Managing Expectations: Workforce Edition

13 June 2024

New MMF report recommends targeted cross-sector support to ensure music management companies can develop their future workforce.

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) has today published the latest edition in our Managing Expectations series of reports.

Following a previous focus on evolving business models in music management (2019) and the role of producer & songwriter managers (2021), 2024’s report – the Workforce Edition – explores the experiences of management companies in scaling up, employing staff and freelancers and expanding their operations.

Alongside results of an extensive survey of 176 MMF members, the publication features exclusive interviews with a range of prominent UK managers, alongside a step-by-step tool kit of tips and advice about building a vibrant, inclusive and sustainable business.

The survey findings present a mixed picture for our sector.

With the vast majority (90%) of respondents being self-employed or freelance, 60% say that they earn less than minimum full time wage.  Combined with unpredictable workloads and the inherent lack of a safety net (only 26% of respondents say they contribute to a pension), there are clearly ongoing challenges for some managers to build long-term sustainable businesses. With the majority receiving income on a commission basis and not participating in rights ownership, music managers may be more vulnerable than other music-based SMEs.

Notably, we found a significant drop in managers continuing to operate in the field after five years. Meanwhile respondents reported a steep decline in apprenticeship and internship opportunities – the latter have reduced by 50% since 2019.

Against this, there are a number of more positive trends.

For example, the research shows a 30% increase in management companies investing between £2,500-£5,000 in skills development and staff training, as well as firm evidence of MMF members accessing commercial loans and grants – including those provided by our Accelerator Programme.

Some managers are clearly thriving commercially, with 17% of survey respondents claiming to earn over £50,000 per annum.

As an Arts Council England national portfolio organisation (NPO), the MMF has recently embarked on a major expansion of the professional development services offered to the full spectrum of our membership.

These initiatives range from our Essentials of Music Management training courses for new managers, our groundbreaking Accelerator Programme and – thanks to our new partnership with PPL – an annual advanced managers retreat planned for January 2025. We also have completed an extensive programme of engagement with Welsh-based managers through a partnership with Creative Wales and launched a new partnership with Generator in the North East.

In addition to this ongoing work, the MMF has drawn four cross-sector recommendations from the research.

  • The MMF: must continue to provide support to our membership, helping them to build their skills and knowledge through our education and professional development programmes.

  • MMF members: should continue to invest in training and development for their staff (such as MMF’s Essentials of Music Management course and PPL/PRS registration webinars). They could also consider offering part-time work options and explore innovative financing models.

  • Industry bodies: should advocate for better industry practices such as timely payments, standard contracts and stronger support for parents, carers and those on maternity leave, particularly freelancers.

  • Government: should provide increased support for practical apprenticeships and training programmes in skills relating to music management

Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, MMF said:

“It’s vitally important that the MMF continues to listen to the needs and demands of our members, however big or small, and that we can build upon our existing range of services and training. The Managing Expectations reports are an important component of this process, allowing us to understand the views of music managers around the UK, and providing them with a practical toolkit of advice, tips and recommendations – in this instance, on how to expand their workforce.  

Such an approach to knowledge-sharing is at the heart of all we do, whether that’s with our Essentials of Music Management training courses, our groundbreaking Accelerator Programme supported by YouTube Music, our partnerships with Arts Council England, Creative Wales and Generator or the Advanced Managers Retreat we are planning with PPL for January 2025.”

An Expression of Interest form for the Advanced Managers Retreat to be held in Margate in January 2025 can be accessed here.

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