The End Of ‘Greedy’ Managers and ‘Dumb’ Artists (Hopefully)

As I continue to prepare my full return to the industry with my forthcoming Hip-Hoppreneur ™ advisory service I’ve been having some interesting conversations and negotiations with artists, producers, managers, entertainment lawyers, publicists, and executives.

The more I build and do business with these individuals, the clearer it becomes that there may be no relationship being exposed as increasingly irrelevant and inefficient then that which currently exists between the personal manager and artist.

A good way to look at it is from the extreme caricatures of each position – the ‘dumb’ artist and the ‘greedy’ manager. Starting from there, I give advice to both sides, if they hope to thrive in the new era we have entered.

Why Artists Are ‘Dumb.’ As regular readers of AllHipHop.com already know, the second lesson I was taught about management is that , ‘Artises is dumb.’ That is exactlyhttp://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2009/12/08/22049697.aspx) Now, personally I really don’t think artists are genetically inferior persons or mentally slower by nature. Most of them are actually brilliant and highly intelligent. However they become dumb in two ways: 1) an unwillingness to educate themselves on the business side of the industry and 2) the lowering of their overall IQ by the lack of emotional intelligence, aka the inability to think rationally about their creativity. On the first problem it is only a manner of reading. If the artist isn’t illiterate there is no excuse. All they have to do is visit the ASCAP website and read the section ‘Music and Money’ (http://www.ascap.com/musicbiz/#mm) and discuss it with a local accountant or lawyer. Or simply call upon Wendy Day (http://www.wendyday.com/), the greatest artist advocate-educator in the history of rap. She freely publishes state-of-the art and constantly relevant information that can make the most ignorant artist capable of breaking down the most successful business managers and entertainment lawyers. On the second matter, the problem is more severe. It revolves around ‘psychic income’ and the fact that sometimes we enjoy appreciation, applause, praise, and non-monetary forms of ‘reward’ more than money. The preference for psychic income over money always causes an artist to place creative thinking over critical thinking, which makes accepting criticism and new ideas difficult. Artists with low emotional intelligence are always close-minded. how it was stated to me by a mogul who took me under his wing early on. You can learn more about how that knowledge was shared with me by reading my ‘360 Deals and Dumb Artists.’

Why Managers Are ‘Greedy.’ Managers are ‘greedy’ for two reasons: 1) the music industry accounting system and 2) because artists are ‘dumb.’ For a few months I’ve been getting deep into the history of music industry economics which really do resemble sharecropping arrangements. And there is a straight line between 19th century slavery and the establishment of the accounting system that record labels and publishing houses adapted. More on that in a future piece. But a simple fact must be accepted – the financial practices and payment system of the music business was developed by the non-artist and the payment splits naturally reflect that. Managers who bring expertise, business etiquette and a network were always closer to the accountants and lawyers who sealed the deal. On the second point because the tedious details of business administration can kill their creative energy, many artists delegate too much of it to others, wanting to get away from anything that takes away from or kills their artistic, ‘high.’ An emotionally immature and financially illiterate artist is no match for the 4 Horsemen of the industry’s traditional team infrastructure: The Road Manager, The Personal Manager, The Entertainment Lawyer and The Business Manager. The ‘dumb’ artist gets betrayed and stomped out worse than Dusty Rhodes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2Bv3ZjgvpE&feature=related).

Talent Without Patience, Vision and Strategy Equals Short-Lived Success. This is for artists. As hard as it may be for you to accept – talent is not enough to make you a commercial success. That is not just because certain power centers – radio stations, channels, and entertainment outlets – are controlled by certain forces or because music business decision-makers are not always good at identifying and grooming talent. It is also because branding and marketing skill are as important or more than how well you rhyme. An artist that continues to think they should be ‘on’ simply because they are hot is delusional and liable to go insane with frustration. Every artist needs people around them who can guide them according to a vision and business strategy. But perhaps more importantly there is a level of patience that is needed that yes, again, I must say – the emotionally immature artist tends to not have. It takes time to get meetings, for people to be persuaded, for promotions to take root.

Do You Value Connections More Than Guidance? One of the reasons the traditional personal manager-talent relationship is increasingly irrelevant and inefficient, even unnecessarily expensive for an artist, is because what artists usually retain a manager for, is something they can do on their own if they understood how to network. The vast majority of unsigned or unwilling artists (I call them ‘unwilling’ because they are unwilling to out themselves out independently with marketing savvy) I know have a manager because they simply want to get in front of someone else whom they feel has the power to ‘put them on.’ This is such a mistake. Giving 20% of your income (even 50% when the ‘old’ model production deal comes into play) to someone simply to introduce you to someone else that you can probably meet on your own is, well, ‘dumb.’

