BRIAN SPENCE HAS HAD FOUR MANAGERS, ONE OF WHOM NEARLY COST HIM £25,000. HAPPILY MATCHED TO HIS NEW MANAGER, OUR BRIAN WEIGHS THE PROS AND CONS OF SEEKING' OUT ARTIST MANAGEMENT.
The best thing a manager can do for you is get you a record deal - if they can do that, then it's been worth it, even if you're going to be paying them for a period afterwards for doing nothing. You're in with a chance. If you haven't got a deal then you haven't got a chance.
For a while you think that for some reason you can do without a manager, but you get to the stage where you're banging on doors and no-one's paying any attention to you - you're just an act, therefore you don't have a brain.
A manager can go and sell you to a record company much better than you can sell yourself. Naturally, you think your songs are the best ever written - but a manager going in and selling them can do it more effectively as a third party, even though it's in his interest as well. I'd been banging on doors for a few years and was on the point of getting deals, but I could never close the deal. It's one thing going into a record company with an act and saying this guy's amazing and all the rest of it, but going in and saying it yourself - it just sounds like bullshit.
Of course, there are musicians who can sell themselves - I know players like that, and I start thinking yes, they are really good. But you can also come away thinking what an egotistical bastard, and want nothing to do with them. You've either got a taste for that side of the business or you haven't, and most musicians I know haven't. Well, I know one who has, but he ended up working for a record company. There's always a guy in the band who isn't the best looking or the best musician, but he'll always get into bands and get them playing and gigging. Those people tend to make good managers, eventually.
But unless one person in the band can go into meetings and be in two places at the same time, you really need a manager - you need someone who's a salesman for you. The best managers can sell bands in such a way that the person they're selling to wants to become a part of it, the manager makes record companies believe that this new act is really going to happen. You need a combination of somebody that you can trust, but who isn't a wimp: someone who's got that aggression, but can be nice at the right times.
There are things that managers do that you just don't want to concern yourself with. I hate that side of the business: like most musicians, all you want to do is get on the road and play, or stay at home and write your music. The last thing you want to do is the business stuff - it's really time consuming. Also, you get to see another point of view if you have a manager. After the gig, everyone tells you how wonderful it was. But they won't tell the manager that. They'll tell him it was shit, and why. You need a guy who's going to be upfront with you, honest, and tell you how good you are or how bad you are at any particular time.
I don't necessarily think it's important for managers to understand the music - though the guy I'm with now does have an ear for music. It really depends on the relationship you make with your manager - if he's willing to sell you at any price and have you prostituting yourself every step of the way, well . . . you just feel humiliated all the time. You want some respect of where you are musically and what you're trying to do. One manager I had that ripped me off, he always used to say that artists love to be treated like shit, and they'll keep coming back for more. I don't know if that's true or not - but I've certainly done it.
Once you've signed up to the record company, the manager's good at hassling them - the company's got maybe another 50 acts all wanting promotion, all wanting to go abroad, all wanting releases everywhere, all thinking their record should be priority that week. And if you've got a good manager you can inspire the record company to work harder for you.
The manager is a co-ordinator - sorting out pressing dates and sleeve printing dates, putting your opinion in as to what song should be the next single as well as what they think, getting in touch with America - because in record companies, even though there's a managing director who's looking over the whole thing, sometimes departments aren't co-ordinated together and just do their own thing. So there's plenty for a manager to do on a day to day basis -even if it's just going around and bucking everyone up.
How much do managers cost? I've had them take everything from 15 per cent to 35 per cent - that's of everything you ever make. Every time you have a shit. Thirty-five is right over the top, 15 is OK . . . depends how much work they're doing. Years ago it used to be ten per cent - managers were called Mr Ten Per Cent. Now it's more like Mr Twenty-five Per Cent. If you're a band, that might seem like an OK deal - but if there's six people in the band and the manager's getting 25 per cent, what will you be left with? But as a solo act, I'm left with 75 per cent. Managers can be worth 90 per cent of what you earn: I'd sooner have, ten per cent of a million than 100 per cent of 25 quid.
This article, written by Brian, appeared in issue 31 of Making Music magazine/newspaper - "Britain's Biggest Musicians' Magazine", dated October 1988.
Page Last Updated: 4th March 2010
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