The Producer As Manager?

Eric Beall offers an interesting spin on my Hypebot post "Where Have All The Good Managers Gone?" on his blog
for the Berklee College of Music suggesting that producers might make the best managers.  After all, they are the ones who often discover new talent; so doesn’t it make good business sense for them to also offer services to develop it?

"As music sales drop, producers need to expand beyond their core business of making records," writes Beall. "It’s equally clear that managers and management companies are increasingly dominating the industry– they are taking the leadership position once held by the record labels. Finally, everyone in the business is bemoaning the lack of good, new managers. Put it all together and what do you get? You get the future business model: a production/management company hybrid, that allows producers to discover talent and make hit records, and then pass the artist to a separate division of the company, which provides the day to day management service."

Not every record producer is equipped to become a good manager; nor is this the only answer to the shortage of new managers. But it does seem like an idea worth exploring. What do you think of the producer as manager?

Share on:


  1. My gut response, and perhaps this is naive of me, is that this would be a corruption of the artistic process. If I’m entrusting a producer to help manifest a creative vision of my music, the last thing I want is motives outside of the creative process to enter the equation.
    My guess is that financial motives already play a significant part in production techniques, otherwise new pop songs wouldn’t all sound like each other (like shit). However, I wouldn’t want to be creating a recording under these circumstances.

  2. I think this is a great idea. In fact, in the last year I have been working hard along side two other individuals to found a company that is built around this exact model.
    The way I see it, if you can find a person to fill the role of producer and manager, that person will have special skills which will allow the creative team/organization to save a tremendous amount of money when developing a performer and making records. Additionally, everybody wins because this same creative team (including the performer) does not have to split profits quite as many ways as in a traditional business arrangement.
    As already stated, producers are in a perfect position to find and develop artists. Under this new type of business model the opportunity arises to form an extremely tight-knit team, and experiment with partnership ideas that previously would not be possible. It’s much like the idea of “collapsed copyright” that Terry McBride talks about.
    Within our company we have experimented with two different types of partnerships with performing artists. We are in the process of making two records right now-each for less than 1% of what it would cost under a traditional business model. We are able to achieve this because we are producers/managers.

  3. Nope, don’t see it. Two completely different skill sets (save for the overlap regarding psychology and dealing with the Artist’s Mind/Ego).
    I see similarities in the combo general manager and coach in the NFL… precious few men can make both roles simultaneously successful on a championship level.

  4. I’d have to agree with Brian.
    There is an unavoidable conflict of interest. A producer is an artist in their own right and can even overshadow an artist. A manager needs to play the background and generally not let their ego get involved.

  5. If a producer is to invest time and funds into an artist, then why allow potential revenue streams from other sources besides publishing to be snapped up by an unrelated management company? To me it makes perfect sense to combine the two revenue streams and thus maximize profits from your investment in an artist.
    I didnt interpret the article as suggesting that the producer should themselves physically manage the artist, but instead that the producer and manager should be housed under the same company.

  6. Managers….why do we need them?….Oh yeah, WE DON’T!
    Does a plummer need a manager? Do dentists? What about lawyers?
    Here’s a concept: People who know how to make music sell it to people who want it, perform it for people who will pay and license it to those who will pay to use it.
    We need to turn this into a service industry or it’s all going down. Cut these thieving middlemen out or die.

  7. As the author of the topic stated, it has to be “a production/management company that allows producers to discover talent, make hits, and then pass the artist to a SEPARATE DIVISION of the company, which provides management services.”
    I’m a producer who runs a company very similar to this model, where we supply “INTERIM management” services until a “suitable” manager is found. When a manager who understands the artist’s vision for his/her self, as well as the company’s vision for that artist, is found; the manager is then hired to rep the artist in cooperation with my company. It has to be a TEAM effort, and there can’t be any “butting heads” between the management and producer.
    It works out very well for our artists. But while the manager is being sought, we are constantly seeking licensing and major label record deals, as well as helping our artists find agents to assist them in securing acting, modeling, and live performance opportunities.
    A GREAT ATTORNEY can alleviate any apprehensions that an artist would have in this type of company anyway.

