Artist management is not what it used to be. In fact, management today requires a different set of skills. It’s not just about getting a record deal anymore, it’s about developing an identity and brand as well as multiple income streams. As a result, more artists are managing themselves than ever before. It’s not a career in music that they envisioned; some do it because they have no choice, while others do it because they care more than anybody else. Either way, it’s a music career trend that is increasing. With that in mind, we talked with artists and experts to see how this development is evolving and impacting the music scene.
Mitch Schneider Organization
The Mitch Schneider Organization (MSO) is one of the world’s premier PR firms. The MSO roster encompasses a variety of styles and genres that include superstars, musical legends, festivals, award shows and emerging artists. That diversity enables MSO publicists to obtain coverage in multiple outlets and mediums, from underground fanzines to mainstream media.
You actually initiated this roundtable. You said that you were seeing more artists managing themselves. Why is that noteworthy?
It used to be rare for PR companies like MSO to represent artists without a manager. Now, however, it’s so common it’s almost a trend. Today, quite a few acts manage their own careers––not without help, but without an official manager.
Do you recall when you first noticed the trend toward self-management?
There are many instances today, but the first time was one of the highlights of my career. I represented David Bowie when he managed himself. He had a business manager and consultant advising him, but he ran the show and called the shots. He would call and talk with me directly about his ideas and goals. He was brilliant and it was a fantastic experience.
Is it more challenging to deal with artists directly?
In many ways it is. You have to be very diplomatic and on top of your game. You also have to be patient and explain things if the artist doesn’t understand how the PR business works. Because of that, decisions can take longer than they normally would if a manager was involved.
Does MSO ever fulfill the functions of a manager?
Sometimes we do, but we try to keep it on an advisory level. Managers typically have more industry connections than we do, and are known as deal makers. We, on the other hand, are publicists not negotiators.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve encountered with self-managed artists?
When artists don’t understand how the business works, they can get frustrated and dismissive. That kind of pushback can hurt a campaign and make our job harder. Additionally, some artists have very sensitive egos that are easily bruised. And, at times, their reactions can alienate team members and be counterproductive.
What’s your opinion of artists who manage themselves?
Every situation is different, but often artists have no choice. They either can’t find the right manager, or can’t attract one because they’re not making enough money. I always suggest that they try to get a manager on board, especially if a record company is involved. But, until they do, they can manage themselves. Today, there are many tools available, along with online help, that allow artists to do just that. •