|Music mania: Palash Sen of Euphoria at a concert
Just in case you associated the word 'manager' with stuffy offices and staid Power Point presentations, here's something that will be music to your ears. Managing a music band can be an exciting calling for those who love to be involved with creativity, who dig the hectic schedule of gigs, have a flair for man management and, of course, considerable business and marketing skills.
With music bands ' rock, indipop, folk, Hindi, Bangla, et al ' mushrooming all over the country, band managers are now at a premium. For, every music band needs a competent manager to take care of the nitty gritty of finance, marketing, travel, publicity and such like, so that they can concentrate on the business of making great music.
It's not an easy job, though, as Bombay-based Vijay Nair, who manages music bands such as Pentagram and Zero, and Delhi-based Isheeta Mustafi, who manages HFT, will tell you. 'It's a professional post with full-time responsibility and there are no short-cuts,' asserts Nair. You need to be patient and have good public relations skills, as you will have to deal with many kinds of people, adds Nair.
Of course, there are bands like Parikrama and Euphoria that have their own members don the role of a manager. But most agree that it's not the ideal arrangement. 'Musicians should ideally be left alone to do their own thing. The additional responsibility does get a little hectic,' admits Subir Malik, keyboard player and manager of Parikrama
Again, if the manager is not the 'right' person, it can lead to a lot of trouble too. Calcutta-based band Lakkhichhara, for instance, did used to have managers to begin with. Says Debaditya Chaudhury, the band's keyboard player, 'The problem with external managers is that they don't understand the psyche of the band-members. Their idea of management is to milk the band and earn as much money as possible.' At present, it is Chaudhury who dovetails the job of a manager and a musician. But even he admits, 'Proper management is cardinal to the success of a band because even if musicians play good music, someone needs to ensure that the maximum number of people get to hear it.' Shibaji Pal, aka Baji, of Bangla band Cactus agrees. 'Managing is very important, but you need to have the right person for the job.'
Both Baji and Chaudhury feel that there's a lot of demand for a manager who can think out of the box and come up with original ideas. Parikrama's Malik proved that 10 years ago when he bought a domain for Rs 55,000. That domain later facilitated 1.8 million downloads of their single But It Rained.
One of the core areas of a good band manager's job is to market the group well. 'There have been times when we have played at places for peanuts, knowing that the recall value would, in the future, allow us to command our price,' says Malik. Adds Chaudhury, 'We have tied up with corporate houses for 20 hoardings across Calcutta. In return, we have done some free shows for them. Our objective is to increase the band's visibility.'
The returns are not always that lavish, though. 'In India, you can't expect to make millions, but covering costs should not be a problem,' says Isheeta. Naturally, a lot of how much you make depends on how well your artist sells or how well you manage to sell them. However, once you have made a name for yourself as a manager-facilitator who can bring all the big contracts, the scope for expansion is vast. Nair, for example, co-owns 'Only Much Louder', a record label which releases works by original artists and is now planning to expand business and enter the domain of distribution rights. Similarly, Malik heads his own artist management organisation that covers a wide spectrum ' from rock bands to indipop artists. Chaudhury, too, owns a PR firm, Sagittarius, that helps to design Lakkhichhara's campaigns.
Most people in the industry believe that such a trend can only be the tip of a mammoth iceberg. Sam Lal, editor of Rock Street Journal will vouch for it. 'With increasing integration and professionalism in the music industry, managers are here to stay,' he says.
Sounds like fun' Well as they say, you'd have to love it to live it. Managing creative people is no cakewalk, getting gigs is often a seasonal affair and there are times when the 'phone might never stop ringing!' But, being part of a creative process and not being trapped in a nine-to-five routine has its thrills. 'It's been a great job,' says Isheeta, 'anything but monotonous.'