Mike D: Our manager's crazy - he always smokes dust
MCA: He's got his own room at the back of the bus
Ad Rock: Tour around the world - you rock around the clock
Mike D: Plane to hotel - girls on the jock
MCA: We're trashing hotels like it's going out of style
Ad Rock: Getting paid along the way cause it's worth your while
–The Beastie Boys, "No Sleep Til' Brooklyn"
The volatile state of the music industry has been well-documented and much-discussed. Some prognosticators keep calling out doom and gloom, others see tremendous (if still unpredictable and undetermined) potential. Undoubtedly and inexorably, the industry many grew up idolizing, demonizing, trying to break into, or aiming desperately to avoid is being transformed by forces of technology and economy that give a damn about the value of art or the fact that the album is (for now, at least) a dying beast.
More often than not, labels lie at the center of this discussion, the most obviously affected by the rushing tides and those trying hardest and quite publicly to stem the sea change. Industry titans Sony, Universal, and Warner still maintain tremendous power and influence (primarily through the final fortress of radio), but the cornerstone of their revenue has eroded, creating opportunity in chaos. Lost in the conversation are some of the modern music industry's most important players (aside from those actually making the music): Managers.
As the label stranglehold on supply chain and promotion loosens with the unceasing bloom of digital tools, managers have become increasingly crucial in the development of artists and the generation of revenue–most importantly without the necessary guidance and financial backing of a label. While the primary functions of managers remain largely unchanged from decades past, new problems mean new opportunities and novel methods of crafting sustainable careers. Ultimately, a great manager still needs to be paired with great clients, but particularly savvy managers can make the difference between a flash in the pan and a path to longevity–the quick cash-ins vs. the decade spanning businesses.
To get a sense of what a makes a successful manager in today's ever-unpredictable climate, we spoke with a number of managers working with rising and established acts about their roles, routines, and philosophies about the business.
Abdullah Ahmad - Co-manager, Alexander Spit & Nylo / Marketing/A&R, Atlantic Records
Brock Korsan - Manager, DJ Dahi, Cardo, THC, Sid Roams / Marketing/A&R, Atlantic Records
Charlie Christie - Manager, Sango
Erika Kelly - Co-manager, Alexander Spit & Nylo
J-Mo - Co-manager, Alex Wiley & Kembe X
Kirk Harding - Manager, The Neighbourhood, Little Daylight, RAJ
Pat Corcoran - Manager, Chance the Rapper
Script - Co-manager, Alex Wiley & Kembe XClick to start the list