An artist management question

I frequently receive questions from students. Here’s one, followed by my answer, that I thought was worth sharing:

“Dear Sir

My name is *****. I am currently in my third year at the University of Bedfordshire studying Dance and Professional Practice. I am currently engaged in a group project which looks into the starting up and maintaining of businesses within the dance and performing arts sector. As a group we have decided to look into starting up a dance management business. It would be of great help to our study if you could possibly find the time to answer a few questions about your service.

We would like to offer an enhancing employability service to our customers whereby we would recommended dance photographers and show reel companies to our clients.

If our company did exist would you be interested in being one of the photographers we recommend to our clients? If so, would you be willing to pay to advertise your business on our website and have us recommend our dancers to you or would you chose to pay a small percentage of your income to us for every clients you book through our service?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you”

I answered that I would not pay for an advert to gain recommendations or pay a commission for referrals and then gave my reasoning:

“That answers your questions, but I think it would be useful for you to know my reasoning.

Management companies sending artists to specific photographers because they take a commission is an idea that I do not approve of. I believe that the job of artist management is to get the artist work and that the first stage of this is with great pictures. Great pictures come from choosing the right photographer; photographers who give commission fees to the agency are not necessarily the best for creating the right image for the artist. The company should be recommending the photographers that will genuinely give the artist the best chance of getting work, not to whichever photographer gives them the most commission.

If a management company does their job well in getting work for their clients, then they will have no shortage of clients and will not need to generate income through ‘stealth’ fees.

I personally would not wish to run a company that operated the hypothetical policy you have proposed. A company is in business to make money, yes; however, I think such a policy is the top of a slippery slope, whereby the actual delivery of the service that the client has paid for becomes inherently unimportant to the company, because the company is making money whether their clients get work or not.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Do let me know if I can help with your studies in any further way.”

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