Gary James' Interview With Personal Manager
Back in 1982, Butch Stone was a recognized name in the world of personal management. He represented Black Oak Arkansas, Krokus and Starfighter. These days, we hear he's the biggest promoter in the state of Arkansas. Back in the day, he spoke with us about personal management.
A - Jim Dandy has formed a new band and he's starting to play a little bit. He acts like he wants to get back into it again. Tommy Aldrige is playing drums for Ozzy Osbourne. The other guys are pretty much just retired, out of the business.
Q - Where did you develop the skill to deal with record companies and negotiate contracts? What's your background?
A - I was in medical school and to pay my way through, I hustled pocket billiards. That's probably as much background as I got or needed right there. As I got into reading contracts, learning what the terminology was and asking friends in other groups what their deals were and their approach to deals. It came along really quick.
Q - Can you walk into a record company and on the strength of your name alone, get a group a record deal?
A - No. There's no one in the business today who has that kind of power.
Q - Brian Epstein (Beatles manager) was criticized in his time for taking 25% of The Beatles' earnings. Is 25% a fair percentage for a manager to take?
A - I got 20% for a five year, firm agreement. I don't care if it's The Rolling Stones or The Beatles. That's what I got. As far as Epstein and The Beatles, at that point in time, no, I don't think it was out of line. I doubt if The Beatles would've become what they did without Brian Epstein.
Q - People seem to have this image of a personal manager as a crook, someone who is dis-honest, someone who destroys a career. And you say what to that?
A - My experience in this business, 18 years so far, I've seen more careers destroyed by ignorant artists and blind attorneys than I have ever seen by a manager. In terms or who blew a career, I'd put the blame on an ignorant artist who doesn't know what to ask, when to ask, and how to ask what's going on.
Q - How does a manager avoid the temptation of ripping off his act when all the money is coming in and the band is on the road?
A - I never collect and hold money. The agencies intentionally segregate my 20% and pay me directly. I just get my money, so there's very little temptation to play the money game.
Q - Are you the kind of manager who does a lot of yelling?
A - No. I don't have to yell. I'm Butch Stone. I get what I want without yelling. I never have to threaten. A lot of people think that you scream and holler and act like a child and theoretically you get more for your act. I don't believe that's true. Maybe in some situations in the old days. The business has gotten a hell of a lot more sophisticated now. I just find it's better to know what you want up front, which unfortunately most people who scream and yell, don't. That's why they scream and yell. You ask for what you know is right and if you don't get it, you know someplace else you can go and get it.
Q - Do you see the manager's role becoming more or less important?
A - By far, more important.
Q - Aren't there more groups than ever managing themselves?
A - They may not have a manager, but you can bet someone is managing the band and that's the point. Management is not becoming any less important. For new acts, it's critical that there be someone experienced involved, because you're not allowed the mistakes today that you were allowed five years ago.
Q - Do you believe management is a Bastard Art and you make your own rules so long as you can get away with it?
A - I don't understand the context or the philosophy that implies. Making your own rules, yes, in the sense that there's no school you go to, to learn how to be a manager. There ain't no place you can go and get a degree in management except the streets. What a manager should do is to do everything in his power to make sure the artist's career continues to grow. You can't put it in any more general terms than that.
Q - Do you like contract riders? Frank Barsalona of Premier Talent says if you pay a group $50,000, they should provide their own transportation.
A - Frank Barsalona I think is one of the greater minds in this business and certainly one of the most successful people. He's probably got a point, up to a point. It's interesting to note that Frank Barsalona handles one of the groups that has one of the most outrageous riders in the business, and that's Van Halen.
Q - Do you agree with Colonel Parker when he says "You don't have to be nice to people on the way up if you're not coming back down"?
A - The philosophy is wrong. The philosophy is, you meet the same people coming up, you meet going down. Colonel Parker's meal ticket is dead. You'll never see Colonel Parker have another act. If you're a manager and you have eyes to build another act, you better do business in an honorable way.
Q - Do you agree with the statement "Managers don't make stars. Music makes stars"?