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Managing Artists At Scale: Using Tech To Turn Musicians Into Industry Experts

In this piece DeCarlos Garrison explains the challenges of artist management and of guiding a band or artist towards industry success, as well as how embracing tech can work to transform artists into industry experts in their own right.


Guest post by DeCarlos Garrison, CEO of Bandbasher

I loved managing artists. I did it for years and was involved in everything from European tours to major label negotiations. I loved building artists’ connections with fans. I loved unlocking opportunities for them and, when things went well, watching them walk right through those open doors to creative and personal success.

But as a lot of managers will tell you, there’s another side of the business, the one that keeps you up all night. When the artist you’ve been working with for months or years gets that big break--and blows it. When you’ve given good advice and they’ve ignored it. I went through this myself. I watched an artist I had helped develop fumble a relationship with a major label and destroy a potentially great deal.

The ups and downs of artist management showed me something important, something I hope we can embrace more as an industry and a community: We usually get into this not knowing enough. We have to educate ourselves. We all have to know the business, inside and out, as much as possible.

Why? You don’t have to dig deep to see a whole range of reasons, a whole history of artists getting way less than they deserved from those who made a killing on their music. There’s the notorious case of TLC, whose hit-making powers swept the charts and sold tens of millions of records. They wound up making pennies on the dollar and declaring bankruptcy, thanks to multiple bad deals they signed. What would they have done if they had known a little more?

Even the late Tom Petty, whose creative life spanned decades and whose songs moved millions, made a small, but terrible mistake early in his career. He signed away his publishing rights, thinking at the time that they were just the rights to printing sheet music. He fought for years to get them back. If he had known the definition of one simple term, he would have saved himself years of expensive heartbreak.

Knowledge is power. This is true no matter who you are and what role you play in the industry, but it’s especially important if you’re an artist. It may feel like as an artist, you just want to make music. Of course you do. But the thing is, if you know the business side of your music, you’ll end up with more time and more resources, so you can make exactly the kind of music you want.

Good managers want to educate. That’s what they do every day, teaching artists more about how to succeed and informing potential venues, agents, and labels about the opportunities they’ll have if they work with a band or musician. I loved this part of the job, but it never felt like I reached enough people. I wanted to get more people on board, spread the news and the love, and share all I learned, so that our whole community could do more and better. I wanted to manage at scale.

That’s why I turned toward a tech approach. Together with a developer and investors, we’ve built a team and created Bandbasher, a platform that combines educational resources and management tools. We’ve laid it out in a few journeys, mapping out the information creative and business professionals in the music industry need to know to kick ass at their role. We’ve distilled the complexities of contracts, licensing, royalties, and production into videos that cover the topic thoroughly. If Tom had had a few minutes to watch our Publishing videos, he’d have tossed down his pen before signing away his rights. If TLC had known what red flags to look for thanks to our videos on the Business Side, they would have made millions, not a few thousand from their hard work.

Education doesn’t have to be expensive or demand big blocks of time. We know how busy you are. We get it. You can start and stop whenever you need to, taking in new ideas when you’re ready. We’re here to help, if you have questions.

We wanted to hook educational resources to band-management tools because from a manager’s perspective, it’s all one and the same. You can’t use tools you don’t understand well, and you can’t really learn what’s what without trying it out on your own career or with your own roster or clients. There are the basics, but you need to know the specifics of your own scene and journey to master them.

Sometimes, I learned, you have to take your experience and scale it up to have the most impact. My dream, and Bandbasher’s, is for every artist and team to get savvy and ask for what they need and deserve. Imagine what that would do for our business, what artists would thrive.