The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Live Shots

Conference Panel

Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, March 15, 2002, Music

Managers as Adversaries

Austin Convention Center, Friday 15 Nobody said the manager had it easy. After all, they have to ride herd on temperamental bands, deal with bottom-line record company types, mind the business aspect of things, and God knows what else. Panelist Jack Emerson, in particular, knows of what he speaks. He put in time as a member of Jason & the Scorchers, produced, managed acts like John Hiatt and the Georgia Satellites, then wound up as a partner in Steve Earle's E-Squared/Artemis label. With album sales off across the board and the industry in a state of transition, labels are even cagier about what they look for in a band. Hence, the manager's balancing act becomes tougher, between watching out for the band's interests and meeting the label's expectations. In line with the changes in the industry, many management companies are consolidating into outfits like the Firm, which represents mainstream acts ranging from Limp Bizkit to the Dixie Chicks. Sometimes, the only thing is to make a break for it; Earle split from Warner's when the label refused to release The Mountain, Earle's bluegrass effort with Del McCoury. Much of the discussion centered on a manager's need to make contacts at the label and to understand the inner workings of the company. Nods were given, though, to the DIY ethic that still prevails with many unsigned or indie bands. Unfortunately, the panelists present seemed to be mainly versed in dealing with bigger acts and major labels. A brief discussion on how all this translates for bands and managers several rungs down on the food chain would have been welcome, especially since that's where most SXSW acts find themselves.

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