James Hannam (Solent University, UK) Olivia Gable (INDEPENDENT RESEARCHER)
Johnny Rogan published Starmakers and Svengalis: The History of British Pop Management in 1988, focusing on both famous and infamous managers of illustrious artists. In the decades that followed, much has changed about artist management, yet portrayals of managers in popular culture have helped perpetuate negative stereotypes, often highlighting examples of incompetence or immorality. More than three decades after the publication of Rogan’s book, Annabella Coldrick, the CEO of the Music Managers Forum (MMF), declared in a 2019 report that “The age of the Svengali is over”. Coldrick argued that continuing to associate artist managers with such a term is misguided, given the multi-faceted roles managers are adopting today when working with artists. Indeed, recent scholarly research has begun to show how changes in the music industry have enhanced artist managers’ importance.
But the manager’s role in developing artists’ careers remains under-explored in academic literature. Even less has been said about the various pathways to becoming a manager in this new era. Our presentation addresses these gaps using several different approaches to analyse the importance of managers and by drawing on interviews with managers working at different levels within the UK music industry. First, we present findings about the different business structures managers are adopting, addressing the pros and cons of each. We then discuss the diversity of facilitating roles that managers are undertaking, including their importance as initial investors in emerging artists. Finally, we shed light on the often-obscured pathways that managers take into the profession.