The Truth about Managers

by Edna Landau

This promises to be a hot topic on “Ask Edna” and I will undoubtedly address it repeatedly, so please don’t be discouraged from sending further questions of this type. I have a hearty appetite for queries about my former line of work!

Dear Edna: 

I recently heard the story of a young artist who was on the roster of a management agency. He was finding and booking all of his engagements by himself, but still paying a percentage of the fees to the manager. From your experience, how common is this situation? For an artist who is talented but young and not well-known, do you think it is better for him to have the added prestige of being on a management roster even if the manager is not doing much for him?

–Daniel Teitler (Taipei) 

Dear Daniel: 

I find it appalling that a young artist is finding and booking all of his own engagements and still paying a percentage of the fees to his manager, unless the manager is providing some other service of value to the artist. This might consist of contracting the engagement and/or interacting with the presenter to relieve the artist of logistical details such as travel arrangements or providing publicity materials. In such an instance, the artist should still not be paying full commission to the manager and might want to contemplate whether it would be cheaper to hire a capable friend or student to do this for him. 

N.B. There is NO prestige related to being on a management roster unless the management is recognized as being effective on behalf of its artists and has earned respect and recognition in the industry. If not, their calls to presenters will go unreturned and the artist might be better off employing a very bright, personable and healthily aggressive individual with some basic orientation in the process of artist management to work on their behalf, until their performance profile reaches a level that might truly attract a prestigious management, large or small.


Dear Edna: 

I am an aspiring artist who has recently been selected from a large number of my professional colleagues to appear on two well-known, nationally prestigious showcase opportunities this year. Both of the stages on which I am to perform contain the possibility of changing my professional trajectory, as they have for others, if utilized in the right way and seen by the right people. Will these highly publicized events typically attract distinguished artist managers and/or would it be appropriate to contact a manager from within a firm and invite them to the event? What is the best way to attract positive attention from the managerial world for these important opportunities? -Unmanaged 

Dear Unmanaged: 

Congratulations on having been chosen to appear on not one but two nationally prestigious showcases. 

You ask whether these showcases will “typically attract distinguished artist managers.” Unfortunately, there is nothing typical when it comes to discussing artist managers except to say that all the really good ones are overworked! If they have room to add an artist, it will often be one that was recommended to them by someone they trust in the field. If they recently lost an artist (heaven forbid!) or want to add a certain type of artist in order to have more variety to offer a presenter, they might go to a national showcase because they recognize that the participants represent top quality emerging artists. Your first step should be to contact the organizations presenting the showcases to urge them to invite distinguished managers, if they haven’t done so already. Feel free to review with them your proposed list of the most appropriate managers to target. You should then think about people you know who have clout and could write to those managers to give them a heads up about the opportunity to witness your artistry. After that you can follow up personally, expressing how much it would mean to you to have them attend. In your letter, point out any connections that you think might have significance. For example: “I know that Artist X on your roster would be happy to speak favorably on my behalf.” Or, “I’m sure you are in regular contact with Presenter Y who has seen me perform on several occasions. I would be most grateful if you would be willing to give them a call.” Be sure to attach or enclose the most recent, most favorable testimonials of your work (limit your choices for maximum effectiveness), as well as links to video footage if it represents you at your best. The only thing left after that is to pray!

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