«Regulating artist managers: An insider's perspective Guy Morrow1 Abstract It is problematic that artist managers in the international popular music ...»
8 International Journal of Music Business Research, October 2013, vol. 2 no. 2
Regulating artist managers: An insider's perspective
It is problematic that artist managers in the international popular music industry
are not currently subject to consistent regulatory frameworks, particularly given the
increasing centralisation of responsibility with this role. This article examines the
following research question: Can artist management practices be consistently regulated? In addition, it will address the following sub-research questions: What are the pitfalls that belie attempts to regulate for the betterment of musicians and the music industry? Is self-regulation a viable alternative?
Keywords: Artist management, regulation, code of conduct Acknowledgement Many individuals have assisted and encouraged me throughout my research and work in artist management. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of my comanager, Rowan Brand, as well as the Boy & Bear band members: Killian Gavin, Jacob Tarasenko, David Hosking, Jon Hart and Tim Hart; without their support completion of this article would not have been possible. Dr. Catherine Moore at New York University and Michael McMartin of Melody Management also provided valuable advice and feed back. Furthermore, I received a Macquarie University New Staff Grant in 2009 that enabled me to travel and conduct research interviews and New York University graciously hosted me as a visiting scholar in 2010.
1 Guy Morrow was a visiting scholar at New York University where he studied artist management practices in the global economy with the International Music Managers' Forum and he currently has a Macquarie University Research Development Grant to research career development strategies within the new music industries. He also manages several Australian bands and won 5 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards with 'Boy & Bears' in November 2011.
Regulating Artist Managers 9 1 Introduction It is problematic that artist managers in the international popular music industry are not currently subject to consistent regulatory frameworks, particularly given the increasing centralisation of responsibility with this role. This article examines the following research question: Can artist management practices be consistently regulated? In addition, it will address the following sub-research questions: What are the pitfalls that belie attempts to regulate for the betterment of musicians and the music industry? Is self-regulation a viable alternative? This article has four parts. The first addresses these research questions through the use of a participant observer methodology that will feature a case study of the Australian band Boy & Bear. Boy & Bear have been chosen as the case study band here because a) I co-managed Boy & Bear with Rowan Brand from September 2008 until December 2011 and therefore I have first hand knowledge of the regulatory frameworks that impacted (or did not impact) on the development of this project, and b) because this band won 5 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards in November 2011 including: 'Album of the Year', 'Best Group', 'Breakthrough Artist (Album)', 'Breakthrough Artist (Single)' and 'Best Adult Alternative Album' and therefore this band was granted a position at the centre of the Australian music business. The second part makes use of qualitative research interviews with other managers in a comparative study, while the third and fourth sections offer some solutions to the issue of a lack of artist management regulation.
This study concerning whether artist managers can be consistently regulated is significant because the amount of artist management related entrepreneurship and innovation in the new music industries has increased dramatically due to the abundance of distribution outlets for music (Peltz 2011: 6). The scope for artist entrepreneurship/self management has also increased as the management role becomes even more central (ibid.: 7). Due to the impact that new technologies have had on the music business, without artist management (self manageInternational Journal of Music Business Research, October 2013, vol. 2 no. 2 ment included) the music industry could not function; however, it could function without record companies due to the substantial number of alternative revenue streams and distribution outlets for content. Furthermore, the artist manager is the only other individual, besides the artist, who gets to see and touch all the jigsaw puzzle pieces that fit together to create the artist's career, and therefore they have immense influence over every aspect of an artist's career. It is therefore important that research into the regulation of artist managers be conducted while also considering the following question: What are the pitfalls that belie attempts to regulate for the betterment of musicians and the music industry?
This article will therefore provide an overview of the regulatory frameworks to which artist management practices in the new music industries are subject, and it will offer a sustained focus on 'understanding' the processes that have driven, and continue to drive, the development of regulation for artist managers in the music industries.
2 Background As Sydney-based artist managers, Brand and I were subject to the Entertainment Industry Act 1989 (the Act), which is legislation that exists in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).2 This regulation is a useful starting point here and it forms the background for this study.
This form of governmental regulation of the entertainment industry is unique in that it does not exist in the other Australian states, nor is there an equivalent in the UK, Canada or the US to the same extent (Hertz, 1988). The Act provides a suite of laws aimed at protecting performers in their dealings with agents, managers and venue consultants (commonly known as booking agents) and it therefore locates artist managers within a broader industrial context.
