Rewired — Roles, Rules, Rhythm of Artist Management

Vivek Paul
9 min readSep 17, 2020

The changing dynamics

One of the most significant traits of being an Artist Manager is that they are Mission-driven. All artist managers have a deep commitment to making their artist’s vision reach the pinnacle of success. There can be many variables in measuring success such as — getting a packed stadium for live performances; building fan loyalty and engagement; getting record deals or having musical works protected, registered; building revenue alliances; perception, etc. such focused objectives are referred to mini-milestones to meticulously inch towards the mission.

Alignment is the other aspect that is critical for the success of an Artist-Manager relationship. The alignment of values and building practices and processes for the Talent’s development can only be achieved when sharing a unified vision. Invariably it is seen that Managers’ relationship is the most essential aspect of an Artistic journey. It is also the most vulnerable, with disputes and conflicts are written all over. Therefore it is of prime importance for both parties to make the selection using caution and diligence.

The Hedgehog Concept

Illustration by Vivek Paul (

Berklee Music Prof. George Howard highlights the importance of the Hedgehog Concept, which emphasises on the importance of the role Artist Managers play in the journey of an Artist Career. The design of Hedgehog showcases that the fulcrum of an Artist’s Career is an Artist Manager. The Artist Manager can make a breakthrough career path for an Artist’s Creative Career. It will be fair to say that this is the most important relationship as the Artist Manager is not just a close confidant of the Artist but also is a mentor, friend, critic, business manager, dealmaker, fellow musician, the most hated person in the room. They act as a bridge between the studio sessions & external business environment, an extended family member, and someone who does the heavy lifting of all the grief from the creative explosions that erupt many times like a volcano.

Troy Carter once said, “ If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. The way it works is the manager’s sort of, you know, is the hub of an artist’s career.”

From Bars to Algorithms

Irvin Azoff puts it beautifully “ I can’t think of any more powerful moment than when you stand on stage.” His relationship analysis with the powerful talent he worked with is summarised in his own words “I don’t want to not be important. It comes down to that = business tactic; the guy that yells the loudest is the winner.”

In the heydays of the Recording Business, the role of Artist Management was driven by finding talent from the deepest and darkest corners of the entertainment industry. There are stories of the legends spotting voices in clubs and bars’ noisy environments or by digging through multiple scratch tapes sent by the independent artists through post. One of the excellent skills the Artist Managers possess is making decisions through gut and intuition. It is their years of musical experiences that bring together identification of the uniqueness in the musical performance. Their real work starts after the talent is identified.

The craftsmanship comes in building a robust ecosystem for the Artist that cuts across Music, Performance, and Business. Eventually, this very ability of the manager becomes the format and formulae for success.

Illustration by Vivek Paul (

Over time, we have witnessed the change in the market dynamics and music consumption moving from physical spaces to digital products. With the rise in digital consumption, the Artist Managers’ role has become increasingly complex. They need to be on top of trends in music and need to be literate in Copyrights, Technology, Audience Identification and Product Usage. Today, the technology platforms come with a view that the Algorithms are the new identification points in identifying emerging talent.

No doubt, technology and data play a large role in insights of Artist-Fan connect, Usage Trends, Geographical Reach, Pricing, Unique Offerings, etc. but what remains outside the purview of the Algorithms is the ‘Emotional Connection of Humans’. Feelings that drive the human connection and popularity of music are not replaceable by data. Data can get closer to analysis, but it cannot replace the factor of creating memories. It is crucial to distinguish as the originality of creative works is driven by human life experience and its expression in a unique way. Eventually, the likes and dislikes are based on what the consumer/fans ‘feel’.

Many artists have debunked the theory of incorporating big data into their creative thinking process while creating a piece of artistic work. It is so because it takes away the factor of creativity itself. Data, Technology, and Artificial Intelligence are all means of empowering the artist to create new goals and increase aspirational value systems. It by no means is a replacement for the human skill. The new age artist managers have the power and skills to create a distinction between both the worlds, without losing focus on spotting and harnessing the creativity in the artists.

To deliver such a network, it requires diligence, smart work, and hardcore negotiations. Sharon Osbourne once said, “I like to be honest. After all these years, I can’t be bothered to be politically correct.”

