Management speak: Why the artist-manager relationship is now the most important one in the biz

Matty Healy and Jamie Oborne

It wasn’t so very long ago that getting a record deal was the ultimate goal for every artist. But an incredibly busy couple of weeks for the UK biz has shown that nowadays, the most crucial relationship for an artist to get right is with their manager.

“These are the 20% awards, right?” quipped Damon Albarn at the Artist & Manager Awards last week, before adding: “That’s fine, if you do a good job.”

And, ultimately, you need your manager to do more than a good job to make it. The interesting thing is, there’s more than one way of doing that work these days. So while most managers once seemed to be cut from the cricket-bat-wielding-psychopath mould, nowadays you can get plenty done without dangling a single person out of the window.

So, Joyce Smyth – who picked up our Businesswoman Of The Year gong at Music Week Women In Music earlier this month – is the ultimate background operator for The Rolling Stones. The likes of East City's Stephen “Tav” Taverner – who your correspondent interviewed on stage at the excellent BBC Introducing Live event about his work with Wolf Alice and Alt-J – and Ed Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp of Grumpy Old Management have made their artists huge without anyone having a bad word to say about their management style. And the rise of The 1975 and Anne-Marie has been propelled in no small measure by the close relationship between the artist and Jamie Oborne (pictured, with 1975 frontman Matty Healy) and Jazz Sherman respectively.

Managers always represented the original 360 degree model, as the only person invested in every aspect of an act’s career. But now they can’t afford to be hands-off in any area of their clients’ business, which is why management companies are adding in-house digital or promotion teams left, right and centre and doing more and more of the artist development heavy lifting for their clients.

Because, while more managers now favour the softly-softly approach, the business hasn’t got any less tough – and the best management teams will always have their artists’ back, no matter what. That’s got to be worth 20% of anyone’s money.

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