MMF UK and MMF Canada hosted a brunch with a number of managers whose artists were performing at the Great Escape, and who haven’t previously engaged with the MMF, to discuss the changing role of management and transatlantic challenges.
James Sandom and Jess Lord from RedLight along with Graham Stairs from PopGuru led the debate introduced by Ric Salmon from ATC.
The debate started by exploring the shifting role of managers who are increasingly investing in developing artists before a label deal. Artists are now responsible for building their stories by being active in social media and, in general, being more involved in fan engagement. This can give artists much greater leverage and encourage flexibility with the kinds of deals that can be negotiated with labels. However it also may impact traditional business models for managers and mean other new models beyond a standard commission may come into play. Many managers especially in Canada are also running independent labels and publishing companies whilst others look at joint ventures or service fees.
The group discussed at the different roles of management in larger companies such as Red Light, compared to independent managers and what this means for working with labels who are increasingly expecting management companies to do more in-house from plugging to marketing. Managers are also engaging directly with DSPs such as Spotify to shape their artists strategy, potentially more so than in the past and they therefore need additional skills to manage external service providers.
The ability to obtain alternative sources of finance seems to be easier in Canada where there is significant government cultural support to invest in artists. This means that when they do come to negotiating deals they have increased leverage. In the UK this is harder to obtain. The MMF linked Amplify Seed investment fund is helping fill some of this gap alongside initiatives such as the PRS foundation but more sources of funding are needed.
Finally we discussed the need for a collective voice through the MMFs to represent managers in the industry and the need for more transatlantic exchange of information between MMF UK and MMF Canada. We are both very happy to help our members make these connections.