shined by a really great writer or producer (or Voice Coach wink wink). Mike’s unwillingness to collaborate with others is a RED FLAG. Never let your ego come between the success of your client. Ultimately the success of your artist is YOUR success story regardless of who produced their music or who booked their gigs, or took their pictures or who taught them how to sing. All you need is a contract that clearly states that. Then you can stop ego tripping and do your job. During a recent interview I did with legendary R&b singer, Faith Evans I asked her would she ever consider managing an artist and she said no she wouldn’t want that responsibility. She admitted that she couldn’t bear the pressure of potentially misguiding an artist and she prefers just being the artist for now. Now I think that is a great example of a person who knows how to stay in their own lane.

OH…AND ABOUT YOUR BRAND…Another mistake Mike made is somewhere in the branding process he forgot a few things. He’s trying to pass Roger off as an Urban Pop Artist, has him performing gigs that scream COUNTRY MUSIC and has him recording bubble gum pop… wth?? (Roger is a 17 year old who looks like a 21 year old so consider his audience. He looks too mature for disney music). A lot of things have changed in music biz since back when I myself was being shopped as a music artist nearly 20 years ago but one thing that has remained the same and in fact it was what held me back, was not knowing who I was as an artist. Love it or hate it you gotta pick a genre and own it. Just because you can sing a ton of different genres and dress yourself up in a ton of different brands doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. You’ll confuse your fans…if you even have any REAL fans. I see undiscovered artists making this mistake every day. In Roger’s case his fans were mostly hometown supporters. Like….sing urban pop in the shower but perform country music on your album and brand yourself that way in advertisements if that’s the career genre you select. Fans need to know what they’re committing to and so do the record labels, publishers and other industry investors.

And last but not least…cuz you know I could write a lot more on this topic but let me at least throw this last one in. DON’T BURN YOUR BRIDGES. You probably have had some faithful and true supporters on your team helping you out. Maybe you made promises to them that you were unable to keep. Maybe you got caught in a few lies along the way and then slowly but surly your true colors came pouring out in your moment of desperation. When that happens eventually your faithful followers will lose faith in you and eventually you’ll lose their much needed support and contributions but you won’t fully realize it till you’ve dug a hole that’s so deep and you slowly feel like you’re sinking in. Even poor Roger and his parents are secretly feeling anxious. Roger is getting offers from other producers and managers from all over the New York Tri State area so I’ll say this to Roger. Hey Roger…Trust your gut man. Your gut is that feeling that God places there to help give you guidance. Pay attention to it. If you haven’t signed anything then you are not committed or obligated to remain under Mike’s guidance and by the way…be 100% sure you understand what you are signing! Is this BUSINESS or is this FRIENDSHIP? If it’s business then it’s time to make business decisions like a BOSS. Kindly thank him and move on. (Sorry Mike).

Artist management is risky business. Know your stuff, have the right connections, pick good, talented and trustworthy people for your team and treat them well especially if during the early stages most of your project team are working for FREE or on a very small budget or perhaps even contributing financially. Let them know how appreciated they are and stay true to your word and avoid making promises you can’t keep. When it comes to your artist…if you can’t deliver like you thought you could then be willing to turn um over to somebody who can. They may still have a chance even if you don’t.

How many of you reading this know a Mike Moth type? There are a ton of them out there. I’d love to hear your story. Have a great week and BEWARE of the SHADY MANAGER.

Yours in music - sb


(Please note that this blog was published in March of 2016. It's still relevant today)

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