The manager spotlight offers a small insight into the heads of incredible managers. this week in the spotlight is Benjamin Magee!
How long have you worked in Management?
I started working in management in 2019 after a long time freelancing in live events and journalism. I apprenticed under Lyndon Stephens at Champion Sound Music and Quiet Arch Records as a content creator – it wasn’t long before my talents (or lack therein) for that type of work were uncovered, so I quickly made the shift to artist management after a few weeks. My first task was advancing a world tour for a client – an absolute baptism by fire. But I quickly fell in love with the chaos and the hours, and four years later I’m still as in love with the industry (but a little bit more mental).
Who do you manage now?
I’m currently working with a small but strong roster – Joshua Burnside, Lemonade Shoelace and Chalk, with an eye on a few really promising and exciting talents here in Ireland. I like to keep my roster varied in style and genre, it means there is less crossover to worry about and you meet a more varied representation of the industry.
Where did you find your first client and what inspired you to take them on?
My first client was the pop-punk trio CHERYM from Derry. I’d been a huge fan of their debut EP and had written a review about them back when it came out. When I got a chance to work with them I was ecstatic – to date, I still love the energy and enthusiasm they bring to their love performances. There’s no difference between the recorded product to the live show, which helped as we really built their early career on our shows. I still get chills when I listen to the closing harmonies on their track “We’re Just Friends”, they’re such absolutely fantastic writers.
What’s a good/bad day at work look like for you?
I’m not sure i can quantify the difference between the two in all honesty. One of the things I both hate and love about my work as a manager is that no two days are the same – I enjoy the constant challenge and change that this industry demands, it really keeps me on my toes, but at the same time I feel a real hyper-sensitivity to my work that I can never really turn off. So a good day in all honesty is one where I get to bed before midnight! Bad days, if I can really call them that, are more down to breakdowns in communication between myself and my partners, artists, contractors etc – but they’re usually easily resolved.
(Having said that, losing a sync deal at the finish line is something I think all managers can identify with – and it’s an absolute day ruiner every time)
What has been the highlight of your management career to date?
If I had to pick one, it would be Friday, December 23rd, 2022. About 13 months beforehand I had just finished off a run of dates with Joshua, his first since the lockdown had opened up. The tour concluded with three sold-out performances in a row at the Ulster Sports Club in Belfast, which was about 750 tickets sold. And while everyone was patting each other on the back, all I could think about was “If we had new music out… we could probably get all these people together, on one night. Maybe even more people… actually, that’s probably a bit too mad.”
Cut back to Christmas 2022, and Joshua walked on stage as the headliner of the legendary Ulster Hall, to a sold-out, 900 capacity crowd. Going from 30 tickets to one of the biggest venues in Ireland in under four years. No label, no agent, just good tunes and hard work. I’d seen so many great acts play there over the years, and it felt really surreal to carve my own show into the walls.
What do you think are the big challenges for a manager in 2023?
I’m still grappling with what the consequences of AI will be for the administrative side of the music industry. Whilst I recognise the strengths and advantages of using AI as a time-saving tool, I am wary of any discourse that paints it as a saviour. Ultimately, it’s the humanity in the creative sector that makes truly great careers, moments and art, and I think removing the humans from the cockpit can cheapen and demean what our clients are trying to achieve. You can’t mimick passion, and shortcutting the essential work managers do can only have negative consequences.
I’m also fanatically thinking of workarounds for costs in all aspects of my client’s careers as we head into yet another Tory-caused recession. Everything from marketing to shifting tickets has now become as much a luxury as a necessity for both artists and fans. Walking the tightrope over the next few years will be our biggest challenge since lockdown I fear.
What music are you currently listening to?
I’m a biased man, so my listening trends are definitely shifting in an Irish direction. I’ve totally fallen in love with Lemoncello after having them on tour with us in March 2023. They write like Wet Leg but sing like Laura Marling, and are really incredible performers. I’ve also fallen in love with young acts in Ireland like Tramp and Charlie Hanlon, who both fill me with hope and remind me of just how old I am. And my most recent discoveries are Tara Lily and Jalen Ngonda, who are transforming both my morning commutes and late-night drives from routine into daily highlights