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Big George's Guide To Commercial Success: Management

Feature | Tips & Tricks By Big George
Published February 2001

Big George's Guide To Commercial Success: Management

Big George holds forth on the vexed question of management... This is the 16th article in a 26‑part series.

I was rummaging through the pieces of paper that litter the SOS office every month, waiting to be glued into the next issue of the finest magazine on the newsagent's shelf, when I came across a letter slated to be featured in the Q&A section of this issue (see page 32). This letter is about finding a manager, and what that manager should do when you've found them. The answer, given by our very own Tom Flint in his best handwriting, is comprehensive, accurate and level‑headed. Not the sort of answer you would expect from me...

Suspicious Minds

If you're looking for a manager, the obvious thing might be to start with the established, high‑profile management companies. There are many such companies out there but, needless to say, demand for their services is high. You might get lucky and be the latest act on their roster to be totally overshadowed by their top act, who takes precedence over everything. Or, even worse, you might be their top act, proving that they don't have any really famous clients. How tragic would that be?

Ask yourself which of these alternatives is better: first, getting into a very long queue with a load of other acts waiting for the established managers to jerk you around for a bit, before rejecting you; or, second, finding someone who doesn't follow the recognised blueprint for stardom (which has a guaranteed success ratio of one in a billion), is loud, proud and wrong, knows sod‑all about the ways of the music industry, but is willing to have a good go at launching you as a global phenomenon. What would Elvis Presley have said, being a semi‑illiterate truck driver managed by a fun‑fair ride operator, who became far and away the biggest act this planet will ever know?

What it's all about is finding someone who will push you to the max and, crucially, whom you trust. Trust is not a simple concept to quantify. Trusting someone doesn't mean you have to like them, or even agree with their methods. The important thing is whether you think they will work in your best interests. Do they have the same goals as you? Will they protect you? Do you think they're capable of ripping you off?

Hit Factory?

Obviously, if Peter Waterman, Tom Watkins or Nigel Martin Smith took an interest in you, you'd be guaranteed a Top 10 record, or at the very least an appearance on Top Of The Pops. But you'd have no input in the making of the record, and you'd have to wear stupid designer shell‑suits and learn a dance routine that looks ridiculous when the TV sound is muted. (Try it at home yourself — next time a brand‑new boy band make their first appearance, turn the sound down and talk disparagingly about them. Fun for all the family!)

The reason these managers/producers are so successful is that not only do they know their markets inside out, they know the people who control those markets — in fact, they probably have their home phone numbers. They supply easy‑to‑digest images with bland appeal, perfect for the watered‑down media we're lumbered with. Is that the kind of success you're after? If you're reading SOS, I doubt it.

The perfect manager is someone very rich who cares about you and what you do, has tons of front and cast‑iron balls, gets things done, is an excellent communicator, and has your total confidence. But perfection is pretty tough to find, so you'll probably have to compromise, or go for a loud‑mouthed, self‑opinionated, stroppy know‑all with a bit of a track record — and before anyone asks, my answer is NO!

So Wotcha Wanna Know?

I'm sitting here in the penthouse suite at SOS Towers just waiting for your email to arrive (at and point me in the direction of a musical injustice to right. If you're not on the Internet (then you really are behind the times, aren't you?), a snail‑mail letter will also reach me here at SOS.

For access to the majority of my previous rants in the magazine, visit my web site (, and for details of my forthcoming seminar tour, write to: Big George, PO Box 7094, Kiln Farm, MK11 1LL.

Signed In Blood

Some of the greatest artist/manager marriages have been secured on a handshake, whereas other partnerships have been based on detailed contracts incorporating numerous legal safeguards. Both types have been known to result in the legal profession getting richer. So where do you start?

Whichever type of contract you're going to put your name on first — a management agreement, a publishing deal, a record contract, a promotion contract — my advice is that before you sign anything you try to have a period where you and the other party work together, to see how things go. For example, with a record or publishing company, ask them to bankroll some recording time and see if you like the way they operate.

This could give you the opportunity to avoid some big mistakes. You might find, for example, that they're too 'hands‑on' and want more input into your music than you can accept. However, there is also the risk that they might decide you're a bunch of hopeless time‑wasters just as you decide that they're the perfect organisation to launch your career.

I know I sound like a marriage counsellor, but one premature signature can ruin your career before it starts. Be careful out there.