Story by Namon Eugene Photography © Vincent Roazzi Jr.
On Monday, August 22nd, ten key music managers were invited to the Viacom office in Times Square, to talk music business and the future of music management to be precise. Organized and hosted by Artist Republic, an entertainment strategy company, its founders Kentay Williams and Asantewaa Ricks, guided the hand selected movers and shakers through an hour and a half of tough truths, practical advice, and thought shifting processes and ideas.
Here are 5 major takeaways Heed acquired from this incredibly moving meeting of minds.
1. Strategy is key
The genius himself, Albert Einstein, said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Traditionally in the music business, managers are known to execute strategy and processes, but in today’s music business, Kentay and Asantewaa believe managers need to also BECOME strategists. Throughout the night, Artist Republic revisited the idea that a team without strategy will try anything…and trying anything is NOT strategy at all.
So, where do you start devising your master plan of music industry domination? Discovering your artist’s story is a great place to start. The music industry is built on stories. Those stories inform the manager about who the artist’s fans are (or could be). Without a story it would be difficult to build a solid strategy.
2. The best doesn’t exist
Did you love that new Gucci Mane record? Maybe you did, but did your mom? Do you think Britney Spears is the greatest singer to ever walk the earth? Others may disagree. The best of anything is subjective. What really makes a pizza better in Chicago than in New York? There can be a hundred factors from a thousand different people, but the thing that really makes something stand out (or to be considered “the best”) is the fact that it is unique. Being true to your gift carves out a special space for you and what you do. So instead of competing to be better than something or someone which already exists, simply compete to be unique.
3. Burning desire is very different from a clear objective
Most artists operate from burning desire. Burning desire is the thing that keeps you up all night, makes you do things you’ve never done before, and motivates you to cast fear aside, and just leap. But a burning desire does not always translate towards a clear objective. A manager should be able to take the energy and excitement that an artist has, and strategize towards a clear objective. That could be as simple as releasing an album by a set date, or as complicated as scoring seven consecutive Hot 100 #1 singles (R.I.P. Whitney Houston). There has to be a clear objective. Burning desire is not enough.
4. Music is human, but the music business should be a machine
Great artists are great because they connect to their audience on a deep, emotional level. Great artists make that connection through great…no, amazing…songs. Women all around the world (and quite a few men too) were jumping and jiving to Beyoncé’s now iconic song “Single Ladies”, not only because of the hot beat and unique melody, but also the universal lyrical message. It empowered many.
On the other hand, the business of making that song the hit that it became was less than human. Kentay and Asantewaa spoke that the behind-the-scenes process of an artist has to work like a well-oiled machine to operate optimally. The budgets need to be tight, emails should be composed professionally, and schedules should be created and followed as closely as possible. Luck may be a part of success in the entertainment industry, but why not increase your chances by creating reliable processes for your business, and following through daily?
And speaking of success…
5. You can find success without the radio
Whether you want to admit it or not, in a lot of ways, radio is still king when it comes to breaking a record or an artist, but in today’s digital age, that’s changing…albeit rather slowly. There are so many avenues online now where you can present your music, and artist, to a large audience. Want to book an interview for your artist, but the local radio station DJ isn’t giving you the time of day? Try reaching out to a hot podcast. A magazine doesn’t have space for an editorial feature? Pitch the idea to a popular blog. Radio isn’t the only way to get an artist’s story and music out into the world. As the Artist Republic founders say, “Be ok with saying f-ck the radio.”
The landscape of the music industry is seriously changing more rapidly than ever. Some, including Jonnetta Patton (mother and former manager to R&B superstar Usher, who made a surprise conference call-in), even find today’s music industry a bit confusing. But what Artist Republic shared within the music management power hour, was comfort for the current and up-and-coming music managers, by insisting that a solid plan is still, and will always be, the key to navigating the ever-changing music industry. It was a lesson that can be applied to many facets of life.