The music entrepreneur management team

The music entrepreneur (be it an artist manager or self-managed artist) reflects the “boundaryless career” (Arthur and Rousseau, 1996) where professionals are unpredictable, no longer tied to any one organisation, able to manage their own career paths, are highly mobile and invest considerably in professional networks (Zwann et al., 2010). They display the essential characteristics of entrepreneur- ship with their approach to managing change, utilising resources, collaboration, accessing networks and relying on individualistic approaches.

It would be very rare for a manager to work completely alone. The many tasks can be too great and involve many skills. Managers usually have a core team around them as well as specially devised teams for particular events:

Having a great team around you is important and having as many people as you can that are locally based, or if you are going into a new territory, to gather some of those people if you can.

(Interview 2, 2018)

To establish an international presence (referring back to Bilton’s concept of team entrepreneurship mentioned in Chapter 1) a team will be responsible for the following: Touring, defining a niche audience, digital marketing, social media tools, product identity, international networking at industry events, employing international booking agents and publicists and follow-up travel for meetings.

Strategic planning

The reliance only on talent and luck is very rare and risky, as exporting into international territories is highly competitive. Knowing when to launch or promote an artist at showcase or trade fair events is crucial. All managers stressed the importance of planning and not simply turning up somewhere and hoping for the best:

I’ve seen bands go overseas without any real strategy before, and they end up playing to nobody, and they think, oh, we can’t believe we’re playing South by Southwest, but without a strategy in place, and without a clear pathway in how you’re going to be playing to whether it be labels, or publicists, ox- promoters, or festival bookers.

(Interview 3, 2018)

The importance of having someone on the ground in the country intended for export cannot be understated. This could be a booking agent, publicist, co-producer or partner manager. Each territory demands a dedicated strategy involving labels, publicist, etc.:

we were looking to spread our wings, with our focus being North America, and the UK. I think it’s quite challenging to go over, with the eye on the prize of a booking agent. That’s what a lot of people are looking for ... We made partnerships with digital distribution, which was ... a key income stream, particularly in North America ... The key thing for us is just establishing a partner that can get us out there on the live frontier. That's the biggest thing you can control in terms of the income streams.

(Interview 2, 2018)

This correlates with the results from the Export Strategy Survey where participants were asked about the importance of having an international partner: 45.65% said having a local partner at an international event was very important, with 32.61% saying it was important (representing a total of 78.26% of respondents).

In a “born global” culture, the potential to instantaneously access global markets and networks is crucial and can be expressed in many ways: Via a digital presence, establishing international offices, international partners and constant travel. For one manager based in Australia, regular travel is exhausting due to the time and distance, yet the benefits can include reputation consolidation and an intimate understanding of the international area:

The Australian market is quite small in the scheme of things. It’s often very hard for an act to only be popular in Australia and to make a successful living doing that. I think for artists to be successful overseas is a huge thing.

(Interview 5, 2018)

Within the national context, all interviewees acknowledged the difficulty in making a viable local career in the music industry, necessitating an international focus. Five of the 12 managers interviewed have international offices. All engage international agents, or work with someone locally in the country they intend to tour:

We feel like a physical presence outside of Australia is probably the single most important way for us to benefit the export potential for our Australian artists ... It helps us think globally as well as be international in our presence ... We’re happy to be touring our artists internationally ... We get artists into the international markets very early in their careers.

(Interview 6, 2019)

“Psychic distance” is well documented in international business literature. Developed by researchers from Uppsala University (Johanson and Vahlne, 1977), it refers to the subjectively perceived distance between businesses and markets of a given country; because of this, exporters tend to start with the familiar. People or countries are perceived to be more distant the more different their cultures, customs or economic development are (ibid., p. 1). As a result, perceived distance creates uncertainty, evident when managers and artists choose English-speaking countries due to the cultural or language similarities:

If you’re an Australian artist and you’re exporting, your immediate ones are going to be English language countries ... If you’re looking at deals, most of them will cover those territories because they’re ultimately the most profitable ... the UK, obviously being Commonwealth, it’s cheaper from a visa perspective.

(Interview 4, 2017)

With the samration of northern hemisphere markets for music exports (UK, Europe and the United States), and the growth of Asian, African and Latin American markets as identified by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2019), minimising

“psychic distance” presents many real opportunities for music exports. Reducing this cognitive perception is achievable due to digitisation, social media platforms and meeting with stakeholders from these countries at international music market events. However, many of the managers stressed the importance of domestic market events such as Big Sound (Queensland) which enables domestic artists to be exposed to potential opportunities from visiting international industry stakeholders.

 
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