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So, You Want to Be a Band-Aid?

By Ashaita Mahajan | December 3, 2009

Split Magazine: Band ManagersAnyone can be a band manager. You don’t need a fancy M.B.A. or any other management degree to be one. You just need to want to do it badly enough that you figure out for yourself what it takes to do just what you want, in the best way possible.

Have you ever noticed that artists who win major music awards (like the A.M.A.’s or Grammys) always thank their managers (along with others)? These managers must be doing something right to really boost their artists’s careers. The artist managers in India primarily belong to the big Bollywood musicians/singers in the business. However, now most of the prominent indie bands have managers as well. Managers in the independent music scene in India are getting a lot more credit these days, and the importance of having one is being realised. In the West, the concept of a manager is clearly defined and it is a respected career choice. In India, not so much (yet!). The managers that have carried their bands forward can hold their heads up high because they deserve it. But for others who are still not solely working with their band (because it’s not sustainable) and need to have other day jobs, it’s not so simple. Now, don’t get me wrong — all these managers work their asses off to help promote and develop their artists. Apart from having a strong skill set, luck is always a part of success — unfortunately it doesn’t work for everyone.

So, I just completed (and successfully passed) my master’s in music management. This makes me feel like I have some credibility to write about this topic. Having conducted research on a small scale in the short time assigned, I discovered a few interesting things about being a manager. Most of these points may seem like common sense to some, but maybe completely unheard of for others. Anybody can be a band manager — but you have got to develop those managerial skills first. Artists/musicians are looking for management. A majority want to have someone look after the business while they focus on their music — they’re the creative kind who prefer shying away from the ‘nitty-gritties’. At the end of the day, the artist is a business enterprise and making the business grow and become more profitable would be any manager’s first priority. A manager’s job would not exist if an artist didn’t need one. Hiring management is taking that serious next step where a band commits to taking the band from amateur to professional status — turning over to the next chapter, so to speak. An amateur band, just starting out in college, would be a fool to hire a manager!

A manager is undoubtedly a big investment, but it is an investment worth making.

A manager is undoubtedly a big investment, but it is an investment worth making. A manager looks after all the business deals and transactions of the band, leaving them stress-free and focused on making music and putting on a great show. They don’t have to worry about the finances, transport, public relations, etc. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for managers — but there’s no such thing — so managers have to work really hard to make things run as smoothly as possible. In the West, an infrastructure exists, and because we lack that in India, it just makes the tasks more difficult (or challenging, if you’re one of those “the glass is half full” type people).

During my research, I asked musicians what they looked for in a manager, and the best summarised response I got was from Sahil Makhija a.k.a The Demonstealer (of Demonic Resurrection and Workshop fame): a manager is “somebody who can take the band forward in its career, someone who understands the music, the image, the ideology, the focus of the band and channels all this in the right way to take the band ahead”.

So, here are a few tips for anyone who wants to be a manager in India’s independent (non-Bollywood) music scene —

(Note: These points are not exhaustive, and I bet there are thousands of ways of doing things — different things work for different people. It’s just about finding the right mix, fixing the levels for optimum productivity and output, and working out the perfect pitch for both artist and manager with mutual understanding and respect.)

* First and foremost, a manager has to be the band’s biggest, most loyal devoted fan, who loves them unconditionally.

* Any relationship — business or personal — is based on trust. An artist’s career lies in the hands of the manager (not to sound too dramatic, but it’s true!) and that responsibility must not be taken lightly. After all, the manager is the artist’s spokesperson and must do everything for the welfare of their artist(s).

* Networking and having contacts is a must for any manager. This is considered one of the most important features of a good manager. According to Shazneen, manager of the band Medusa, without this, the manager and the band will never get anywhere. If the manager knows who and what is out there, he/she can approach them and sell his/her enterprise in the best way possible. From sponsors, promoters, club owners, and brand endorsers, having a solid set of connections is fundamental. She also mentioned the importance of social networking and marketing, and how people should never underestimate the power of Facebook!

* According to Sheldon, Sangeet and Gino (from bands like Nexus and XenOBob), a manager must perform certain tasks to qualify as a good manager: exploring options for the band, connecting and talking to people, encouraging potential sponsors and promoters to organise shows, and just going all out in showing the world why doing business with their artist(s) would be a wise decision.

* A manager must think of his artist as a product. But not a product you just throw in the bin if it’s useless (otherwise you’re a very bad manager). If the manager has an artist, he must exploit (in a good way) him/her to deliver the best potential that people would go crazy over. The manager has to promote and sell his artist — if the artist has a lot to offer, the manager has a wide variety of options of how to do that.

* No artist would come close to any amount of success without the support of an audience. It is very important for a manager to understand the importance of knowing and understanding the audience and targeting the right segments.

* In connection to the previous point: keeping the band in the eyes and ears of their fans and potential fans is crucial. Managers must ensure constant updates by the band, photographs, concert videos, jam videos, free downloads and online streaming to keep the band in the minds of their audience. The further the band is away, the further away the audience will stay (unintentional rhyme).

* Lastly, a manager cannot be a babysitter, a suck-up, or a liar. No self-respecting musician would want to be patronised by their manager. Honesty and humility is the key element in this relationship. A manager should always keep the artist focused and grounded.

In conclusion, I would just like to say that having a manager is very important if a band thinks it needs one, and is willing to share a percentage of its income. A manager should do everything in his/her power to help the band move forward — but there has to be a mutual give and take. It comes down to teamwork and combined efforts that will make this working relationship effective.

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