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James Barton and Brian Message are London-based music managers and representatives of the Music Managers Forum UK. They recently shared “Lessons from the Industry Formerly” Known as “The Record Business”, via the Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network, addressing the emerging role of artist management in the careers of musicians as the focus shifts from selling records to building a business around multiple revenue streams.

Barton and Message’s article for the HBR Blog Network shares their perspective, as artist managers and representatives of the Music Managers Forum, that with the death of the traditional music industry, aka The Record Business, managers must not “treat artists as commodities” and must “value the artist-fan relationship as highly as traditional rights.”

In practice this means that managers must recognize that “every artist is a standalone business that generates income from multiple revenue streams” and that a “manager’s job is to create those businesses and run them well.” In doing so, managers as well as artists must be open to any viable revenue stream and that “as long as those channels can deliver the aesthetic the artist wants and make a profit, the business is a success.”

Note that this viewpoint does not push artistry aside, in fact, it requires a shift away from treating artists as commodities or thinking of them as “interchangeable hit makers.” Such a perspective also requires leaving behind the notion that record sales are the key indicators of success.

Barton and Message feel that managers must recognize that “artists and their art are the only real assets” and that the components of the traditional music industry, from labels to publishers to merchandisers, should be “regarded primarily as service providers to artists.”

As the industry reforms around direct artist-to-fan relationships, managers must focus on “accepting consumer behavior and looking for as many ways as possible to monetize it.”

Rather than seeking 360 deals with record labels, they suggest a more innovative investor oriented approach in which, instead of focusing on “direct rights exploitation” and record sales, they create a “market for investors to put their money into artists’ whole businesses, where artists retain rights and investors participate in all the profits.”

Barton and Message articulate a view of management that is strongly aligned with the D.I.Y. approach advocated so heavily in the U.S. Of course, D.I.Y. does not have to mean, Do It [all by]Yourself. In fact, savvy management is likely to be increasingly recognized as key to a successful artist’s team, whether the goal is indie success or a label signing.

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