'Management businesses are evolving': MMF publishes Managing Expectations report

'Management businesses are evolving': MMF publishes Managing Expectations report

A new report from the Music Managers Forum (MMF) has highlighted the changing face of music management and called for the re-evaluation of the role.

Published today, the Managing Expectations report highlights the increasingly pivotal role played by music managers, while identifying potential barriers to business growth that may hold back vital support for the UK’s artists, songwriters and producers

It was compiled following a survey of more than 180 music managers as well as in-depth interviews with managers of acts including The 1975, Gorillaz, Mumford & Sons, Robbie Williams, J Hus, Little Simz, Nick Cave, The xx, Blue Lab Beats, Two Door Cinema Club and Bill Ryder-Jones. The report can be downloaded for free here.

Nostromo Management's Paul Craig, MMF chair and manager of Biffy Clyro, said: “‘Managing Expectations’ highlights how music managers are taking up an ever-increasing portfolio of work as the industry becomes more open and also more complex. In reaction to that, management businesses are evolving and taking alternate paths as well as demanding more equitable treatment for those they represent.

"We’re increasingly investors too. And as we’re putting more in, it’s no surprise that management deals are changing to reflect this. It’s an incredibly exciting time, there is always more to learn, and it feels at times like an entirely new industry is being forged.”

The goal of this report is to better explain what a modern day music manager actually does and enhance understanding of how this has changed in the digital age

Annabella Coldrick


The report, which was previewed last night at BBC Music Introducing LIVE, examines how managers support talent development, their relationships with record labels, the skills set they require, challenges around mental health, and the evolving commercial models between music managers and both their creative clients and industry partners. The wide-reaching research also indicates a potential disconnect between the increased workload and expectancies shouldered by music managers, and the mechanisms by which they are paid. 

Annabella Coldrick, CEO, MMF, said: “The goal of this report is to better explain what a modern day music manager actually does and enhance understanding of how this has changed in the digital age. We will use the findings to better advocate for our members' interests and expand our activity on the critical areas identified such as access to finance, acquiring new skills and mental health, and to initiate discussions with our clients and partners on new business models in management."

Other key survey findings include: 

  • The improving diversity of music management: Reflecting wider changes in the MMF’s membership, 42% of survey respondents identified as female, while 20% were non-white. Their client base is also increasingly diverse with 73% representing artists, 42% representing songwriters, 33% representing producers, and 17% representing DJs. 

  • Managers do not operate in a silo: While the majority of music managers assume responsibility for their clients’ recorded and publishing-related businesses, a significant number also oversee social media (76%), PR and promotion (65%), tour management (57%), bookkeeping (48%) and legal services (23%). 

  • Managers are established first-stage investors: Artists, songwriters and producers are increasingly reliant on direct financial backing from their management, particularly in early stage development. 74% of respondents claimed to have invested their own money into current client’s careers. 35% used personal savings, while 40% have received no outside investment. 

  • Live music represents the most significant revenue stream: Followed by recorded/publishing advances, PRS royalties, streaming payments and PPL royalties. 

  • Concerns remain over the commercial sustainability of music management businesses: 26% of respondents work full-time of part-time in another part of the music business - and while 25% earn more than the national average, 56% earn less than £10k per annum from music management, and 21% earn nothing at all.  

Ellie Giles, Step Music Management, said: “The music industry has changed enormously this century, and so has the role and purpose of the music manager. Each manager and management company may take a very different approach, but they are all ultimately doing the same thing: building careers and businesses for their artists.”  

Brian Message of ATC Management said: “Managers are multi-faceted, multi-talented rainmakers. They are the people who get things done. The great beauty and great curse of management is that you’re across absolutely everything.”

Kwame Kwaten, MMF vice chair, and Ferocious Talent MD, concluded: “This is an important report, and it raises some big questions. For all the opportunities and responsibilities opened up through digital innovation, it’s clear that the majority of managers are still paid on commission-based business models. I'm not convinced that's sustainable, and think we need a wider industry discussion around how managers are compensated in order to ensure artist and songwriter businesses can thrive in the future. Many of us have already started cutting deals that reflect our current environment."

In September, the MMF and YouTube Music announced the Accelerator Programme for Music Managers will return in 2020

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