Published back in 2019, a significant portion of the MMF’s Managing Expectations report was focussed on the long-term commercial sustainability of music management businesses – and how certain conventions and traditional perspectives were ripe to be challenged. The report also explored the changing face of management, including recommendations for a greater emphasis on professional development, such as improved access to finance and training, encouragement to diversify skills and support for mental health provision.
Fast forward to 2023, and with the MMF recently becoming one of Art Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations, what were once aspirations are now part and parcel of our work. Alongside greater recognition of the manager’s role and importance, we now have a stated remit to help our wider membership build viable businesses that can support an even greater number of artist, songwriter, producer and creator clients.
This context explains why, between March 6th and March 8th, 12 intrepid individuals joined the MMF team for our first ever Advanced Managers Retreat, hosted at Selina Margate. Over two full days and three nights, it provided a unique opportunity for this intimate group to receive hands-on coaching and insights from a range of expert speakers, as well as to share information and personal experiences with their peers.
All of us know how isolating management can be as a profession, and, although the MMF hosts a wide range of networking events each year, this was a chance to make deeper, more lasting connections. A truly unique experience. Among the workshops and discussions, there was also ample time for stargazing, drinks, dinners, yoga and – for the bravest – a sea and sauna dip at Walpole Bay.
Our experts for the retreat, who covered areas from leadership and business building to negotiation strategies, entrepreneurship, mental health provision and financial planning were:
Louise Hedges: Pip Development
Richard Hoare: Director, Hoare Associates and co-author of Do Deal: Negotiate better. Find hidden value. Enrich relationships.
David Glick: Founder & CEO, Edge Investments and Chair, TaP Music
Sam Parker: Founder, Sam Parker Coaching, Co-Founder, Music Support UK
Oliver Chessis: Financial Adviser, KWM Wealth
Taking an informal and workshop-based approach, with participants encouraged to ask questions and proactively participate, the retreat kicked off with an opening address from Anneliese Harmon and Paul Bonham, respectively the MMF’s GM and Director of Professional Development, before the start of four in-depth sessions from corporate leadership coach and facilitator, Louise Hedges.
Covering both the “hardware” and “software” of leadership, Louise focussed initially on the bigger picture of business building by helping the group identify their overall vision and mission, establish their goals, and design a schedule of how these goals might be achieved. This step-by-step approach led participants to create a planning hierarchy, before diving deep into discussions of their leadership styles (the “software” side of business) on day two and how to best communicate their vision with emotional intelligence.
Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of different leadership styles, and how to adapt those styles to obstacles and challenges, the group was encouraged to consider how they could take both their business and their personal career to the next level.
Following lunch and a (bracing) seaside walk, the sessions resumed with a two-hour discussion from hugely respected music lawyer, Richard Hoare, on the art of negotiation. Drawn predominantly from his acclaimed book on the subject, the group explored “the art of the deal” through a range of competing dynamics – incorporating fascinating concepts like “finite” and “infinite” games, and understanding how the most adept negotiators will typically unfurl a ball of string, not embark on a tug-of-war. This led to a fascinating exchange on the most difficult discussion of all – the contract between the manager and their artist clients. Taking a lead from Jay-Z… in business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.
Richard’s talk segued into what was essentially an extended fireside chat with seasoned investor and entrepreneur, David Glick. David is also the current Chair of TaP Music (Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, Christine and the Queens, Caroline Polachek), and so also holds a unique understanding of music management and adding value to build sustainable long-term businesses. Taking place under Chatham House rules, it was an extraordinary opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the UK’s most respected – not to mention successful – VC leaders, including an evening dinner at Margate’s Waverly House.
Picking up on the final morning, we were joined by Sam Parker, co-founder of Music Support UK and co-author of the MMF’s Guide To Mental Health – an invaluable publication to help recognise and resolve the stresses and conflicts inherent in music management, and to provide signposts towards expert help and resolution. Through an incredibly powerful two-hour session, Sam talked candidly about her own personal experiences in music management, before leading an empathetic group discussion about the unique pressures of supporting creative talent in an “always on” digital world.
