Brief History of Artist Management
A big chunk of those responsibilities involve strategy: knowing how well your artist is performing so you can decide where to invest more time and where to scale things back. And with the right analytics tools, you can strike that optimal balance to get the most for your artist, no matter the situation.
Artist management in the music industry really established itself in the public consciousness with the ‘60s British Invasion, which brought the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to American shores. And it wasn’t just about the performing and songwriting talent of Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards — their managers played a huge role in strategizing each band’s global domination.
Beatles manager Brian Epstein, informally dubbed “the fifth Beatle,” as a result of his integral role in the band’s development, was responsible for the rebranding of the Beatles from jeans and leather jacket-wearing rascals to professional uniformed performers who would become commonly known as “the Fab Four.”
With Epstein’s leadership and guidance, the Beatles would go from regular gigs at Liverpool’s Cavern Club (100-200 person capacity) to NME’s All-Star Concert at Wembley Arena (12.5K person capacity) in just five years. Epstein was also instrumental in forging a relationship with Parlophone A&R Manager George Martin, who, after much reservation, would go on to produce many of the band’s albums and also become a “fifth Beatle.”
Early Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham piggybacked off of Epstein’s success with the Beatles by positioning the Rolling Stones as a “bad boy” alternative to the Fab Four. He even brought John Lennon and Paul McCartney into the studio to write the song “I Wanna Be Your Man” for the Stones, subsequently encouraging Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to start writing their own songs. The result? Next to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones would become one of the biggest Rock bands ever.
The groundwork for this sort of monumental worldwide success with artist management was laid by Jazz managers like John Levy (Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderley) and early Pop and Rock managers like Colonel Tom Parker (Gene Austin, Elvis Presley), who probably never dreamed that data analytics would increasingly become a skill set required of artist managers.
Fundamentally, however, whether it’s business acumen, relationship building, or strategic guidance, the fiduciary role of the artist manager hasn’t changed — just some of the tools have.