Shouldering the responsibility of taking an artist from obscurity to superstardom is burdensome. Often, the road to success is long, arduous and chockfull of unexpected lessons.
Damien Ritter knows this all too well. As an artist manager and co-founder of the now-defunct independent label Funk Volume, Ritter found himself wearing multiple hats to promote his artists and run a business. The label held flagship artist and co-owner Hopsin, as well as Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton, Swizzz and producers DJ Hoppa and Kato.
In its heyday, the company generated multi-millions in sales. “We were doing well,” Ritter said. That was until the enterprise closed its doors seemingly overnight. Hopsin quickly ended the partnership and dissolved the label over what Ritter often refers to as a misunderstanding that could have likely been solved with proper communication.
Though the label and relationships are beyond repair, Ritter has made it his mission to prevent mishaps from occurring in other hip-hop start-ups, beginning with his Music Entrepreneurship Club venture.
Artist management can be a rewarding job, but Ritter suggests to consider the following before stepping into such a role.
Managing an artist is like parenting, except your children are fully grown adults who think they know best and won’t hesitate to talk back to you.
Before management, Ritter was a Stanford Business grad and held down jobs at companies such as Deloitte Consulting and Goldman Sachs. Transitioning into the music industry, where professionalism and structure are not obligatory standards, required Ritter to become “a lot more patient than I typically was.”
Understand that artists may not answer phone calls, text back right away or even check their emails. They will likely push back on any creative feedback and will suggest that you stick to handling the business. Even if you feel that your input is valid, state your opinion and move on. At the end of the day, you’ll still get paid if they take your advice or not.
KEEP THE ARTISTS INVOLVED WITH THE BUSINESS
Persuading your artist to care about the business side of their career might be an endless uphill battle. Still, it’s important to make them aware of how their business is being run throughout every step of their career. Ritter suggests meeting with your artist regularly. You can review budget sheets, open up your day-to-day calendar or even read over contracts together.
“Give them a glimpse into what you’re doing,” Ritter suggests. “Not only so that they can learn for themselves, but so they can respect your role. That way, if things start getting tense, they don’t question your role and value.”
LEARN HOW TO PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK
Being a manager is “not a very glorious position,” Ritter admits. “Oftentimes it’s a very thankless position.”
You may not get thanked immediately, if at all, for the time you put in or sacrifices you make. Most of the work you do will likely go unnoticed. Be confident enough to understand that you provide just as much value to the artist’s operation as their music does. Whether your value is hidden under threads of emails or is expressed in hours of negotiating on your artist's behalf, realize it’s OK to give yourself credit, especially when things go right. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how much your artist wins, the losses fall on your shoulders.