Archive | March, 2015

Interview – Artist management in the 21st Century (part 4)

With the music business changing at an incredible speed, Feast invited Biffy Clyro manager Dee Bahl and Idlewild manager Bruce Craigie to discuss the ever-expanding role of the artist manager in the 21st Century. In the last of our four instalments Dee and Bruce talk about the investment, marketing and the Music Managers Forum.

Q: Are independent investors including management companies a realistic alternative to labels?

B.C. Yes, I think so. As I said, because it’s easier to get your music out there, there’s no reason why, if you build that team around that investment, there’s no reason why you can’t build up the artists profile to a certain stage where it becomes inevitable that a bigger record label might come along and pick you up. Ed Sheeran is the perfect example of that. He’s got to such a size where he had to be picked up. These stories are few and far between unfortunately, but it shows it’s possible. If you can work with a management company or a set of investors that understands the needs of the music business, I guess that’s one of the issues because the music business is one of those industries that’s very difficult to invest in because the goalposts change or the length of time it might take an artist to get onto that ladder or get successful might take longer than an investor anticipates and in the time of economic crisis it might be hard to find those investors that will give that amount of time and the repayment terms may not be satisfactory to the artist where the investor wants their money back a bit quicker. All of those things have to be taken into account but it’s a question of finding money wherever you can but you have to make sure everybody’s comfortable with the deal.

Q: How important is marketing and innovation important in creating and building an artists’ fan-base?

B.C. I’m still of the opinion that talent and ability is the basis of any career. It is important to get that out there but I’ve always felt slightly nervous of things being hyped or marketed because I think that people do see through that quite quickly. Whatever you do it needs to appear natural. I mean we all know how a piece of music on a bit of Youtube footage can suddenly exalt you into the stars so it can happen very naturally that way as well. It’s the trick of finding a nice natural way to do it but it does come back to talent and ability.

D.B. It’s almost everything. It’s vital in breaking a new artist or a new release. That’s why bands end up signing with major labels. The marketing budget that the majors can afford on campaigns is huge. It’s very difficult to do it online yourself. To have everything working in a coordinated fashion to gain a reaction from an audience is an expensive and time-consuming process.

Q: In the recent past there was a good deal of publicity around the appointment of Brian Message to head the Music Managers Forum. How do you feel about his appointment and the relevance of this trade organisation to the way managers do business?

B.C. I’ve never been a member of the forum, not for any real reason. I’ve been lucky in my early career as I had lots of experience at record company level so I kind of knew what was going on at record companies. I think it’s probably not a bad thing these days to have the forum there. If a young manager can learn from any individual or organisation that would seem to be a good thing from my point of view. Brian has been very successful in what they’ve done. Part and parcel of the way they do business has worked very well for them and they’re investing money into the business themselves so you can only applaud that kind of investment from their point of view.

D.C. Brian Message was originally an accountant, if I’m correct. In this day-in-age you need new business partners to emerge simply because of the lack of investment. So having someone like that who understands the business and how money can be generated can be a positive thing which other aspiring managers can learn from and Brian becoming the head of the MMF can only be a positive given his background with Radiohead. He must have learnt a lot given his experience as an accountant but he must also have learnt a lot from managing one of the biggest bands in the world. The organisation is relevant because people like him can pass that experience on and that can only be a positive. I’ve never actually joined the MMF but I recognise it’s a great way of networking. I’ve sort of gone out on a limb myself and I’ve learnt along the way and it’s worked out okay for me so far.

Interview – Artist management in the 21st Century (part 3)

Interview – Artist management in the 21st Century

With the music business changing at an incredible speed, Feast invited Biffy Clyro manager Dee Bahl and Idlewild manager Bruce Craigie to discuss the ever-expanding role of the artist manager in the 21st Century. In the third of our four instalments Dee and Bruce talk about the changing media landscape, funding and the changing role of the record label.

Q: Artists are increasingly gaining sponsorship from brands of all kinds. How do you feel about the way the market is moving?

B.C. I don’t really have a problem with sponsorship. I guess it depends on who the sponsor is and dependent on the artist really. Artists need financial help and you need to take it where you can really. It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without finding a sponsor somewhere. Most of the venues you play, the bigger venues are sponsored by somebody. I suppose it’s a question of where do you draw the line. I mean if they can help you realise your dream and help support you at an early stage then I don’t have a problem with sponsorship really.

