This was a comment posted on my blog post “Why have a manager/agent?” by my very own manager! I felt it was so challenging that I simply had to post it as a blog post in its own right for you all to see. Get involved in the debate, comment below!



Why have a manager?

I feel compelled to put pen to paper and reply to Adelaide’s blog, because as HER manager, I feel the need to put my perspective on her position.

Firstly as the ‘suit’ I have to frame my position by informing you that my grandfather was a recognised artist, my niece is an artist, I have friends who are artists or who teach art. I have managed business issues for more than 250 musical artists (the product is still Intellectual Property even if the ‘palette’ is different) and I have family involved in other areas of the ‘art world’.

I now pick and chose who I work with. I work with Adelaide for a variety of reasons I shall turn to in a moment, but chiefly all artists need a ‘team’ around them. They may be photographers, web designers, PR people, press contacts, gallery owners, agents and of course managers. These people are cultivated over a period of time; understand your work, and other members of your team. All these people work together to crystallise plans, which are put into action over months.

Do you imagine that Damian Hurst put his auction together less than six months before Sotheby’s hosted it? Do you not think his current exhibition at the Wallace Collection was not organised six or even 12 months before it went live?

Do you imagine that Mick Jagger or Mick Hucknall do not have a manager. Of course they do, dozens of them, just like Tesco has store managers, these people are all there as agents, publicists, business managers, tour managers and publishing managers to do the bidding of their paymasters. Those ‘artists’ put a team in place to deal with the everyday issues their business face. In the case of Mr Hurst that business turned over more than 100 million in the last year or two.

But where do you start from, will be your question. You start by putting much of it in place yourself at the outset. Tell me a racing driver who did not build his own cars at the beginning, or a jockey who did not muck out the stables or drive the horsebox to the course. And when you start you work slowly to build your team and your tools around you. A manager can only work with the tools, you as the artist, put in place at the outset.

That manager should be able to build your business and profile with you, but it is you the artist who should be able to understand the tools available to you, your vision and your business plan. It is your duty as an artist to go out and learn the business principles, so you are able to discuss the strategy with your manager and the tactics they will employ in the execution of your strategy. Those are the business foundations, otherwise you would simply go to Sotheby’s yourself.

And finally, why did I choose to work with Adelaide? Was it that she challenged the ‘magnolia’ of convention with her series Black Brits? She did. Was her interpretation of her sexuality in the Black Lipstick collection compelling, erotic, sensual and provocative? It was. Does she challenge the mediocre thinking that might otherwise allow her to acquiesce in the control of her work? She does.

For those of you who may want to simply paint, I have a back bedroom that needs another coat of cream white.

John Murray-Smith