SWOT Analysis of Artist Management

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Strengths

  • Independence - not beholden to larger corporations for existence
  • Traditionally high demand/low supply for quality services
  • Most skills/knowledge tend be enduring (ie: a relatively non transient role in a highly transient industry).
  • Benefit from all revenue streams so not as damaged by declining CD sales
  • Managers can add value to all revenue streams so their role is increasingly pivotal as label services decline
  • We are the only sector representing all of the interests of contemporary popular musicians.
  • We are the only sector actively involved in all aspects of an artist's career – ie recording, publishing, touring, merchandising, endorsements etc

Weaknesses

  • The major weakness in the concept of artist management is that one’s income is based entirely on receiving a percentage of what the artist receives. You start with 20% of nothing. Long term development of your artist’s ‘brand’ is not something that is encouraged by the record companies to whom we look for funding so increasingly the manager does the development or they look for the same ‘make it quick’ scenario favoured by the today’s major companies. There is very little or no fall back position.
  • As evidenced by the multitude of comments from AAM members it is obvious that one of the major weaknesses of management is fragmentation – the ‘sole trader’ aspect. This is alleviated somewhat by the existence of organisations such as the AAM and the International Music Managers' Forum (IMMF) but at the end of the day, we are all still learning as we go – all of our artist clients are different, with different priorities and needs. There is no text book.
  • Management companies are in very different situations from one another, depending on the circumstances of their artists (eg: those with acts signed to worldwide deals with Sony will have some serious issues now that Sony is in the management business with other artists as their clients).
  • Ultimately we are dependent on artists for income so if they insist on making 'bad' decisions then your business falls accordingly.
  • Limited scale of operations places managers at a structural disadvantage to the larger corporations with which they're dealing.
  • Unless you have one of the 18 artists who make significant money here you will find it difficult to run a profitable management business as a stand alone entity in Australia due to market size (unlike U.S. where a midlevel artist can still earn good money for a manager).
  • The existence of relatively few experienced/capable practitioners means that many substandard managers exist and this gives managers a poor reputation overall.
  • The problems of working artists globally in a world where international labels no longer play the key role has vastly increased the workload on managers, necessitating much more overseas travel to deal with all of the participants in the artist’s career instead of going to the ‘head office’.
  • As label services decline there is an expectation that managers will 'fill those gaps' which means significant extra workload and overheads.
  • Funding - especially for international touring and recording (see the combined NZMIC model & NZ On Air). As the industry fragments and we seek partners in various territories for the exploitation of our artists’ product and performances it is much more common for managers (especially those of emerging artists) to have to fund the promotional visits for their artists and themselves.
  • The lack of income in our sector does not attract new young managers.

Opportunities

  • As label power declines, management power increases. Managers/artists are increasingly responsible for charting their own destiny rather than relying on labels to be the main engine of career growth. All opportunities - increased control of destiny, greater earnings potential etc - flow from this reality.
  • The re-invention of the recorded music business; there is an opportunity for artists (and thus managers) to be remunerated properly for the sale of recorded music as we move away from the draconian artist contract / business model inflicted on artists by the major international labels since the inception of the recorded disc.
  • With the advent of high capacity music players (iPods etc) more and more music is being consumed and a worldwide audience is available at substantially reduced marketing costs.
  • A new government that understands that the importance of culture can not always be measured in a financial sense.
  • The growth of credibility and acceptance of management organisations, especially the IMMF, by legislative, judicial and industry bodies means that the input of managers, as the representatives of the artists on a global level is being recognised. As more managers throughout the world understand that their interests are being properly put by these associations and that their artists and therefore they themselves benefit from the activities and advocacy of an international managers’ forum the dissemination of information and ideas as well as the impact of speaking with one voice becomes more of a reality.

Threats

  • As the management role becomes even more central it brings extra overheads and responsibilities (ie: a lot more work and perhaps expertise that we don’t necessarily have!) This probably leads to the need for greater scale one way or another (particularly when dealing internationally).
  • This could lead to 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss' problems if management becomes corporatized.
  • Corporatization could come internally by way of the Manager/Agent/Label model (eg: Irving Azoff in the US) or externally by way of major label land grabs (eg: Universal/Sanctuary in the UK or Sony/Caplice Management in Australia) where the record company demands a part or full ownership of the management entity and therefore a “360 degree” participation in all aspects of the artist’s / manager's income.
  • The uncertainty of where the music business is heading and the absolute determination of the old business to hold on to market share, profits and outdated business models and imposing this determination on artists and managers who may well be more open to new more efficient and profitable models.

Author

Prepared by Michael McMartin from a compilation of comments from members of the Association of Artist Managers (AAM) Australia. Submitted 27 February 2008.

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