Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Playing Both Sides of the Net" by Edna Landau

FTM Arts Law is pleased to present industry icon, Edna Landau, who has agreed to be a guest blogger on our site. As most of you know, Edna served as Managing Director of IMG Artists from its founding in 1984 until her departure from the company in December of 2007, during which time she personally managed the careers of some of the world’s most beloved classical artists. We posed the following question: “When you represent an artist, who is the “client”, the presenter or the artist?” Here is her response:

Playing Both Sides of the Net

I have often thought that one of the hardest things about being an artist manager is to juggle loyalty to one’s two clients: the artist on your roster and the presenter who you hope will engage your artist. As long as everyone’s needs are in sync, there is no problem. The San Francisco Symphony wants your artist on particular dates, playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with guest conductor, Herbert Blomstedt. Perfect! Your artist is available, will be playing that very concerto in the same season prior to this engagement and loves working with Maestro Blomstedt. Would that it were that easy all of the time. Let’s look at a few slightly different sets of circumstances:
1. Your artist is contracted to play with the New York Philharmonic on a Tuesday evening in February and has a first rehearsal with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 pm. There is a flight from New York on Wednesday morning, leaving at 7:00 am and getting in at 10:30 am. The orchestra is insisting that the artist must be in L.A. the night before the first rehearsal, especially because of the possibility of inclement weather. The artist is unwilling to give up either engagement and insists that you convince the orchestra that a 10:30 am arrival in L.A. on the day of the first rehearsal should be fine. They argue that in the worst case scenario, they can perform the concerto on only one rehearsal. In this instance, which client do you favor? The manager needs to view the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a highly valued long-term client, with the awareness that taking a belligerent stance that could potentially affect the artistic quality of the scheduled concerts is not wise. If the worst happens, the relationship between manager and orchestra can be seriously compromised and it may also take a long while before the artist is re-engaged. That said, if artist and conductor have performed the work together before and it is not an unfamiliar work to the orchestra, there might be some room to persuade the orchestra to take a chance, since they will presumably still have the dress rehearsal together. If the orchestra doesn’t agree, especially since it can be extremely complicated to change rehearsal orders at the last minute, it is the manager's job to convince the artist that they will actively pursue the next possible opportunity to bring artist and orchestra together.
2. The Toronto Symphony has engaged an artist for subscription concerts. At the time when the contract was issued, they asked for a clause stating that the artist would attend a post-concert reception. The artist’s manager consulted with the artist who asked that the presenter accept wording indicating he would make best efforts to attend. He did not want to be contractually bound in the event he took ill and felt he couldn’t do anything more than the concert. The concert day arrived. The artist learned that very day that his best friend from conservatory days was driving 200 miles to attend the concert and wanted to have dinner afterwards. He would be leaving at 6:00 am the next morning. The artist asked the manager to check with the presenter if it would suffice for him to meet VIP’s in the green room and be excused from the reception. He clearly recalled never having contractually agreed to any post-concert activity. The presenter informed the manager that their largest donor, who had funded the concert, was hosting the reception and would not take kindly to a fleeting appearance by the artist. Their relationship with that donor could also be in jeopardy. Whose arm should the manager twist? Neither. The artist should be reminded that the presenter might well be in a position to re-engage them far into the future and it would behoove them to put their professional priorities first. At the same time, the manager might inquire as to whether the artist could attend for a brief while (not to exceed 30 minutes) and whether the donor could be sure to be accessible at that time. They could also check whether the artist’s guest could attend. If the answer is full reception or nothing, the artist should accede to the request, as it was known from the beginning. If, on the other hand, the artist asked to be excused due to illness, which is presumably obvious to the presenter and the donor, the artist’s health should be of paramount concern and a backstage meet and greet might suffice.
3. An artist of some renown is being engaged for a recital in a major city where there are two suitable venues. One has a capacity of 800 and the other has a capacity of 1500. The artist already played once before in the smaller hall and wants to now play in the larger one because they view it as being more prestigious. The presenter only sold 500 seats to the artist’s last recital and feels it is too big a stretch to move to the larger hall. The risk of losing considerable money is too great and they think it would be far better for themselves and the artist to be able to advertise a sold out concert. The artist wants the manager to hold firm with regard to the larger venue. What to do? No manager wants to see a presenter lose money and an artist shouldn’t either. If the artist is adamant, one solution might be for the manager to propose a box office split in the larger venue that would ensure that the presenter’s reasonable and well documented expenses are covered, with the artist receiving an agreed upon fee (perhaps what they would have received in the smaller hall). Any remaining box office income could then be split by the two parties as agreed. The manager will want to stay on top of the presenter's venue and marketing costs and the presenter may request that the artist offer a program that is not their most esoteric. Some presenters might prefer not to share their event budget with the manager but rather to pay a guaranteed fee plus bonus payments when certain pre-established levels of ticket sales are reached.
In the thirty plus years I worked in artist management, I never had any doubt that the artist was my primary client (hence the job description ARTIST manager). I never pushed an artist to play particular repertoire because I knew that making a sale depended on it. At the same time, I never underestimated the importance of cultivating presenter relationships and doing everything possible to please them. Underlying every decision was a sense of privilege that so many important artists trusted me with their representation and believed that I would put their needs first and work with them to reach the best solution in all challenging situations. I hope that all artist managers concur with this approach, no matter how difficult the current economic climate may be.

© Edna Landau 2012

Edna’s many years of dedication to the arts and the field of arts management have been the subject of a CNN documentary on their series entitled "Movers", broadcast internationally in the year 2000. She was also featured in New York Magazine's May 15, 2006 issue entitled "The Influentials" in which she was described as "the intensely coveted, hugely devoted grande dame of New York managers who inspires a rare level of trust and commitment from her clients." In January of 2008, the International Society of the Performing Arts awarded Ms. Landau their International Citation of Merit, recognizing her Lifetime Achievement in the performing arts. In 2009, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of Chamber Music America.

Edna is currently available to provide private consulting services for artists, ensembles, and organizations. She also writes "Ask Edna", a free weekly career advice blog hosted by For those looking for wise, sensible, and valuable career and organizational advice in the performing arts industry, look no further. You can visit Edna’s website at

No comments:

Post a Comment