MMF report identifies ‘need to explore new commercial models between managers and their clients’

A report published by the UK’s Music Managers Forum (MMF) last week has raised concerns over the commercial sustainability of music management businesses in the country.

The findings of the report, titled Managing Expectations, come from a survey of more than 180 music managers as well as in-depth interviews with managers representing acts including The 1975, Gorillaz, Mumford & Sons, Robbie Williams, J Hus, Little Simz, Nick Cave, The xx and others.

The report identifies five key ‘barriers’ for music managers and their clients, including access to Finance; Support for Mental Health; Diversification of Skills; Transparency on Income Streams and Revenue and New Commercial Models.

On the last point, one of the the report’s recommendations is the need for an exploration of ‘new commercial models between managers and their clients, as well as those with key industry partners’.

The report continues: ‘This includes not only the basis on which revenues are apportioned, but also the structure of partnerships (for instance, sunset clauses) and access to commercial information such as audience data.

The MMF will use this report to build knowledge of the different company structures – from commission to retainer, to joint ventures, to service/consultancy – that can exist to remunerate managers for their work and bring value to artist/writer/producer careers.

‘However, there is also a clear need for further discussions with lawyers and the artist community including our sister organisations within the Council of Music Makers (the Featured Artists Coalition, Music Producers Guild, Ivors Academy and The Musicians’ Union) to help shift dialogue beyond the historical standard “20% commission” and to develop new types of relevant, sustainable business models that better reflect changes within the industry.’


Elsewhere in the report, 26% of respondents said they 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 £10,000 per year from music management, and 21% earn nothing at all.

The research also found that 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, with 35% having used personal savings, and 40% have received no outside investment.

Live music represents the most significant revenue stream for the managers surveyed, followed by recorded/publishing advances, PRS royalties, streaming payments and PPL royalties.

“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.”

Paul Craig, MMF / Nostromo Management

Paul Craig, MMF Chair and manager of Biffy Clyro at Nostromo Management 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, MMF

Annabella Coldrick, CEO, MMF, added: “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.”

“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.”

Kwame Kwaten / Ferocious Talent

Kwame Kwaten, MMF Vice Chair, and Ferocious Talent, said: “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.”

“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.”

Ellie Giles, Step Music Management

Ellie Giles, Step Music Management, added: “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.”

“The great beauty and great curse of management is that you’re across absolutely everything.”

Brian Message, ATC Management

 Brian Message, 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.”

Music Business Worldwide

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