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What you missed: artist management workshop at the MRC

June 13, 2011

Saturday the MRC had a packed house for the artist management workshop featuring John Turner (Thirty Tigers) and Askia Fountain (Timeless Music, LLC). In case you missed it, MRC Director Cameron Mann has this recap for you:

The past weekend the MRC hosted two managers with very different management styles but with one thing in common – a taste for good BBQ.  We dined at the legendary Cozy Corner, and we all got the ribs with hot sauce.  It was a great way to start out a Friday night in Memphis before going to Rum Boogie Café on Beale Street and listening to the house band play some blues standards – something that I rarely do in Memphis but should do more often.

Askia Fountain hails from Atlanta and has worked on ad campaigns for Coca Cola, worked with Russell Simmons and represents GRAMMY® nominated songwriter Nate Walka.  John Turner lives in Nashville and works for Thirty Tigers, a label services group and management company.  He represents Those Darlins, who had just inked a deal to license a song for a national Kia Ad campaign while John was on his way to Memphis. It’s a good reason for celebration, as licensing a song for a national ad campaign is one of the most lucrative licenses an artist can hope for. Both of these guys had the kind of varied experience I would expect out of a manager who’s seen many different aspects of the business before taking on their own clients.  Knowing that many artists in Memphis will self-manage for a while before they can attract the attention of a manager, we spent a lot of time on Saturday discussing the long road of an artist’s career path and what that timeline looks like, as well as the characteristics of successful artists from a manager’s perspective. Not surprisingly, managers want to see a certain amount of commitment from any artist that they would consider working with.  They want to see artists that show the signs of being “career” artists.

Usually, that means a willingness to invest money in your band, and for those investments to yield results in the form of regularly successful shows and maybe even a little regional touring.  Not unlike labels, both indie and major, a good manager will want to see you hit certain benchmarks on your own before they take you on.  Both Askia and John urge relationship building on both sides.  Managers should ask artists a lot of questions, and likewise, artists should ask managers a lot of questions to make sure there is mutual understanding and synergy, and that the timing is right.

Managers wear a lot of hats. John has had experience in retail, distribution, marketing and road management – all before he became an artist manager.  Askia had worked in licensing and for a label before he was repping artists himself. Having a wide understanding of the business as well as a large and diverse rolodex is what allows these two gentlemen to be successful.  As we were capping off our discussion Saturday, they both agreed that artists and managers who are going to make it to the next level need to do everything they can to “own their scene” in John’s words.  He clarified by saying: “If you are in hip hop, you need to know everyone in hip hop in your city and maybe in the cities where those industries thrive – that means agents, club owners, promoters, labels, studios, producers.  Go there and get right in the middle of it, and make sure people like you and trust you.”

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