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Shrewd Advice For Personal Managers
By Gian Fiero
I'm often asked by novice managers what advice I can give them as they are starting out. For the first time, I've written down this advice that I have given over, and over...and over again so that it will benefit those who have professional interests...and I won't have to repeat it again either.
Gian Fiero is a seasoned educator, speaker and consultant with a focus on business development and music/entertainment industry operations. He currently teaches at San Francisco State University where he is an adjunct professor of music industry studies. His affiliations include National Association Of Record Industry Professionals (associate director); CLA (speaker); West Coast Songwriters (consultant); The Muse's Muse (producer of the Muse's Muse Awards); and SBA (business advisor).
The first bit of advice that I would give to any aspiring personal manager is to mentally remove the word "personal" from your title. After all, you should not take it "personally" if you are taken for granted or undervalued. These are both common occurrences that stem from the ignorance that most artists have about the profession of personal management.
The second bit of advice is to only manage music artists that are generating income and have business affairs that require your expertise.
My observation of the personal managers who have had the type of success that you are seeking, has been that they are better at being managers of details, situations, and business than they are at being "personal." This is not to say that they are incapable or unwilling to be personable when necessary. It means that they prioritize business; the business of their artists.
The idea of personal management from the standpoint of the artist has a built in component for failure.
That component is unrealistic expectations. Personal managers must slow down their courtship of music artists (no matter how advantageous or attractive the prospect may seem) to define their role, explain their duties, and discuss the expectations of both parties. By doing this you can earn trust and respect while avoiding the mistaken identity of a booking agent or someone who merely "shops deals."
Assuming that you understand what a manager does, this should be the criteria you use to determine whether or not to manage an artist. As an entrepreneurial minded personal manager, your focus should be on guiding your artist through the jungle of the music business while preparing and positioning them to capitalize on as many paydays as possible; especially since your compensation will come from a percentage of their earnings.
In order to do this you will need to thoroughly understand not only how the music industry operates, but also how television and film opportunities can be obtained to maximize exposure to new audiences. The stature of your artist will be in direct proportion to the size of their audience. Television and film have always been integral parts of the star-making machinery.
As tempted as you may be, do not invest your own money into the career of a music artist as a personal manager unless you absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, believe that they are going to succeed - AND they understand and value what you bring to the table.
Even then it is best to have the artist match whatever funds you contribute to maintain a sense of partnership (as opposed to sponsorship). By doing so, the artist will recognize that you share an equal commitment.
Finally, make sure that you have a written agreement with your artist (regardless of how much you mutually admire and respect each other now) which not only stipulates that you will receive any money that is due to you as a result of your efforts for a certain period of time after the relationship ends (sunset clause), but that you will be reimbursed any out-of-pocket expenditures before the artist is entitled to receive any earnings that might be due to them.
Once you begin to approach personal management from the perspective of an entrepreneur, you will sharpen your focus and get better results for your artist and yourself.
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