  8. I agree with Sensei. Management must be a seperate division from production or conflicts of interest will surely arise. “Creative” and “Management” are two entirely different aspects, each of which require experience and constant focus. The majority of successful people spend their time on one or the other, not both.
    I do, however, feel it’s critical for each side to have a thorough understanding of the other. Again, as Sensei states, it’s a TEAM effort. Constructive agreement AND disagreement are paramount to the success of a project.

  9. production co & management co hybrid?? why kind of company sounds just like…. A RECORD LABEL… circa 1960.

  10. Actually, only people in rock or pop think this producer-as-manager arrangment is unusual. In niche markets (I work in blues, but it’s true in other niches as well) this is the rule rather than the exception, at least until artists get to the level that they are generating enough touring revenue to support a stand-alone management company.
    As for “corrupting the artistic process”, please get your head out of your butt. If you want to make a living from your art, it is a business. Ask anyone who paints if they think that having a gallery “corrupt” their artwork by showcasing them in curated shows is a bad thing. If you think you can manage yourself, go ahead, just remember that a doctor who operates on himself has a fool for a patient. Unless you are unusually prescient and self-aware, you don’t have the objectivity to produce yourself or to market yourself to potential partners who could expand your audience.
    Yeah, there are ways to learn these things, but why not, as they say in business, focus on your core competence and let someone who has a larger perspective work the marketing. Almost every artist that I’ve worked with, when I have offered them the opportunity to take over aspects of management (and thus save the percentage that I get paid for doing the same), they have immediately realized how much work goes into managing an artist’s career.
    In the blues world, producers are often songwriters and booking agents and publishers and managers rolled into one. The major management companies and booking agencies in niche markets have a small and relatively static roster of talent and so it’s a necessity.
    I encourage every artist to do as much of their own management as possible, or at least to understand the business aspects, so that they don’t end up in debt and / or making decisions that work against their own interests. Making a living in this business is hard, but not impossible, if you work with people you can trust and only expect them to work as hard as you do.
    The potential “conflicts of interest” that a manager might have with a producer are minimal, and frankly, if your manager makes decisions on your behalf that benefit the manager to the detriment of the artist, that would be grounds for a lawsuit — most management contracts have a due diligence clause.
    Let’s get real, though, at all but the highest levels, bands should be happy that anyone wants to manage them at all, and if a producer offers to also manage, there are synergies which emerge — probably more possibilities for common interest than for conflict, actually. I would suggest that if you have a manager who also doubles as producer, booking agent, etc., you also have a lawyer who reviews all contracts and who is hired by you, not the manager. (An old friend of mine who goes back to the 70s in the business, when he played with Parliament / Funkadelic, says “you need two lawyers so that one watches the other one”).

  11. Great ideas and points made on this post. Worlds End Producer Management is turning into a multi media music company. We’re managing producers and artists, in house licensing to TV/Film, 2 label imprints, and a booking agency. It’s a really flexible business plan. The fact that we have top notch producers on our team is integral to artist development.

  12. Very insightful observation. We all know the music business is transitioning towards artist based enterprises. Every artist will have their own team comprising of managers, producers, accountant, booking agent, etc. No more record labels, no more huge organizations w/no interdepartmental communication, and no more cd sales. The manager will be the key to keeping the artist on track and in the right direction. Having a great manager is one thing and is definatley highly sought after. However, it is more important to have a manager who has value alignment with the artist. The best managers are fans.

