Stars Behind the Stars


A celebrity is not born accidentally, but handpicked, honed, showcased and made famous. This is the job of a talent manager, find Aparna sundaresan

Before Justin Bieber became an international sensation, making music, movies and appearing in TV shows, he was just a school boy in Canada who sang into a camera for fun and uploaded his videos to YouTube. But when Scooter Braun, an American, found those videos by accident, he decided to make Bieber a star. Scooter Braun is a talent manager who manages such musicians as Carly Rae  Jepson (of Call Me Maybe fame) and PSY (who gave the world Gangnam Style). Talent managers, broadly, are those people who guide and manage the careers of  people with talent. They are also responsible for spotting artists and potential stars and bringing them to the attention of the world. Additionally, they also keep talentless stars in the limelight for as long as they can.

More than Just a Manager
A talent manager’s job is partly secretarial, partly managerial. Managers look for business opportunities for their client – the artist – and hone their talent, promote them and help them make money from their work. This includes helping the artist create content in their area; promoting them through publicity campaigns and endorsements; directing their public appearances for shows, parties and launches; and grooming the artist to become a celebrity. It is now easy to see how Justin Bieber, with Braun’s assistance, became the megastar of the 21st century.
Girish ‘Bobby’ Talwar of OML (Only Much Louder), India’s pioneering music management firm that manages such acts as Pentagram and Swarathma, says of the job, “It’s… someone who is everything to an artist…a roadie, a shoulder to cry on, someone who tells the artist’s girlfriend/wife/other person what the artist is upto from time to time. It’s anindividual who understands the artistmore than anyone else…The person [must] gauge when an artist gets excited about something and when an artist requires inspiration, when an artist requires monetary support, and to take care of the artist’s day-to-day activities. Today your artist is having a bad day and he doesn’t want to record or shoot or do a show or nothing and you suddenly become a counsellor… so there is no real definition of what an artist manager is supposed to be. Everything an artist requires is what you need to be.”

Inside the Star’s Head
A talent manager must think like their client, must understand what is coming out of their head and know what is best for them. If the client is a multi-talented person, the manager decides which of their talents must be promoted when. Talwar illustrates this with his client. “Let’s say someone like Vishal of  Pentagram,” he says. “A PR [agent] may feel that the best thing for us to do is to harp on the fact that he’s part of the biggest Bollywood duo in the country at this point, but as an artist manager of Pentagram, that would be the worst thing they could ever do to the band… to start promoting the fact that Vishal is…onehalf of Vishal-Shekhar, when you’re trying to piggyback on a Pentagram thing. That way, it would just ruin the reputation that you’ve built as an artist manager for Pentagram.”

Not just any Person Managing a star is a difficult job, so a talent manager must be someone who is very well organised and capable of handling the stress of celebrity life. And since stars are never punctual, their managers definitely must be. It’s imperative for managers to think on their feet too, whether handling their client’s tantrums or when negotiating a deal for them. “You have to be street smart,” adds Talwar, “because most of the time you’re taking decisions which you’ve not thought about and you don’t have the time to think about.” Talent managers are always up for a conversation because this helps them promote their clients. They are also always aware of their client’s moods and know when to give their stars a good talking-to and when to back off, especially before a live show, because then the artist can simply refuse to do the show.

Study Vs. Experience
There are no specific courses one can study to become a talent manager, but it is helpful to do programmes in cognate areas like marketing, public relations, advertising, media planning, event management, etc. But according to Talwar, nothing beats experience. “Production experience helps. If you’ve done any  ind of events, sound engineering, lights, and technical stuff, that helps because you understand the artist’s head space,” he says. “If you’ve been part of a band or been an actor yourself, that helps you understand what the talent themselves have gone through and are going through.” An internship with a talent management firm would be the right place to pick up the necessary experience.

Making a Living
Independent talent managers work on a commission basis and usually charge 15% of their client’s earnings. Those who work for a talent management firm start earning about `15,000 a month and then go up the pay “The most important thing about [being] an artist manager is you must be passionate…It’s almost like you were the person. You are the musician oryou are the actor, because if you are passionate about it, you’re thinking about it 365 days a year. And that’s when you realise what is required.”
– Girish ‘Bobby’ Talwar, Co-Founder, OML

ladder, as they accrue experience. Talent management firms value the relationship managers cultivate and maintain with their clients.

Life in the Starry Lane
There are challenges enough in this job, the biggest being the bankability of the star. Since fame vanishes as quickly as it appears, talent managers have a tough time keeping their artists in the public eye. Not every aspiring artist makes it big, so at the end of the day, the managers struggle just as much as their clients do. The other challenge is its viability as a career option. Talwar says that until five years ago, talent management was not considered as a career choice. “Today, it is a growing field and there is an opportunity for you to be able to get into that space,” he adds. “But…it’s still on shaky ground. Five years in the future, maybe  it’s a completely steady space you can get into.” But there is plenty that makes up for the toil. For one, talent managers travel a lot and meet a number of people on the road – most of them creative – which makes for interesting interactions. Second, it allows them to immerse themselves in their area of passion. And third, without them there would be no stars to receive people’s adulations.

Talent Management firms in India

•         OML (Only Much Louder)
•        Artist Aloud
•        CAA KWAN
•        Carving Dreams
•        Approach Enter tainment
•        IOS Sports and Enter tainment


Volume 2 Issue 10



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