Artists need to follow the example of Wall Street and movie finance where finder’s fees and producer’s credits and points are given in exchange to someone who makes introductions and arranges a deal. What artists really need today is guidance and confidence in their own ability to build a team that can execute a strategic gameplan. Too many artists are just mentally lazy and are too insecure – making decisions according to the latest fad or trend – and sell ownership of their career and future revenue to the latest person who is connected to the flavor of the month producer, label, artist, or clique. But what happens when the hot new connect loses his job or when she no longer can get her phone calls returned? You’ve married someone looking from outside of the house, looking into it, just like you. An artist needs someone to teach them how to keep their image-brand-reputation in alignment and keep track of business models and contracts. With the mp3, HD Internet, Facebook, Twitter, websites, email, social events and conferences no artist needs to give excessive ownership of their career to someone who ‘knows people.’ After the connection is made, what else do you have left to offer the rest of your team or new people you need to bring into your circle to advance you in new ways?

Can They Go Places You Can’t? Having said that, the first lesson I was taught by my business mentor when I got into personal management was that your artist clients want to know that you can go places they can’t. This principle is sound, yet I see artist after artist surround themselves with their boys and crew – an entourage of unqualified persons who may be personally loyal to them (we’ll see how long that lasts) and who might be able to beat somebody up, but who are business and professional liabilities. They drive more opportunities away from you then they bring, with their bad advice, lack of professional etiquette, and sometimes envyious and ‘hidden’ resistance to the artist’s growth (after all, if you grow you may leave me behind). I’m not a mind-reader but I am pretty good at telling when an artist is being influenced by sycophants (ass-kissers) and ‘friends’ who have attached themselves to them in the hopes that they too will be ‘put on.’ What makes me attractive or at least interesting to artists and clients is that when I left the music business I went places that most artist can’t or don’t – in the world of politics, economics, and international affairs. That means I’m different and can possibly add something to their career that bring something to their creativity and professional development. As much as people front, unalike attracts and like repels in certain ways. Agreement is the basis of love and people don’t marry on the basis of hate and disagreement, but differences are complimentary and we all need parts to make up a whole. No artist needs a manager who can’t think out of the box, can’t go places they can’t or who thinks their rolodex matters more than a vision, strategy, and wisdom executed and applied in pursuit of the best interests of their clients.

Be Selective. This is for the managers. Simply because a person is talented and you have connections and can offer guidance doesn’t mean they would make a good client for you, or that you are the best person for them. In taking on clients to advise (not manage!) I am being extremely careful to not get involved with great talents who are going to be high-maintenance, needy, and lazy mentally. When people ask me what personal management is, at its worse I say ‘baby-sitter and hostage negotiator.’ If you are a sensitive person and pay attention to details, you are a ‘mark’ for the worst kind of artist client – the dude or lady who plays off of compassionate people and slowly but surely makes you more their ‘best friend,’ ‘Mom,’ ‘Dad,’ or legal guardian (without the paperwork) than professional confidante and guide. There is no 20% that is worth the headache of an artist who not only is a knuckle-head, but one who also drains you emotionally and spiritually, and worst of all, puts your own personal safety, and that of your loved ones in jeopardy with their mistakes and errors. I always have felt that the worst thing a person could do is take advantage of the vulnerability that kindness and duty can create. Too many artists are manipulative in this way, and I often find it is the emotionally weak manager, addicted to the psychic income (celebrity, fame, praise, status) that comes from being associated with talent or a high-profile personality who is also ‘dumb.’ Perhaps it is helpful for managers to think of great talents who are manipulative and high maintenance in terms of an extremely physically attractive person with low morals and low intelligence. You can help them and occasionally collaborate but do you really need to ‘marry’ them?

We are social beings and relationships are necessary to enjoying life and succeeding in business, but when one side is ‘greedy’ and the other side is ‘dumb’ it is a recipe for disaster. Managers and artists do still need each other, but a lot more growth is required from both, if things are to work and money is to be made.

Let’s Get It!

Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. He’s a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and currently a Member of the African Union’s First Congress of African Economists. Cedric’s the Founder of the economic information service Africa PreBrief (http://africaprebrief.com/) and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ (http://theEsecret.com/) . His Facebook Fan page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Muhammad/57826974560?ref=ts and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com.