  13. For me, as a music lover, producers have been a great help in music discovery ever since I started building a CD collection as a kid, circa 1990. These were the days when there was no internet in sight, and it was hard to find out about new good music. Reading the musicians’ credits in the CD booklets, both at home and in stores, helped with that. I discovered a lot of musical styles that I hadn’t known before in this process. Contrary to the music discovery software that is currently being developed, this method does not converge on one particular style, but broaden one’s mind.
    I see the role of the producer in this area, rather than in management. The lack of new managers, as you call it, is down to the music business being considered a business in decline, and managers moving to more welcoming climates instead, isn’t it? Besides that, I hear in the old days, record company CEOs weren’t changing as frequently as they do since the 90s. Every time there’s a new CEO, a shift goes through the whole company, leading to a major restructuring. Investments into artists’ careers that have been done by the former CEO or his/her predecessor are being trashed by dropping them or not knowing how to market them, maybe only to prove that the predecessor was wrong, when the next album may have become the big hit with just the right promotion.
    The lack of continuity in label leadership has lead to a lack of continuity in musical style, and familiar sounds being discontinued. And don’t people tend to buy what’s familiar?

  14. I apologize, in advance, for the long post.
    “Producer-as-Manager” is a nice dialogue, wonderful, but a mostly meaningless topic. (Sounds like a solution in search of a problem.)
    Sure, there are people with the skills, intelligence, need/greed, and desire that can do both jobs. Since the beginning of rock history (coming out of blues, R&B, and pop), there have been people that have done both jobs – Tom Parker (producer in name only), Andrew Loog Oldham with the Stones, and others. I believe it was more common in R&B/black music – Berry Gordy, Phil Spector and others had svengali type relationships with many of their most important artists. Many of the smaller independent labels had a setup where it was producer/manager/label, a very cozy relationship that, of course, was a conflict of interest and compromised the artists’ best interests.
    The point is, just like any other job or jobs, it depends on the people/person involved.
    Some people can do both these jobs well, but most don’t have both the creative and business skills/senses to do both credibly. There is typically a division between the creative side and the business side. Plus, as a career grows, there are time issues – as in, not enough time to do both jobs well, at least not for most people. Sooner or later, one or both will suffer from divided attentions.
    And the size and timing of the career also factors in – at the beginning of a career, there aren’t as many decisions, the decisions aren’t usually career altering life-and-death moves, and the scale of everything is smaller. For a ‘star’ career, suddenly there are huge decisions and everyone is pulling at the artist (and manager) for a time slot, a piece, a need – things get complicated, and if the ‘producer’ is in the studio working on the next record, or working with another artist, the ‘manager’ isn’t going to have a clear head, or isn’t going to have the necessary time to consider and advise and nursemaid the artist through those important decisions.
    Having said that, most producers who have a long enough career, and who have an interest in the business side – which they all develop when they are negotiating their own deals and points with the record companies – will learn enough about the way the record business works (or worked), how the labels intentionally delay and obfuscate the true accounting of sales, how the artists always want, and then spend/waste, their advances, and end up working to pay them back to the labels for the rest of their careers (think of the advance as a bank loan), how the marketing side works (again, worked), and how the touring and coordination is an entire job in itself. It isn’t rocket science – but it is work that requires a willingness to stick to it, and a skill to see the angles correctly. Of course, the business side is ‘creative’ in its own right, and it takes an analytical mind to see everything and decide what is best for the artist and the careeer. But it has more to do with seeing how the creative product will fit into an audience, and how to skillfully maneuver that product to maximize the revenue potential, than it does figuing out if the chorus needs some work, or if there are too many instruments cluttering up the mix and the message.
    (BTW: – see the Police for how to avoid the classic trap of the artist spending money not yet earned with sales or touring. Supposedly, they spent only $5000.00 recording their first album (1976 (?) in the days of million dollar album budgets for the AOR bands), then piled into a Ford Econoline van with two crew guys and drove back-and-forth across the country touring and building an audience in America. When they did their second album and hit with “Message In A Bottle” and “Walking On The Moon”, they didn’t have to pay back a debt of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars to recoup to the record company, and actually could profit right away on their success and popularity. Of course, that was an anomaly in the old record business, but the main points still apply.)
    Anyway, the real point is that “producer as manager” is an acceptable concept, but it isn’t going to change the basic equation or landscape.
    Not to mention that there aren’t too many of these people who are both creatively gifted and business savvy. (Although I’ve met many ‘business’ types who think they are musically creative and don’t understand that their ego, as a result of success making money, is telling them they know how to make great music.)

Comments are closed.