Music management: The Metallica Way!

How fitting; Metallica celebrates their 30th Anniversary in 2011! With that mentioned, 4 Days of pure epic history takes place at the Fillmore as I type! Metallica reaps the souls of their fans, again, as they play at a special Anniversary gig in San Francisco, CA.

Enter Night, Metallica’s biography has to be one of my top shelf reads; not only because it’s about one of the most loved [or reviled after the release of Lulu] metal bands around the Globe but because it’s exceptionally written by renowned writer Mick Wall.

After having read the book thrice, I noticed some great music management tips streaming out of the dialogues between Mick Wall and the members of Metallica; namely Lars Ulrich. Here are my top 7 music management tips extracted from Enter Night:
  • ª       “Lars immediately struck me as being completely different. Unlike most drummers he was articulate and it was clear he and James had a long-term vision for the band. They were not going to be here today then serving pizza tomorrow. Lars had a vision of the band being big.” – Malcolm Dome

Management Lesson: Having short-term and long-term goals are a MUST for any band. As Paul Allen mentions in his book Artist Manager, “Generating specific goals takes out the ‘pipe dream’ aspect of goal setting and creates accountability for both artist and manager.” Lars had a vision and a strategy which was strong and clear.
  • ª       “For Lars Ulrich, though, it wasn’t about ditching Jonny and Marsha [Zazula]. They had ‘always been good people’. But ‘if we were to go next-level’ they would have to take drastic steps, as they had previously with Ron [McGovney] and with Dave [Mustaine], and as they would again in the future when it came to others in their rapidly expanding organisation.” – Mick Wall [narrative]

Management Lesson: Artists need to mature and expand continuously. Unfortunately, that means having to leave people behind, sometimes. In order to avoid a nasty split between manager and artist; ALWAYS draft a contract, furthermore plan an exit strategy which will remove personal matters from professional concerns. This was definitely not practiced by Metallica’s former manager or members – evident with Mustaine. 
  • ª      “It’s always helpful if you’ve got one guy in the band who has his business head screwed on. So many bands haven’t a clue. Metallica always kind of knew where they wanted to go. They had one guy who was great doing the interviews and the business. It left the others time to take care of the music.” – Martine Hooker

Management Lesson: It must be understood that the Artist is the business but to have an understanding of the business is crucial. Lars could not match Cliff Burnstein or Peter Mensch with business savvy but he attained such knowledge of: a) good communication b) brand management c) marketing d) salesmanship e) awareness of music trends
  • ª      “Metallica found their own Derek Riggs in one of James’ skateboard pals: Pushead.  Mainly, Pushead was to concentrate on designs throughout every leg of the tour. So cool was Metallica’s Pushead-designed merchandise considered, that he quickly became designer of choice for other bands; Mötley Crüe and Aerosmith.” – Mick Wall [narrative]

Management Lesson: Merchandise selling is a great potential income bracket for Artists. However, there is a line to draw between meagre merch and classy merch as this makes a crucial statement about the branding an image of the Artist. Learning from Iron Maiden’s imminent use of Eddie, Metallica found a way to brand their merch using quality designs that match with their target audiences’ taste. Furthermore it was easy to spot the person who likes the same ‘type’ of music as you do.
  • ª      “Practising on an average between four and six hours a day, every day, even after joining Metallica, Cliff’s musical philosophy was explained by Jan [Burton] as, “ There’s somebody in their garage that hasn’t been discovered that’s better than you are.” [Mick Wall narrative with Jan Burton]

Management Lesson: Artists need to remember that at the end of the day; their exploiting their talents for money. If they want to make good money – they need to make sure their talents are on par. That cliché: Practice makes perfect worked for Cliff [R.I.P]!
  • ª      “[Dave] Thorne cites this readiness to always meet the media halfway as one of the major contributing factors in Metallica’s later popularity with such temperamentally metal-hostile magazines…up to the present day and their current elevated status among the broadsheet newspapers.” – Mick Wall [narrative with Dave Thorne]

Management Lesson: The media makes-up the largest portion for an Artist’s advertising. The media also has the power to discriminate, excite, destroy and credit! Learning to interact with other people can be of intrinsic value. Lars, the mouth-piece of Metallica, knew how to interact with the media with his good “human relations” character.
  • ª      “I was the one who went out and bought all the tapes. I was the one who sat down and copied them. I was the one who sent them out to people. That’s where it started. Somebody had to do it.” – Lars Ulrich

Management Lesson: Lars boasted the above in a Rolling Stones interview; so maybe he exaggerated as there was indication of help but the essence remains. “Somebody” has to do the grimy work and be ever so resourceful otherwise chances of going anywhere are slimmer than an anorexic on a diet. After all, successful actions will be rewarded.


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