It was a typical Lagos afternoon, and I had an appointment to meet with a new artiste who was garnering fame and a bit of fortune trickling in from shows thanks to his debut single, which was at the time enjoying massive airplay on mainstream radio and television stations. I had recommended him for a major event in Europe primarily because I liked his sound it was different and I have a penchant for encouraging young artistes who I believe have potential, by offering them opportunities any way that I can.
Anyway, my company was saddled with ensuring his papers (valid passport, work permits etc.) were in order and he was ready for this event, which was a month away. As I waited in this bistro in Lagos nursing my second Chapman and mentally organising the rest of my day, I was reeled into reality by a little commotion, I chuckled softly as I realised the reason for the commotion; this young cat was acknowledging and taking in his new status in a magnanimous manner alongside a newly acquired veil of humility. What was even more amusing was the posse he came with, as he approached our table he instructed the others to sit at another table and motioned to a burly-looking guy to accompany him to our table; “Good afternoon Ma, this is my manager.” I was impressed that he had thought to get a manager, we exchanged pleasantries and got to the business of the day.
I felt it was necessary to brief them again on what the event was about and what was expected of them, from the way they were nodding, I figured we were all on the same page and I proceeded to address “manager” as this was his purview (in hindsight, I honestly wished I hadn’t because I wasn’t expecting the response that followed) “So I will need the rider…” before I finished my sentence, he crumpled his face into an indescribable expression, like I asked him to sacrifice his first born son in exchange for five naira; as he brazenly said “No!” I looked at my colleague to know if I had said something out of line, it was obvious from the look on his face that he too was as confused as I was. I mustered all the patience that I could from the universe and I calmly asked him “No to what? Manager” he adjusted himself as if he had been given the sole privilege of reading out the names in the book of life and replied, “We cannot give you awa driver, you must…” I missed out on the rest of his statement as I had to control the roaring laughter that was about to come out of my being, but I had to be professional and the laughter transformed into a cough, at least that would be more forgivable. This guy had no clue what a rider was but he is the manager!
Who is a manager? A manager is an individual or company who guides the professional career of a talent whether an artiste, a band, an actor, producer, director, writer, a creative individual. A manager needs to be able to see and nurture the diamond in the rough. He or she sees the potential a talent has, knows how to turn this potential into reality (or money) and ensures that this talent either reaches or fully utilises this potential using his/her talent. A manager is your buffer and protector, they always look out for their client’s best interest.
Managers normally have a talent sign a three-year contract, can take anywhere from 15–25 percent depending on how much work being done for the talent and even more if their responsibility is combined with being an agent as well. Managers are instrumental in developing a talent/actor’s career, as they have relationships with producers, promoters, casting directors, brand managers (in Nigeria), show runners, and directors. Managers are in charge of overseeing your career as a talent in the long term.
A manager is present and involved, he/she is more likely to sit down with you and pick out your headshot with you, sit in studio and tell you when you’ve gone off key, read your lines with you, listen to the same song a thousand times till you get it right, and until you can afford a stylist they can be your stylist; tell you what to wear to your audition, get feedback for you.
You want to know if your manager is the right fit for you? See if he or she has or is any of the following:
Trustworthy: Manager client relationship is a relationship built on trust. I cannot over emphasize this; if a talent trusts you with their career you owe it to them to guard it jealously. We have heard recently artistes accusing their handlers or managers of duping them of their hard earned money (manager worked hard too na), sometimes it is true other times, it is just someone’s imagination running wild. I always advice that a manager keeps records of their spending, and give account of same every 60-90 days so that each party is abreast of what is going on (revenue made, how it is being shared and on what it is being spent on).
Most times, a manager acts as a therapist they see the talent at their most vulnerable and have to be there for them, talk them off the ledge and reassure them of their abilities and rein them in when they go off kilter.
