Managers are more at the heart of things in the music industry than they’ve ever been, including the digital aspects of their artists’ businesses. But what does that mean on a practical level, and how are management companies evolving and investing as a result? That’s the question a new report from the Music Managers Forum (MMF) aims to answer, based on a survey of more than 180 managers, plus deeper interviews by Music Ally’s own Eamonn Forde with the representatives of artists including The 1975, Gorillaz, Mumford & Sons, Robbie Williams, Little Simz, Nick Cave and The xx.

The report’s key findings include the role of managers as ‘first-stage investors’ in artists: 74% of respondents to the survey invested their own money into current clients’ careers, while 40% have received no outside investment to do this. The report also establishes a hierarchy of revenue streams for managers: live music is top, followed by recorded/publishing advances; PRS royalties; streaming payments and PPL royalties (this being UK-focused).

There’s also data on how managers’ responsibilities are expanding: 76% oversee social media for their artists, while 65% handle PR and promotion – both tasks that might traditionally have been done by labels. “Managers are multi-faceted, multi-talented rainmakers. They are the people who get things done. The great beauty and great curse of management is that you’re across absolutely everything,” as Brian Message of ATC Management put it, in one of the quotes accompanying the report.

One of the report’s key points, however, is that the way managers are paid may need to evolve with these changing responsibilities. “For all the opportunities and responsibilities opened up through digital innovation, it’s clear that the majority of managers are still paid on commission-based business models,” said MMF vice chair Kwame Kwaten. “I’m not convinced that’s sustainable, and think we need a wider industry discussion around how managers are compensated in order to ensure artist and songwriter businesses can thrive in the future. Many of us have already started cutting deals that reflect our current environment.”

MMF chief executive Annabella Coldrick agreed, in her summary for the report. “Paradoxically, against this fast-moving background of complexity and diversification, the way in which most managers get paid has remained stubbornly rigid, with the vast majority reliant on commission-based earnings – and typically of 20%. This is increasingly unsustainable, and with so many upcoming managers not making any money at all, we run the risk of losing many of these talented professionals altogether,” she wrote.

Other aspects to watch out for include the MMF’s identification of five key barriers that may prevent managers and their artists reaching their potential: access to finance; support for mental health; diversification of skills; transparency on income streams; and revenue and new commercial models. You can read the ‘Managing Expectations’ report in full here: it’s been made available as a free PDF.

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