Working as a music manager

 18 May 2012

Simon Banks is the founder of SB Management, based in Shepherd’s Bush, who manage several music artists. He describes a regular working day as an Artist Manager.

The role of a music manager

“You are the oil in a multi-part machine, where you’re kind of the mid-point between the artist and everything else.

"The idea is that everything else comes to you before it goes to the artist, and everything from the artist comes to you before it goes to everyone else. And if everyone does their job exceptionally well, then the manager’s job should be reasonably straightforward.

“You are the oil in a multi-part machine, where you’re kind of the mid-point between the artist and everything else."

"A lot of the time is spent double-checking that people have: sent contracts, sent schedules so that the artist knows what time they’re getting picked up, all that kind of thing.

“I started off in my bedroom doing this, so I’ve kind of done everything from carrying the guitar up to negotiating the deals. I’m lucky enough that I’ve got people who work in my office.

"So my job now entails not so much running around, not so much making sure people know it’s an 8 o’clock pickup or their haircut’s happening at this time. I’ve got people who do that, which is very lucky.”

The working day of an artist manager

“Today I got up at about 8 o’clock, and the first thing I do is check my Blackberry, I check my phone and answer any e-mails that have come in overnight.

"My main main job is dealing with the artists and their mental and creative welfare. I have a meeting at the label later on because there’s a launch party tonight for an album, so I’m just going to make sure that everything’s OK, that all the VIPs are going to be there as planned.

"My main main job is dealing with the artists and their mental and creative welfare."

"This afternoon I’ll be going to HMV in Oxford Street, where there's a performance, and then on to the launch party tonight.

"Last week, Monday I went to Glasgow for a launch party, Tuesday I went to San Francisco for about six hours for the launch of the new iPod. And then got on a plane back and was in the office for two days doing meetings and budgets and all that kind of thing. No two days are the same, basically. Ever.

Skills to be a music manager

“I think the ability to spin plates is probably a pretty important skill. And not flapping – just keeping calm, not being fazed by anything.

"There’s a lot of drama in this industry, there’s a lot of people who are incredibly dramatic and who will ring you up and go, ‘Oh my god, if you don’t do this, her career is over.’

"You’ve kind of just got to take a deep breath and go, ‘OK, what are the facts of this situation and what are the possible outcomes?’ So I guess being a diplomat is a huge part of my job.

“My skills have come from doing a little bit of everything, which, although I didn’t realise it at the time, is exactly what I needed to be a good manager.

"I used to be in bands, as a musician, as a keyboard player, and was in loads of different orchestras at school. I am very musical, and that enables me to talk to an artist with some kind of credibility and to say, ‘You know what? When that chorus ends on that chord instead of that chord, then it doesn’t quite work.’

"I can say it with confidence and I’m not just going ‘Oh, it doesn’t sound like a hit’ and sounding like an industry bod.”

Getting into the music industry

“I got expelled from public school when I was just about to take my A-levels. So in a way, that was my first career move.

"Then I went to university and did sound engineering, music technology and music business studies for a year at Kingston University.

“If you want to be a manager, I would try and find a course where it’s a little bit of everything."

"There I learnt about how a studio works, and frequencies and EQs and Cubase and Logicand all those sorts of things.

"The music business side? I guess the one thing I learnt was that it’s incredibly vague and incredibly fluid. It’s not like other businesses. If you want to be a manager, I would try and find a course where it’s a little bit of everything.

"I mean, the sound engineering side – in the same way that because I’m musical I can talk about song structure, I can go into a studio and say ‘That hasn’t been mixed yet’ or ‘That hasn’t been mastered yet’ or ‘Is that just a guide vocal?’ All these questions where I actually know what I’m talking about.”

The value of work experience

“When I was at university, I wrote off to every single record company, management company, publishing company, recording studio, saying ‘I will come and work for free, I just want some experience.’

"And a company called Ricochet Management said ‘Great, come in, do it.’ So I was going in there one day a week while I was at university, just photocopying and making the tea, really, and emptying the bins.

"Then they asked me to do a budget, which… I didn’t even know what a budget was. They said ‘Oh, just list the costs of something.’

"And apparently I did it so well that they offered me the bookkeeping job, which was incredible, because I knew nothing about bookkeeping.

"That’s where the blagging side of being in the industry comes. You have to go ‘OK, I’ve never done this before, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.’”

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