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  • behind da barz

    --------the chemicals R identical, we're one & the same / with 7 letters in all 3 of my government names / walked on water, nah, neither did jesus / its a parable to make followers & readers believers--------i gave her my honorable discharge & she took it like a soldier--------what's a black beetle anyway, a fuckin roach-------she told the director she tryna get in a school-he said "take them glasses off and get in the pool"---------what ya'll call swag to me is faggotry-------my outfit so disrespectful / u go 'head n sneeze let my presence bless u--------its quite amazing that u rhyme like u do / & how u shine like u grew up in a shrine in peru-------its hard fuckin with niggaz u hope u can trust / ure a fool if ure main bitch is easy to fuck--------beyond the walls of intelligence life is divine / i think of crime when im in a new york state of mind - ------THE WAY SOME ACT IN RAP IS KINDA WACK / IT LACKS CREATIVITY & INTELLIGENCE / BUT THEY DON'T CARE BECAUSE THEIR COMPANY IS SELLING IT / ITS MY PHILOSOPHY ON THE INDUSTRY--------From days I wasn't "Abel/able", there was always "Cain/caine-------know how to leave anything in 30 seconds / when you feel the heat coming & flee with the murder weapon--------ayo my silent moments' loud as the crack of thunder / my hunger like the crocodile that attacked the hunter-------i'm something between platinum & flop, underground & mainstream / conscious, backpack, scratch dat; 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bad guys wear black / must've been a white guy who started all that--------either you're slinging crack-rocks or you got a wicked jumpshot--------all us blacks got is sports & entertainment--------2 many athletes, actors & rappers / but not enough niggaz at nasa - ------why did bush knock down the towers?--------I REACT LIKE MIKE / ANY ONE TY-SON, JOR-DAN, JACK-SON / action, pack gunz, ridiculous--------all the teachers couldn't reach me & my mom couldn't beat me / hard enough to make up for my pop not seeing me---------kings from queens, from queens comes kings / we're raising hell like a class when the lunch bell rings---------excuse me miss, can i give you a minute? / may i buy you a glass of ice with liquor in it?--------what goes around comes around i figure / now we got white kids calling themselves nigga / the tables turn as the crosses burn...---------YOU LOVE TO HEAR THE STORY AGAIN & AGAIN / OF HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED WAY BACK WHEN--------i guess they got a grudge cause i won't budge / playin tough, staring down the judge with my hands cuffed---------A CHILD IS BORN WITH NO STATE OF MIND / BLIND TO THE WAYS OF MANKIND--------who shot biggie smalls? if we don't get them they gon' get us all / i'm down to run up pn them crackers in their city hall----------its kinda hard to be optimistic / when your homey is laying dead in a casket----------they say the blacker the berry; the sweeter the juice / i say the darker the flesh; then the deeper the roots---------i took your breath away then we'd perform cpr---------there's no real way it can be explained / i guess its just the way i smile when i hear your name--------CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME / C.R.E.A.M. GET THE MONEY, DOLLAR DOLLAR BILL Y'AAAAALL------------see I’m a poet to some, a regular modern day shakespeare / jesus christ the king of these latter day saints here / To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me as / a monger of hate and satan a scatter-brained atheist--------i remember marvin gaye used to sing to me / he had me feeling like black was the thing to be------------this be that put-you-out-your-misery song / that makes you ask your man 'is this the joint he's dissin me on?'---------foul all your life now ure 90 / on ure death bed u regret being grimey---------INDUSTRY RULE #4080, RECORD COMPANY PEOPLE ARE SHAAADYYYY / so kids watch your back cause i think they smoke crack---------society's a weak excuse for a man-----------planet earth my place of birth / born to be the sole controller of the universe---------the mic had my prints, on on it was a body---------a squealer tells, but the dealer still sells---------some young male put in jail / lawyer so good his bail was on sale----------i'm just takin a piss......unless you're gonna do it----------fuck street clothes, we thug it out in tuxedos / stomp niggaz with hard bottoms in casinos--------people higher up have the lowest self-esteem / & the prettiest people do the ugliest things-----------IF YOU ADMIRE SOMEONE YOU SHOULD GO 'HEAD & TELL 'EM / PEOPLE NEVER GET THE ROSES WHILE THEY CAN STILL SMELL 'EM-----------goddamn, what a nigga gotta do to make a million / without the fbi catching feelings--------i got a story to tell / in these streets we got drugs & guns for sale---------we keep the nine tucked chop dimes up rap about it / wild out fuck niggaz up laugh about it---------- read between tha lines of ya eyes and ya brows / ya handshake aint matchin ya smile---------what the fuck i rap for? to push a fuckin rav-4?-------fuck all the glamour & glitz, i plan to get rich / i'm from new york & never was a fan of the knicks----------the white boy blossomed after dre endorsed him / his flow on renegade-fuckin awesome...applaud him-------before i start you know i gotta / pay homage & respects to afrika bambaata---------DRUGS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS / MONEY IS THE KEY TO SEX------i pimped my crib so i must exhibit------- I - WILL - NOT - LOSE !
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