Leaping from the personal to the financial, the retreat then wrapped up with insights from KVW Wealth’s Oliver Chessis – offering his perspectives on the current commercial environment and short-term economic trends, as well as important incoming changes to Corporation Tax, Dividend Tax Allowance and Capital Gains Tax and invaluable advice on Pension Contributions, Life Insurance, and Income Protection Schemes. Essentially a Financial 101, with a music management twist.
From an MMF perspective, the Advanced Managers Retreat was an impactful and rewarding next step in our mission to upskill our membership, and to provide tailored professional development services. We plan to do more of these activities in the future, and to help music managers survive and thrive in a competitive global business.
Stephen Budd, Stephen Budd Management:
The retreat was really informative and interesting. Just to be surrounded by people who experience what you do on a day by day basis was invaluable. We dove down a lot deeper than you would at a typical networking event, and having 3 days together really allows you to share knowledge and learnings that perhaps you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do. The speakers had some really useful information to share – not only on a technical management basis, but also around the psychology of building a business.
Katherine Hogarth, 5B Artists & Media
The genre that I work in – heavy metal – can be very isolated, and everyone keeps themselves to themselves. While I’m very connected within that genre, I rarely speak to artist managers outside that lane. So it’s been super refreshing to liaise with this group, and it’s been reassuring that we’ve all got the same concerns and we’re all fighting the same battles.
I’ve learnt so much and I’ve built so many connections just from being here. It’s not like a normal networking event, and during the first task we were told that we’re going to have to open up and be vulnerable, and that’s not what I expected at all. For instance, in the mental health talk we just had, I’ve never been provided with that kind of safe space before that’s enabled people to talk so openly about problems that they’ve been facing. It’s been hugely beneficial for my personal development, and a real success as an event.
Luke Bunce, Lab Management
The retreat has been really motivating, really inspiring. It’s covered all bases, with a bit of therapy in there as well. But fundamentally, it’s been great to be among loads of fellow managers and peers, and it’s something I probably don’t do enough. Being a manager can be quite isolated, so it’s been great to hangout with likeminded people. It’s good to come together.
In terms of the sessions, Louise was really great in terms of business coaching, David’s talk was fascinating, and especially to hear the perspective of how big investors might view the potential of artists and management businesses. I also loved the art of negotiation with Richard Hoare. I’d recommend this kind of event to any other managers as a way to network, to improve your skills, and just to grow a little bit.
Dan Garber, TAPE rec
I applied for the Accelerator fund about 12 months ago but didn’t get on, and I really felt like I missed out on the mentoring and learning opportunities. I kept in contact with Paul and Anneliese about other opportunities, and when the retreat was announced I put my name down. The experience has been really insightful, and probably one of the biggest things has just been to share a collective space and realise that we’re all in the same boat and there’s so many experiences, worries, concerns and talents we all share. It’s been really validating.
The experts we’ve interacted with have discussed everything from finance to mental health, and for such a concentrated amount of time we’ve covered a lot of ground. It’s totally different to a network event, because you’re making proper connections. You’re not trying to sell yourself, we’ve all been very vulnerable right from the start with opening up.
In terms of the next one, I’m going to be selfish. I’m not going to recommend it, I’m just going to sign up and do it again.
Amanda Playle, Decade Management
I agree with all Dan’s sentiments. None of us walked in here with the thought of being over protective or with our guard up. We’ve all shared everything. Everybody has been really open to receiving advice from others as well. Just to be sat in a room with our peers…we never ever get to do that! I personally hate networking and always avoid it, but when you can be somewhere like this it’s more like having a good long conversation with somebody. I’d love to do it again, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.
Maija Rivenburg, Kipepeo Agency
The retreat has been really successful, and it’s been really great to connect with other managers and feel the camaraderie that you’re not alone. So many people face similar challenges and I think we’ve all learned alot from each other as well as the other speakers.
For me the most insightful sessions were those on the hardware and software of leadership with Louise. I have my own company and have four people working for me, and I’ve never studied how to run a business. The whole experience has made me reevaluate how I do things.