Human Connections Remain

There are two diverse thoughts in the music business today — follow the technology or remain intact with human intelligence. No doubt, we see a surge of innovations as our society engages technology in unprecedented ways due to pandemics, the importance of creating a distinction between the use of technology and human skills is essential for survival. Technology and Data will bring efficiency, speed, and intelligence, but it has limitations when applied to the human emotions.

The business of music is primarily driven by human emotions, and the entire mechanism works between — Human to Human, with technology being the means to deliver the narrative and expression in the form of music or audio-visual works. The human connection, services by humans, and life experiences are the baseline of conceiving music. The world we live in and the time tunnel we are crossing provides a need for a deep introspection — relationships, ownership, commerce, rights management, and legacy.

Artist Managers in this time of social uprise, social justice, equality, and questions around accountability have a critical role to play in these areas that engage musical expressions. It is music that communicates messaging around human suffering and hope for humanity. While technology can be used to process a lot of data and connect the world on a single platform, it is the spirit of humanity that is humming the tunes of joy and happiness. This makes the Human Connection a more critical area to focus on as it interlinks with consciousness and rightful decision making. The decisions could be of musical selection, collaborations, investments, distribution, perception, or Artist goals.

The Human-Centric approach intertwined with the use of Technology is perhaps the winning combination. Designing an Artist Career and Designing an Artistic Journey is critical as the world is crossing a vulnerable and a turbulent period.

Illustration by Vivek Paul (

The New Ingredients

There will be a lot of excitement in the music business in the coming decades, especially in the Artist Ecosystem. One of the biggest challenges for the Artist Managers is setting up the Storyboard for the Artist. Their ability to read data, markets, and create a forward visualisation will depend on their intelligence and intellectual capital. Not only do the managers need to know the movements of the markets and trends, but they will also need to be academically strong on the principles of the business environment and business economics. This is because of the significant shift that is taking place in the market — moving from linear transaction economics (royalty and work for hire) into value creation (equity and entrepreneurship). This shift means the Artist has more avenues of engaging with their fans and advertisers who associate with the same fans. Distribution and Aggregation will be one part of the Business and Innovations, Engagement being the Other.

Therefore, some of the areas that are emerging trends need focus on great relationships, and profitable business ventures lie in the following areas:

The Winning Formula

The business is rapidly changing, moving towards an entirely new direction and a unique ecosystem. The most crucial aspect for an Artist is to identify ways of engaging with their fans directly. As we once again enter an age of Engagement Economics, the core principle shall focus on Fan Commerce. Both Fan Engagement and Fan Commerce shall matter the most as the journey of an artist submerges into entrepreneurship. The goal of entrepreneurship in the coming years will directly link to artists becoming self-sustained ecosystems. Lesser the dependency on intermediaries, higher & profitable shall be their growth objectives.

Sunset Clause is one of the most significant negotiation points between an Artist and the Artist Manager. As the world moves through the Pandemics’ wave, the entire business ecosystem and the markets shall realign to a new reality. The new reality is residing in small economies, engaged fans, glocalisation, and pay per asset use + copyrights. The protection of copyrights and how it generates royalties and fees are about to change from only transitions into equity and transactions. As equity and equitable interests step in the picture, including the opportunity for artists to raise capital — long-term debt and pre defined commitments can potentially become obstacles for valuations. Circumventing Sunset Clause with Long Term Equity Gains is a new business model. Sunset Clause was primarily based on Sweat Equity Design with a fading down compensation mechanism for the artist manager. This changes here dramatically as the 360 Deals dry out.

The best friends of an artist in the post-COVID-19 world shall be as per the following illustration. It is a given that Copyrights, Marketing, and Finances are one-time foundation aspects that do need a streamlined process right at the beginning of the artistic career.

Illustration by Vivek Paul (

Artist and Artist Managers can create winning, and profitable stories as the markets have started to show Artist Centric EcoSystem developments. In the innovations that shall follow in the future, we can see early trends in a few exciting stories of the markets, be it BTS heading for IPO or Believe’s Advancing for Royalty, JIOSaavn advancing against Artist Royalties, Elon Musk aspiring to stream music to the brain, Hipgnosis making acquisitions, Acquisitions by Concord Publishing or Chainsmokers launching a 35MN$ Venture Fund.

Artist and Managers Roadmap

Illustration by Vivek Paul (

Thus, we are back to the beginning as we go back to the Artist and Artist-led Ecosystem.

By Vivek Paul

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