The Better Regulation Office (BRO) in NSW argues that the Act was introduced because performers are often in a poor bargaining position with regard to their commercial 2 The Entertainment Industry Act 1989 is accessible via the following URL:
http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/fullhtml/inforce/act+230+1989+FIRST+0+N/ Regulating Artist Managers 11 relationships with agents, managers and venue consultants and therefore they should be protected from unfair practices.
A key feature of the Act is that agents, managers and venue consultants must obtain a license from the Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) to work in the state of NSW. This license requires compliance with a set of laws governing operations, including the maximum fees that can be charged and how money held on behalf of performers must be handled. If an artist manager has money in trust on behalf of an artist then they have to pay a $2000 bond for a period of one year to the Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) for a provisional license and then have the trust account audited by an accountant at the end of this period.
NSW is the only state of Australia to specifically license entertainment industry representatives, although Western Australia (Perth) and the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) require employment agents, which includes those operating in the entertainment industry, to be licensed, and South Australia (Adelaide) requires such representatives to be registered. The BRO in NSW completed a review of a range of occupational licensing, including entertainment industry licenses, in April
2009.3 In response to the final report that this review produced, the NSW Government conceded that the licensing scheme is not protecting performers effectively and should be removed. However at this stage this is just a recommendation that needs to be enacted in legislation; the licensing requirements for artist managers operating in NSW still apply.
In October 2010 the Better Regulation Office, which is part of the Office of Industrial Relations in NSW, produced a final report outlining their review of the Entertainment Industry Act 1989.4 This article specifically concerns Recommendation 14 "Code of Conduct" which states
The Entertainment Industry Act Review is located at the following URL:
The Entertainment Industry Act Review is located at the following URL:
http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/104807/Final_Report_Review_of_the_En tertainment_Industry_Act_1989.pdf 12 International Journal of Music Business Research, October 2013, vol. 2 no. 2 "A code of conduct should be developed which covers ethical behaviour and minimum competency requirements. Any person operating as a performer representative should be required to comply with the code and there should be penalties for misconduct. The code should be easy to understand, targeted at particular risks and consistent with the existing common law obligations."
The results of the comparative study concerning this issue are provided below in part two.
3 Literature review and methodology Watson (2002) offers this definition of artist management: "A manager is a person who earns a living from helping artists build and maximise their musical careers" (2), while Woodruff (2002: 1) states: "A manager's job is to create the perception that the band is successful". It is also evident that there is no such thing as a manager and this complicates attempts to regulate the profession (Watson 2002; Rogan 1988). In order to illustrate this point, Watson notes that managers wear many different 'hats' in order to build and maximise the careers of their artists. Managers can be organisers, negotiators, motivators, counsellors, editors, designers, manipulators, strategists and much more. Watson's argument is that every manager combines these different 'hats' in different combinations, thus creating their own unique and complex style (Watson 2002: 2).
Rogan (1988) argues that since management is more a question of personality than policy (or anything else), what defines a perfect management candidate inevitably remains elusive and ambivalent. The ideal candidate must be cautious yet innovative, intuitive yet empirical, forceful but sensitive to artists' feelings, aggressive in battle and reflective in victory, and wise but not intellectually intimidating. They must also be a sympathetic listener.
Rogan claims that the mythical 'perfect' artist manager lies somewhere between the hard businessperson, the medical doctor and the dedicated schoolteacher (ibid.: 382). The notion that one could develop Regulating Artist Managers 13 a framework of best practice for artist management is challenging because the various ways in which managers operate are not only dependent on the individual manager's personality. The methodologies artist managers employ need to be analysed within specific contexts. The distinct sections of the music industry in which individual managers operate constitute these contexts.
Every artist is different and therefore individual managers differ from one another. Watson (2002) notes that to understand a manager you have to first understand the artist they are managing. Therefore an artist manager's behaviour is somewhat dictated by the decision making process of the artist they manage. The dynamics between the artist and the manager should form the basis of any study of artist management;
the managerial role is intricately connected to the artist and their work.
No manager can be fully understood out of the context in which he/she and their artist(s) operate.
In contrast to the common argument that a strong artist-manager relationship is analogous to a good marriage, or that the personal manager is the alter ego of the artist (ibid.: 34), it is evident that the dynamic is in fact quite different to a stereotypical 'good marriage'. A strong artist-manager relationship is unbalanced as each personal manager is necessarily a function of their artist's unique combination of needs (and not necessarily vice versa) – therefore if the manager is the 'alter-ego', this alter ego is necessarily subservient and because the power balance shifts with success, this relationship can become an abusive one. If a mandatory code of conduct were to be established artist managers face the risk
that their clients could use the code against them once the power balance has shifted in their favour. As Peter Jenner (2002: 1) notes: