‘Get your contracts done up’
Artiste managers encourage colleagues to protect investments, interests
The issue of artiste management has always been a complex one, but at least two prominent managers believe that many professionals could have avoided the irreversible loss of their investment and ugly smear campaigns if expectations were outlined from the moment one decided to enter into the artiste-manager relationship.
In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Cara Vickers of Creed Music Global, shared that contrary to popular belief and what she believes are the unrealistic expectations placed on artiste managers over the years, these professionals are not ‘cash cows’. They are not obligated to take care of the financial needs of their clients. “As an artiste manager, the specifications of your job include managing the day-to-day activities of your client and ultimately creating business opportunities for that person to make money. You can subcontract several different people as a manager; you do not have to do everything. So you can hire a PR person, a booking agent, an accountant, stylist, road manager, etc. Your job is to make sure the artiste can function as an artiste and focus primarily on creativity, and all he/she has to do is show up,” she said.
Vickers, who has worked with Spice, LaaLee, Gully Bop, and Flyght Bluugo, pointed out that most artistes believe that based on patterns created by some managers (herself included), their managers are responsible for their financial well-being. She explained that instead of being employees of the artistes, which she explained is what an artiste manager is, managers have fallen into the habit of dishing out cash to their clients, sometimes to take care of things outside of the business. “What a lot of artistes do not understand is that it is they who have employed the manager. The manager works for the artiste, and the artiste is supposed to pay the manager. We have gone into the culture in Jamaica where the artiste seems to think it is the other way around because most of the managers started out as investors from the get-go. Artistes expect managers to pay their rent, put gas in their cars, pay for studio time, and that is not how it is supposed to go. The expectations are all wrong, and that’s why there is so much falling-out between artistes and their managers,” she said.
The music executive said the line was blurred the moment managers decided to take on the role of investors. Still, she explained that many artistes would not have realised their potential without managers taking on that financial responsibility. “The problem that we’re having is that many artistes tend to forget the good managers have done. Managers were never supposed to spend money on their clients in the first place; that is an investor. That job should usually be left up to a record label. But a lot of these artistes in the local industry won’t get signed to a label, and so many of these managers who find themselves with money take it upon themselves to invest in these artistes hoping they will get a return on that investment,” she said.
Managers often make this investment, hoping to recoup down the line. “If you are able to invest as a manager, you are going to do it. Especially if you believe in your client. If money don’t spend, dem artiste yah can’t buss. But what ends up happening is that many artistes forget they should pay back this money that is invested in them, and so when they start earning, and the managers start taking back what is theirs, it becomes an issue. Suddenly, they’re getting better opportunities, and they run off and ultimately become ungrateful to the ones who gave them that push start,” she said.
Another prominent artiste manager also shared similar sentiments. The manager, requested anonymity as they are currently pursuing legal actions against a client after failing to recoup money invested. “Some [artistes] believe that when you take on the role of manager, you’re supposed to take care of them. They expect to be paid monthly stipends; they expect to have their accommodation taken care of; they expect money to be spent to get studio time, collabs and all of that. When you believe in an artiste as a manager, many times you just do it. You invest but doing that means you’re supposed to get that money back,” the manager said.”
To that end, both artiste managers expressed that the informality of the business should not be a deterrent for drafting up contracts. Pointing out that the legally binding document may be the only thing that ends up saving them in the end, managers encouraged their colleagues always to safeguard their investments with proper paperwork. “At the end of the day, this is a business, and you have to secure your own interests. Get your contracts done up, make sure each party knows what is expected of them. As managers make sure the legal paperwork says you are entitled to returns on your investment,” said the unnamed manager.
Vickers agreed. “We are in a culture in dancehall where people don’t like signing contracts, and because of that, people become complacent and end up going day-to-day waiting on the artiste’s big break to collect the money they invested. But when that day ends up coming and the artiste forgets and starts acting like this isn’t something you’re entitled to, contracts will be the saving grace,” she said.