Responsible: Never underestimate the influence of a manager in a talent’s career. Dear talent, your manager can make or mar you; be careful who represents or speaks on your behalf. I know of a couple of artistes who lost out on juicy deals because of their demi-god managers. To be honest, it is only in Nigeria that I have seen where some managers believe they are the talent and celebrities; so while their talent jumps on a table at the club, guess who’s holding the bottle of bubbly and smiling like a newly roasted Christmas goat? Uncle Manager!
Knowledgeable about the Industry: There are certain things that are no-brainers in this industry of ours, terms that should not be strange to you as a manager. Get familiar with terms like ‘call time’, technical rider, sound check, indemnity, waiver, agreements, binders, schedules, commissions, press kit, profile, headshots, lawyer, accountant, gross and net earnings. A manager needs to know how to read, understand and explain a contract to their client, know what obtains in the industry, have a very good business sense as well and know how to speak ‘the language’ of investors, potential clients and who they go before to represent you. A manager can help in putting the right team around the talent together; he/she should know how to make their clients visible and relevant. Does your manager know how to use the internet to boost your career?
Highly Connected/Network Heavy: Who does your manager have on speed dial? Can they make a ‘problem’ go away and if they can’t, do they know who can? As a manager you need to know the right people, so you can plug and attach your clients to the right projects.
Charismatic: Make sure your manager has some charm and if he/she does not? Buy them some! Managers are marketers, they need to be good negotiators and dealmakers; they make sure their clients are being submitted for and are in the right projects, seen with the right people in the right places. They romance the decision makers and make them believe that their client(s) is the best thing since sliced bread and has the potential to make their project or product the ish. A good manager should be able to make his demon of a client seem like an angel (insert smiley face).
Confidentiality: Manager-Talent relationship is very delicate and it takes a responsible individual to see the ‘human-ness’ of a celebrity, not judgmentalor get blinded by this celebrity not to be able to call one to order. At ONE, our clients are advised to be honest with us so we don’t get any surprises, so we know how to handle delicate situations should they arise. Even when a client leaves our stable, we neverhave and will never use information we posses, against them. A manager needs to know how to handle delicate or sensitive information.
Visionary: I remember sitting in the CMO management office in London and speaking with Chris Morrison himself, as my eyes were taking in the array of awards on the wall and closet strewn with MTV moon men, NME and several other awards, he shared with me how they came about the concept for the Gorillaz, a virtual rock band made up of Blur front man, Damon Albarn. I felt it was ingenious and an amazing idea, guess what? The Gorillaz also known as, the Most Successful Virtual Band went on to win a Grammy and even performed at the 2006 Grammys. Gorillaz was ‘packaged’ like any other band, they had merchandise, their own figurines, there were talks of a movie which never happened, they went on tour have played major festivals like, Glastonbury, Coachella, etc. and featured other musicians, had their own music app on itunes, Gorillaz branded converse shoes, thanks to a clear vision and thinking outside the box.
Some exceptional managers I have had the privilege of shadowing are; Benny Medina (Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez), Ari Emmanuel, Kevin Liles, Guy Oseary (Madonna’s manager), Chris Morisson (Blur, Gorillaz)
There are some managers doing it right in Nigeria, like; EfeOmorogbe of Now Muzik, List Entertainment, and even more excited that management companies run by females are making an impact in the industry like M. Et. Al, Isioma Osaje of Agency 106 and many more.
I must say this! MANAGERS ARE NOT GLORIFIED PAs! Their job is not to carry your handbag, procure girls for you, get you your choice of poison or tell your numerous toasters, groupies, sugar daddies/mummies (if you are into that sort of thing) ‘he/she not araind’
Finally, I dare say, managers are ‘felt’ and not necessarily seen; the degree of the work they put in and their impact is felt, you see the result of their power moves and they know how to make their way in the board room and on the streets when necessary.
––Emem is the CEO of ONE Management, a Nigeria-based media strategy and support company. firstname.lastname@example.org