Jess Bastos quizzed Turtle Tempo creator Dan Sheed about his experience working in the music industry specifically in artist management:
When and how did you start in management? Have you worked in other jobs related to the music industry before?
I’ve been working in the music industry in events for around 7 years now and one of my favourite bands Dutch Criminal Record who I had put shows on with before were looking for a manager, and I’d always been a massive fan of their music and became friends with them after working with them on gigs so it felt very natural, so my very first experience in artist management was helping them out for a bit around 2019 and to this day witnessing their growth and their successes fills me with a lot of pride. They put me on the cover of their debut vinyl record as well which I still can’t get my head around but it’s so cool and a tangible memory of working with one of my favourite bands that I’ll keep framed on my wall forever!
There are many management models around (artist/manager joint ventures, top-up agency services offered by managers, the manager as the label, 360-degree management, the manager as an investor), which is your way of working?
My way of working is one-on-one, very much 360-degree management, I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses, there are some areas I’m much better at giving guidance and advice in than others, so I think you have to be self-aware and realistic with the artists you are working with – most of my experience is in the events side of music so that’s a good strength in how I can help the artists I work with, but I have experience in music publishing as well and plenty of good contacts across the other areas I’m not so clued up in which I can lean on and vice versa.
In terms of approaching the artists, are you more of a businessperson, or have a more friendly approach to the artists you manage (you see them as people you care about personally)?
Definitely the later of the two, as much as it’s good to have a business mindset at times, I think you need to be friendly and feel some level of care towards the artist you’re managing, they’re people at the end of the day and you should want to jump in the same boat as them and be the band’s 5th member to the quartet almost, rather than being an outsider to the artist.
Have any other managers inspired or mentored you on the way you work?
There’s a few people who inspire me through the things that they achieve with their artists like Billy Fitzjohn, I’ve really admired his approach and you can tell the acts he manages love him for what he does for them, Billy plays a big part in helping his acts and he’s rightfully become a bit of a celebrity in the indie music scene.
Do you go for contracts with artists or word agreements?
Word agreements but I think it’s very act dependant on their size, it’s always good to have contracts in place when the right time comes along, you want to be protected if you get a record deal for instance on behalf of the band, and all members should have a contract in place as well should that time come along, as much as it complicates matters there’s a high profile situation I’m aware about where an artist has got rid of their manager the night after they brought a massive scout to their show and decided to sign them, so in times like that it’s when you’d want a contract in place if you’re the manager.
What makes you reach out to an artist and want to be their manager?
For me personally, I’ll honestly see potential and actually see the areas in which I can actively add value to them as an artist, there’s so many areas to music it’s multi-faceted and there’s individually unique targets for different artists, some artists need to play live more than others, some will want to use social media more than others, some need an arm round the shoulder more than others and some can be left to their own devices more than others, everyone’s at a different stage, so I think it’s quite vital that artists and managers have a good working relationship together as well / rapport throughout, and have transparency and a set expectation of each other.
What do you think are good managers’ practices? Things you believe a manager should do and should not do?
A manager should add a level of value, but I believe they should be a supporter of their artist first and foremost because I honestly don’t know how you could help an artist if you didn’t feel passionate about their music then it’s a flawed relationship from the outset. I think if you’re a manager you need to be approachable to your artist and offer advice/support when you can. It goes without saying but artist managers should never purposely bring their artist down in anyway or just being toxic. Managers shouldn’t burn themselves out, if you’re the band’s number one fan it’s easy to sometimes forget that you need to switch off, you can’t always be on the ball 24/7, being chronically online especially in this modern era isn’t a good thing – sometimes it’s honestly best to honestly just bide your time and send that email to that radio presenter once the song is fully mastered rather than when it’s a demo and you’re feeling excited. All the puzzle pieces do seem come into place quite naturally when you’re not trying to jam them in.
What are the challenges you had to face as a manager? Any experience or story you can relate to and want to talk about?
I mean there’s always tricky times like I’ve been involved in PR campaigns and there’s always highs and lows when some doors open and some doors stay closed! How music is received can be unpredictable it’s like a permanent science experiment. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of management highs that outweigh any lows.
There was one occasion an artist I worked with had a show and they turned up extremely late which disrupted entire the event, and then another time where one artist had pulled out late without a valid reason, and both of those for example disrupts our working relationship, but also my working relationship with others as their representative and that makes the artist look rightfully unprofessional, but by association it also makes me look bad. When you’re a manager you’re balancing and juggling relationships with a lot of people in different fields as well as with the artist, so I think that’s a challenge if something disrupts that and ultimately if your standards drop below the bare minimum required of what you’re expected to do as an artist then it’s literally impossible to stay passionate managing someone that shows you disrespect for what you’re doing for them, I guess you could say that was a challenge!
If you had to give any advice to someone starting as a manager, what would that be?
I’d say celebrate the wins and try not to get too low when things go wrong – I’ve seen artists I’ve managed playing to near enough empty rooms and then go on to easily pack out a venue, the juxtaposition of that is kinda crazy. Also you’re not expected to know the answer to everything, but you can actively make a difference day-to-day and play a part in making cool things happen, and at the end of the day if you think the artist’s music is great and you believe in them, then you’re near enough halfway there to being a great artist manager from day 1.