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Where Have All The Good Managers Gone?

SANTA MONICA, CA (Hypebot) – Acerbic music commentator Bob Lefsetz recently wrote a column Saving The Music Business:

"Want to save the music business? Manage a band. Nurture talent. Do everything in your power to get it exposed…Talent. That’s where the business is focused today."

Bob is right; management is where it's at. I'm not talking about the old guard like Irving Azoff's Frontline. He and his cohorts stopped developing new talent long ago. These mega – managers hold great power, but use it to smartly prolong careers and monetize somebody else's luck and hard work.

That leaves a younger generation of managers to save the business. But as the head of Skyline Music, a booking agency with both established and developing acts, I can say first hand that the industry is suffering from a drought of good new managers that possess the skills needed to help artists succeed in the new music business.

10 or 20 years ago hundreds of smart people who… had finished law or business school but weren't ready to don a suit, gave themselves 3-5 years to follow their dream and make it in the music business. Others had put the suit on for a bit, stashed away a $100K and wanted to try their luck before really settling down.

They dreamed of discovering a band, suffering for a few years and then scoring. By the time they collected deferred commissions, their share of record, publishing and merch advances and a percentage from a couple of tours, they'd made a nice score. Inevitably too, they'd felt the rush and would start all over again with another band.

Not any more; the silly advances are gone and so are the people that chased them.

In 2008, early stage management is about spending time on MySpace, supporting a D.I.Y. or understaffed indie record and helping an agent who represents enough developing acts to fill the Titanic book a tour. Then he advances, plays tour publicist and drives the van. And for what? 15% of a record that's a hit because it sold 5K copies more than the last one that sold 20K?

As I've written previously, the new music business is creating a new musical middle class. Rather than a few flash in pan stars, we're seeing more smaller but longer careers. This is a good thing for music and for fans, but it's not necessarily attractive to the much needed next-gen. of aggressive young managers.

I know a few great ones, but sadly not nearly enough. – Bruce Houghton