D.B. It depends on the brands credibility and anything is acceptable depending on a bands situation. It depends on your values and your outlook on life. For me there has to be a balance because there is so much commercialism and you have to be aware of the feelings of your fanbase. If there is a negative connotation towards the brand that can have an adverse effect on your fanbase. There is no right or wrong here. It just means that there are potential opportunities for new ways of funding and if it’s an appropriate fit for the band then go with it. Things have to be run passed your lawyer and you must ensure your management team are not just doing it to make money.

Q: How has the changing media landscape affected the way you do business?

B.C. I think it’s changed certainly if you take into account the digital landscape as part of that it’s changed the way the business has worked in the last ten years. There is a saturation of digital outlets and you can spend all day everyday combing various outlets to look for music and find music. I still think it’s like back to the basics because you’ve still got to find the band and find what makes people come to that band. In many respects it was easier when there was just fewer outlets of media, you know you only had two radio stations or you only had three magazines. Now there’s magazines and online presence wherever you look. It’s very dissipated so it’s a question of using these to your advantage, finding the tastemakers that seem to be important. It seems that your facebook presence or you social media presence is important in terms of getting lots of people to your site and then those in the industry can see that and they can check on your status in terms of booking you for shows or getting involved with you and they can make a judgement on that straight away.

D.B. Bands have to work so much harder now to assess all the digital outlets available to them to for channelling their music to their fanbase or to continue to build their fanbase. Before the internet there were fewer media channels and so it was more straight forward about how and who to get your music to. There are now many more avenues for people to access and consume music and bands have to be more active in interacting with their audience and trying to establish a more direct relationship with their fans.

Q: Do you think the way people discover artists now has an impact on the longevity of an artist?

B.C. There are still those tastemakers such as Steve Lamacq and the Evening Session and previously John Peel or a writer you trusted in NME for example. Now it’s also a question of blogs and other artists building up profiles for other bands and recommendations and so there’s always going to be these tastemakers at local radio stations and small stations. Talking about the shelf-life for an artist, for a guitar band it used to be on a two to three year cycle when you made a record it would take another six months for the record to come out then you’d tour for a year and a half and the you’d make another record and before you knew it it was three years gone and it seems that with artists nowadays they have a new record out every other week if they’re popular and everything seems to be hammered home so quickly because the shelf-life seems to be so much shorter.

D.B. In terms of reality talent shows very few of them stay around for very long because the talent is questionable and also they may not be prepared to handle the exposure since the rise to the top is instant in their case.

Q: Given everything you and the artists need to supply to the labels and the media how has the role of labels changed?

B.C. In terms of the smaller labels they tend to take a lot less risks now because they don’t have the finances themselves to be able to support that world tour or make that big record in America or go and mix the record somewhere exotic. That just doesn’t exist anymore which may not be a bad thing. It does seem that with some of the labels or distributors you take a finished record to them now and sometimes cover some of the costs of the marketing and promotion yourself. There are less mid-sized labels now so you have to find the money to make the record before you approach the record company or the distributor and although it’s cheaper to make a record now you still want to make a good record to deliver to the label.

D.B. Labels are looking at other income streams now. For example, it’s not unusual for labels to have management teams or publishing and be involved in 360 degree models and be involved in every aspect of a bands career. Labels have changed as well due to how music is now being consumed. There were a lot more labels twenty years ago and there is not a lot of money available for development and that has a knock on effect on the money that’s available for new artists. How many bands have come through in the last five years from small venue to stadium level – very, very few. There is a direct lack of funding, if you haven’t made it on your first album you get dropped. How are people meant to succeed? With Biffy Clyro we were very lucky as we started on the independent label Beggars Banquet and we were allowed to go and make three albums and learn our trade before we went onto a major label. These kind of opportunities are very rare or don’t exist anymore. Very, very tough times out there.

Interview – Artist management in the 21st Century (part 2)

With the music business changing at an incredible speed, Feast invited Biffy Clyro manager Dee Bahl and Idlewild manager Bruce Craigie to discuss the ever-expanding role of the artist manager in the 21st Century.  In the second of our four instalments Dee and Bruce talk about the day in the life of a manager, how the role has changed and what a manager should look for in a band.

 

Q: What is a day in the life of a music manager like?  What aspects of your bands’ careers do you look after?

B.C.  It’s an interesting one that, particularly now, as it really depends on the role that you take on with the band and what part of their career you get associated with as I guess what the artists needs and what the artist wants to do is what basically changed my role.  Basically looking at the areas where they need assistance whether it is help with the show or help with the crew and building a team around the band if you don’t have a traditional record company.

D.B.  Pretty much on a day to day basis I’d be dealing with the bands lawyer, dealing with the accountant , their agent.  The international department of the label or the press department or it could be the TV department.  Really depends on where you are in the lifecycle of an album or a release which dictates what your day is going to be like.  With Biffy Clyro they’re a heavy touring band so a lot of time is dealing with aspects of that such as putting a crew together, appointing a tour manager and so I have to think months ahead of what the band might be doing.  I spend a lot of time with the bands accountant working on budgets with the record label.  If you’re going into record an album I’ll deal with liaisng with the record label, with the producer, with the producer’s management.  It’s never dull.

 

Q: What should other aspiring managers look for in a band?  What important contractual issues should a manager look out for, or what red flags should they be wary about when considering getting involved with managing an artist?

B.C.  When you’re looking for a band you’re looking for somebody that’s going to entertain you, that can write good songs, somebody that has an idea of their direction, somebody that has the drive and knows what they want to do and why they want to take on a manager.  What’s the right time to take on a manager?  What role do you want to take on as a manager and what are you able to facilitate?  I particularly go back to the artist having drive  if they want to have a career out of the business.  Pretty much every band I’ve worked with from within record companies, publishing companies, right through to managing bands has had a very strong idea of what they wanted to do and what they wanted to achieve out of music.

D.B.  They’ve got to love the music that a band are making because if you don’t you won’t love the people making the music and it’ll be difficult to sell the band to the world.  It was really hard in the early days to get people to believe in Biffy Clyro.  If I didn’t love their music I couldn’t have done that job.  Obviously you want people who can write good songs, who really want to succeed and are attentive to what you’re saying.  A manager can bring opportunity and a band have to be ready and willing to take these opportunities.  In terms of contractual issues, the term of the contract, your commission, your expenses – make sure you’re not saddled with a lot of the cost.  Also if the term of the contract is up or the relationship breaks down you need to know what you’re entitled to given the amount of work you’ve put in.

 

Q: Since you started being an artist manager do you find that the role is changing?  Are you becoming more central to the whole industry?

B.C.  Definately changed.  The traditional way for a manager of earning any money has changed.  It used to be that you’d find an artist and you’d take them to a record company or publishing company and they’d offer you an advance and then you’d take a commission on the advance from the artist.  There are a only a few of these deals done now as the industry has shrunk and the amount of money available has shrunk.  That has made the role change a lot really.  The role used to be to motivate your artist and motivate the label and that was an important thing and now you have to do what the labels used to do and you have to be an all-encompassing person so instead of going to the label and saying what do you think on the marketing campaign you’re now involved in that sort of thing.

D.B.  Looking after the band, the tours, the releases are the same.  However as technology develops the change has been in online activity, social networks and how music is accessed and consumed.  There has been changes in how much labels have become involved in all aspects of a bands career.  They will only get involved if a band signs a 360 deal.  They are much more cautious now about signing and working with bands.

 

Q: Is now a good time to be a manager?

B.C.  Sort of.  It’s exciting but it’s difficult to make any money and that’s the big issue. Unless you’re bankrolled by a big company or you have a huge act that can let you take on a few other things and develop them at the same time then it’s becoming increasingly more difficult. That’s one of the reasons  I wanted to get involved on the El Jam project as I thought there are good bands out there that don’t have the access to the knowledge and the wherewithal about developing as a band. For example, it’s surprising how many bands playing gigs don’t have a website or don’t have a logo and are giving away music at venues and not thinking about the future and it seems fundamental advise that needs to be given and that can set bands back.  If they get an opportunity and they’re not ready  it can set them back and that is really damaging for bands.

D.B.  It’s always a good time to be a manager.  It’s always going to be a tough job and a thankless job.  There are a lot of opportunities out there it just depends about how you want to make a difference in relation to the band you want to work with.

Interview – Artist management in the 21st Century (part 1)

With the music business changing at an incredible speed, Feast invited Biffy Clyro manager Dee Bahl and Idlewild manager Bruce Craigie to discuss the ever-expanding role of the artist manager in the 21st Century. In the first of our four instalments Dee and Bruce talk about the music industry in 2015 and their introduction to the role of artist manager.

Q: What are your predictions for the music industry in 2015?

Bruce Craigie: Hard to say unless the economy settles and the industry takes some better shape. In regards to the record labels they are either very big or very small with nothing in between and this has been lacking in the last few years which has made things very difficult for the development of rock bands or anybody who needs to tour because there hasn’t been the support network that there used to be when you were lucky enough to have a record deal that could help you with those things. A tricky time which I don’t see being any easier this year unless the economy settles.

Dee Bahl: Difficult to make predictions in this volatile climate but I’m hoping there is a sort of rise for the independents and they become a lot stronger and I’m hoping venture capitalists take a chance on emerging talent because it’s really hard to get funding and it’s really hard to get finance. There are some people out there with a little bit of money that can make a huge bit of difference. You’ve only got the three major record companies and there is not a hell of a lot of signing going on there, it’s very guarded considering the usual things I see getting picked up. I’m really hoping that the independent sector becomes a lot stronger and I think with the lack of money there will be opportunities for independent labels.

Q: What are you excited about in the music industry for 2015?

B.C. I think at the current time for better or worse in the digital era it’s never been easier to record music and get your music out there so that’s one of the things that’s really exciting but on the downside it’s never been harder to make a living out of the music business so it’s very difficult to quantify where you can collect any money from since it’s just such a broad scope of things that go on but what I like about it is that it feels like it’s back to being a cottage industry again in many ways and one of the things I’ve been talking about with the EL Jam project is that aim of self-sufficiency and building up your local scene and building up your own reserves and taking it one step at a time.

D.B. I’m becoming more aware of different business models of people who are trying to do things differently and almost go out on their own and give it a go and that’s exciting. There are a lot of bands out there who are doing their own albums and a whole range of people being creative and that can only be a good thing.

Q: Any great new bands and/or record labels you’ve come across?

B.C. All three of the bands within the EL Jam project are interesting in their own way. There’s Nick Tait & The Sharks who are the sort of middle group between ages of 16-18, there’s three sets of age groups and then there’s a young band from Preston Pans called The Next Big Nothing Band and then there is Art of Privilege who are the band from the18-25 age group so we’ve split it into three age groups for this pilot scheme. Beyond that I’ve been helping out this band from Glasgow called Fatherson who played at The Arches in Glasgow recently and they had a mini orchestra on stage with them which was very interesting. Then there’s a young band from Edinburgh I like called Precious & Grace and they’re students over at Edinburgh College and they’re a bit out of sync in terms of what they play musically – they sort of play seventies rock so they don’t sound like anything else and part of me likes that idea about them and they have lots of enthusiasm and so one to check out and of course the new label Tangerine, what more can I say.

D.B. Because of what I do a lot of my time gets absorbed in what I’m doing so it’s not always easy to come across new bands with limited time There is a young guy called Jonathan Carr and his music is slightly different and I’d like to see him do well. I’m looking at another act at the moment just to see if they can make the next step up so to speak.

Q: What led you to get involved in management?

B.C. I’ve been managing bands for about thirteen or fourteen years now and before that I worked in record companies. I worked at Go Discs and I worked at Chrysalis and I started of at Stiff Records and I ended up at a little label called Deceptive Records which I did some consultancy work for and that’s how I became involved in the management side of things by one of the bands that came through which is a band called Idlewild and I basically managed them from day one really and continue to do so. I came across Idlewild when I was working at Deceptive and we signed their publishing and we had a publishing deal through EMI music and that gave me the chance to quit the day job for a few months. They wanted to make some records with Deceptive so we put some records out and in the meantime we were negotiating a record deal for them and one of the labels that was interested in signing them said to the band why don’t you get Bruce to manage you and they said what a great idea and it just fell into that way and I’d been asked a number of times to manage bands but never actually taken the plunge as it were and that’s how I sort of fell into the management side of things really.

D.B. It happened by complete accident if I’m being honest. I’ve always been a bass player in various bands over the years and I came off tour once and my next gig wasn’t for a while and I always had this ambition to set up a small record label and so that’s what I did with a couple of mates. We didn’t have much money and we had to borrow money. Once we got things moving the two bands that we got for the label was a band called Aerogramme and a band called Biffy Clyro and we put out their first releases and one thing lead to another and basically by default I ended up doing a lot more for these bands and before I knew it I was their Manager. From my days of being in bands, any management company that had managed me or the band I was in basically had to come through me and I just had an aptitude towards management and I just knew how it worked. I also had a degree in Marketing and Management and I’m not saying that’s what cuts you out to become a Manager, you either have it or you don’t. I don’t see why anybody who is young and is aspiring to become a Manager can’t become one because as you go further into your career you learn a lot more. It’s not for the feint hearted. It’s not a dull job, it’s a very demanding job and it’s twenty-four/seven and I mean twenty-four/seven. However, the rewards are there to be had and it’s a very fulfilling job.

Posted by JD, 18th March, 2015