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Godwin Tom: Why Nigerian artists’ managers need more education

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The primary responsibilities of an artist manager are overseeing the day-to-day business affairs of an artist and counseling the talent concerning personal decisions which may affect their career.

However, in Nigeria, artist managers pretty much take up every single role and responsibility for their artiste. They are the booking managers, road managers, financial advisors, and stylists, a trend that renowned Nigerian talent manager, Godwin Tom, says stifles the growth of the artist.

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In an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos, Mr Tom, who once managed the music careers of Wizkid and Waje, lamented the absence of a structure in the Nigerian music industry and called for defined roles for artist managers.

He said: ‘‘We have a problem with knowledge sharing. People don’t really know what their roles are, for example, it is not the job of the manager to book shows, but we don’t have a structure that’s why they do. So there are people not knowing, and there is a structure not available.

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‘‘So as a manager, you book shows because there is no booking agency. Idly, there should be a booking agency so the manager can focus on business development. So these things happen and they cause the manager to do certain jobs. Sometimes the artist is new, they do not have enough money, so the manager has to wear multiple caps to do these things.”

Since setting up a talent management company, iManage Africa, and the Music Business Academy (MBA) for Africa program, Tom, said, he has noticed a huge knowledge gap in the Nigerian talent management sector.

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He said there are specific jobs like talent management that require specific skills which will be largely guided by a contract to be signed and agreed upon by both parties.

‘’You can’t just come out from anywhere and say you do PR, the same thing with management. So these are skilled jobs that create opportunity and revenue for artists and it should be taken seriously. So what a contract does is that it defines what your role is, so it’s clear.

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Through his MBA for Africa is a platform, Tom said his team is developing and training a more informed and employable workforce for Africa. The goal, he said, is to educate business people within the music industry.

‘‘What people don’t understand is that for every artist who is successful or experiencing some level of success,

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three to 10 jobs are created. These jobs include artiste manager, PR, road manager, publisher, Executive digital plan manager, all these things are created, who is training these people? So that is what we are doing to sustain the success of the artist,’’ he said.

Managing an artist, especially when he or she attains superstar status is by no means a small task. You would have to manage the artist’s temperament and even excesses. Again, Tom said this underscores the importance of artist managers garnering the right skills and of course, the right mindset to perform exceptionally on the job.

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‘‘This is why the business person you need to understand the value of what you bring to the table. There are artists who are difficult to manage, but sometimes it’s not as straightforward as it looks in the media or anywhere else. There are deeper issues to it. And I think those particular issues are peculiar to the artist.

‘‘Sometimes, the artist’s family gets involved. Once they start making money, the family is on a quest to protect the money or the artist. Sometimes the artist is paranoid, so he sees anyone around him as preys.

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Sometimes, the manager doesn’t deliver and the artist does not know the best way to do things or is not skilled to understand terms of contracts, so sometimes they terminate the contract, and other times, no contracts are written, these are some of the issues’’.

It is often said that it is one thing for an artist to do music he or she needs to learn to approach music as a business. However, even in the face of a thriving career, many Nigerian artists lack the latter. Tom however thinks it is a very flawed assumption.

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‘‘It is not the artist’s job to understand the business of music, the artist’s job is to create music, the people in the business are the ones who need to understand the business. Now, artists are forced to understand the business because, one, people around them do not understand the business, or the people around them are fraudulent.

‘‘In terms of the biggest challenges in the artist, I think a lot of the artist’s challenges come from their background, therefore, there is a lot to educate them. If there is nobody to educate them, they will struggle with how to deal with people, struggle with the business, they would listen to their parents, or their uncles or their cousins, rather than the people that are actually doing the business, it’s inevitable.”

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Until business people start providing solutions in the Nigerian music industry, Tom believes that artist managers and the artists themselves would eventually wear thin.

The solutions, according to him, include helping the artist to survive the industry, helping them make money, ensuring that they are protected. When I see someone doing these types of things for me, there is a likelihood that I will respect them the most.

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‘‘Again, I think artist managers need more education, they need to be given a platform to do a lot more, and I’ve seen it in the students that we are training this year, they didn’t know anything when they started. The reason why some managers are impoverished is that everyone wants to manage the biggest people. That’s why we are training these guys. If you are a new artist, find a new PR or a manager who knows the job and you guys can grow together’’.

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