The Skills and Characteristics of the Entrepreneur Manager
There are many characteristics of people who work in artist management that are the result of where their life has brought them, along with the personal attributes they have acquired. In that way, everyone is different in their own way. Skills, however, are those things a manager can learn, and having as many skills as you can develop makes you a more effective advocate for the artists you manage.
One of those skills is negotiating. Nearly every commitment a manager makes on behalf of their artists involves negotiation toward finding agreement. That’s the way basic business negotiation is: “I’ll give you this if you’ll give me that.” If that isn’t agreeable, then the two parties seek a compromise to close the deal. Being an effective negotiator is a skill that requires some measure of training for most people. While there is give-and-take as part of the process, there are also other things going on at the same time, not unlike playing a hand of poker. If the manager doesn’t have negotiating skills in their background, many colleges and universities offer courses and seminars in business negotiation. Take the time to learn this skill. For some negotiations, you will want to rely on your attorney, and a course in negotiations will help you know when to turn to him or her.
Managing disagreements and conflict in a creative environment is another of those skills that often requires some guidance through training. Conflict is perhaps at the top of the list of things that people don’t want to deal with; conflict makes everyone uncomfortable and needs someone to step in and bring it to resolution. Disagreements among musical groups can be among the most challenging for a manager to sort out, and often managers won’t consider taking on groups as clients because of their propensity to break up the act and leave the manager with a time and money investment he or she will never recoup. Regarding conflict resolution, training through professional seminars offered at many colleges and universities covers topics including special communication skills, the basics of problem solving, and conflict management models.
Among the most important characteristics that management entrepreneurs have is that they are willing to accept risk. Risk is part of the underpinning of entrepreneurship. If you start a business in a very competitive industry like the music business, the success or failure of it is entirely yours. If the business fails, you stand to lose all that you’ve risked. But the nature of entrepreneurs is that they are okay with risk because they have measured the risk and feel they can be successful with their venture.
Some people assume that the artist manager must have an outgoing personality in order to achieve success in a business that seems so socially oriented. It comes down to a matter of style. Someone who seeks out business-related social events enjoys building the important network that way, but may not enjoy attending to the details of planning and finance. Likewise, someone who is more introspective brings advantages of attention to the details and tasks needed to manage. Both styles have their relative strengths, and I know very successful managers with both. The advice here is to be as social as you are comfortable with being.
Effective entrepreneurial artist managers, by definition, are proactive in their business. They are goal-oriented both for themselves and their artists. After all, no one else is bringing business in the door but you and, without initiative, your business is at risk as well as the careers of the artists you manage. Being self-motivated means that when nothing is going on, it’s up to you get something going.
Excerpt from Artist Management for the Music Business, 3rd Edition by Paul Allen © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
Paul Allen is Associate Professor in the Department of Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University and co-author of Record Label Marketing, also published by Focal Press. He is also a frequent lecturer at other universities on artist management and other music business subjects. His career work has included radio, TV, political management, and the music business.