Manager Spotlight: Martha Cleary

30 May 2024

The manager spotlight offers a small insight into the heads of incredible managers.⁠ This week in the spotlight is Martha Cleary!

How long have you worked in Management?

I first started managing musicians in 2019, while working at independent record label Tru Thoughts. Working as their campaign manager, I found that I slipped easily into the role of filling the gap between artist and projects.

Who do you manage now?

In the UK I manage Lancaster-based jazz/folk singer, songwriter and musician Bryony Jarman-Pinto and neo-soul singer songwriter and jazz/electronic producer Steven Bamidele based in London. Both are signed to Brighton-based label Tru Thoughts. I also manage producer, composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Sly5thAve, famed for his orchestral jazz renditions of hip hop classics and his work with the likes of Dr Dre, Questlove and Prince. Based in New York, I work with singer-songwriter Miranda Joan who has recently released her album ‘Overstimulated’ and is currently on tour with The Killers providing backing vocals.

Where did you find your first client and what inspired you to take them on?

I met Sly5thAve, Steven and Bryony all while working at Tru Thoughts, but Miranda Joan was the first artist I met organically and was inspired to work with independently. We were put in touch by the wonderful bassist/producer CARRTOONS who I had met in Brighton a month before and who was co-producing Miranda’s album in summer 2022. She had mentioned to him that she wanted a teammate, ideally a woman, to help her navigate being an independent musician. She emailed me with a link to her ode to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (I Love You, Dwayne), I was blown away by her voice and we had a call where she told me she was in her “f*** it era” and was determined to do whatever was necessary to get her music heard. I loved her sound, her energy and her commitment and we went from there. Two years later, we are still a two woman team and growing/accomplishing new things together constantly.

What does a good/bad day at work look like for you?

A good work day looks like a completed to-do list and a clear inbox.
A bad work day looks like begging for extra hours in a day/days in a week.

What has been the highlight of your management career to date?

When I decided I was going to leave Tru Thoughts and become a manager full time, Sly5thAve and I discussed me managing him at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, where he was performing with Ghost Note. We made a pact that he would return to Ronnie Scott’s and sell out the venue with a sold out show. Less than 18 months later, we achieved this as part of his ‘Liberation’ tour. That was a huge moment for me as a manager, and him as an artist.

What do you think are the big challenges for a manager in 2024?

Touring is a huge challenge, both financially and logistically, especially as none of my artists have booking agents so that falls under my responsibilities. Also, as many artists will confirm, the pressure for artists to be across everything (socials, releasing music, playing live, registering everything, collaborating, featuring, remixing, sync etc) is a challenge for managers too. The conflict of having a duty of care to your artists, while wanting to encourage them to do as much as possible to increase the opportunities open to them, is a tricky balance to find.

Why would you recommend the MMF?

Being a manager can sometimes feel lonely, but the MMF immediately gives you a community of people who understand what you do and what’s required of you day to day. I also find the regular newsletters so helpful as they summarise all the things you feel like you NEED to know and all the events/conferences you should be going to.

What have you gained from the Accelerator Programme so far?

A month in to the accelerator programme and I can already say I’ve gained a close network of managers and a HUGE amount of knowledge that I didn’t have before. I would absolutely encourage all managers who qualify to apply for the programme.

What music are you currently listening to?

Recently, I’ve had CARRTOONS – Spaceships, Hinds – Boom Boom Back, Julia Zivic – I Will Hold You Up To The Light and Charli XCX – 360 on repeat. I’ve also really been enjoying the new St Vincent and Yaya Bey albums. Away from management, I also freelance as a radio plugger and host two radio shows on 1BTN and Totally Wired Radio, so I’m always on the lookout for new artists to check out.

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