"What you have today is more people advising these guys. It used to be that you’d have a good relationship with the artist and the team. Now, there are a million people in the mix, and it becomes harder to put a good team together."
——Andy Gould


You Need A Scorecard To Keep Track,
So We've Provided One
By Marc Pollack and David Simutis

Industry observers were shocked and dismayed when Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo sacked long-time manager Pat Magnarella the same week his band’s first record in five years debuted at #3. Magnarella sued, of course.

However, Cuomo’s move is the latest to suggest that the traditionally strained relationship between artists and their representatives is becoming more tenuous.

Insiders point to the lucrative nature of the business—including online revenue potential—as the prime reason artists are increasingly questioning what they are getting in return for the percentages they pay to management, agencies and legal counsel. There’s growing resentment among artists that is based not only on the commissions they have to pay, but also on the increased power that managers wield.

Further, by their very nature artists tend to be idiosyncratic, which sometimes has an adverse effect on working relationships. With the huge money earned in commissions, management is often the first place artists look to expand their bottom lines. With the fickleness of the buying public shortening careers, artists are trying to grab a larger piece of the action while they can.

"What you have today is more people advising these guys," said Andy Gould. "It used to be that you’d have a good relationship with the artist and the team. Now, there are a million people in the mix, and it becomes harder to put a good team together."

The revenue that some artists generate has even attracted such big money players as Robert Sillerman, who has made two stabs at entering the management game in a grand way. Former CAA topper Michael Ovitz has also planned to make a big play in music management, but that has yet to materialize. With competition heating up among players, it’s also becoming more fruitful for artists to shop around.

There are only a handful of true powerhouses in the music management game: The Firm, Q Prime, Irving Azoff, HK, Andy Gould, Jim Guerinot’s Rebel Waltz, G.A.S., Roger Davies and Atlas/Third Rail, former home to Weezer. But in the current climate, artists are changing managers so frequently, you’d think they owned the Yankees.

"This game has gotten extremely competitive, especially given the desire by many to rule the roost," said one manager. "There have always been those that have tried to steal clients from other managers, but now we have artists that are accepting the advice from those at the label, other labels or other managers, who all clearly have their own agendas. And as these management companies continue to grow and become more powerful, there may be an eventual shift in the power structure of the music industry."

The Firm, led by Jeff Kwatinetz, arguably the largest of the management companies, continues to grow its business, recently bringing in Kenneth Crear (Sisqo) and Simon Renshaw (Dixie Chicks). The company is negotiating with several others as well.

Meanwhile, Azoff has been building his management company during the last six months, as his Giant label was being shut down. Adding to a roster that already includes longtime clients Don Henley and the Eagles, Azoff has brought in Christina Aguilera, Everclear and Lifehouse, among others.

Cuomo pointed to a desire for "self-management" as the main reason behind Magnarella’s ouster, but some insiders say the manager balked at taking a percentage cut. Others in the know offer that the fallout between Magnarella and Cuomo came from a failed power play by the manager to turn Cuomo away from Geffen President Jordan Schur. Additionally, Weezer has left lawyer Peter Paterno for John Branca and has also left booking agency CAA. Meanwhile, Q Prime’s Peter Mensch was seen sniffing around backstage at Weezer’s "Saturday Night Live" appearance in May.

The litigation following the Magnarella firing could be lengthy and result in huge legal fees. Witness the fallout from the parting of Tool and its former manager Ted Gardner, which is currently being reviewed by the courts.

Tool fired Gardner for cause soon after he made the band’s massive Volcano label deal—meaning he didn’t get his commission on the big bucks—and less than two months after the band had renewed his contract. Gardner filed suit for $5 million in May 2000. There will be a hearing in front of a court-appointed arbiter this month before a full-fledged trial begins Oct. 2 in Santa Monica.

Tool and Weezer aren’t the only top-level acts to sever ties to their long-time reps in recent weeks. PoMo pinup Beck, who left G.A.S. principal John Silva a few months back, has signed with Guerinot. G.A.S., meanwhile, has picked up Counting Crows, Jimmy Eat World and Tenacious D. And this trend isn’t limited to rock acts. O-Town has left boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman, following in the footsteps of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.

"I think a lot of developing artists would have longer careers if they had professional managers, instead of a friend who started managing them at the beginning," said one insider. "If a manager believes that they can build a long-term career for an artist, they could make more working a smaller percentage for a long time, rather than a bigger number up-front."

The musical chairs continue, as Michael Jackson goes with Michael Bolton’s longtime manager, Louis Levin, and Macy Gray hooks up with Michael "Blue" Williams of Family Tree Entertainment, while Fiona Apple and the Wallflowers—like Gray, former Andy Slater clients—are with HK.

Mariah Carey, meanwhile, has chosen to manage herself, a decision ridiculed by some in the industry—although the move saved her from having to peel 15% of her $100 million deal. But there’s also conjecture that she’ll wind up with Roger Davies, who specializes in female artists (Janet, Sade, Tina Turner, Pink) and works well with Virgin.

That’s not all, folks: There are rumblings that another big-name group was considering dumping its management and was already taking meetings with others.

VRRMMMM (5/17a)
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Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
No, not that one.
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