The traditional image of a band manager – the person who drives a band to play seven shows a week and shift boxes upon boxes of merch, driving their acts to make as much cash as possible, of which they take a huge cut – all the while chomping on a cigar – is perhaps one of the most iconic images of the music industry. Jon Davis, however, has other ideas.
He has decided to cast that stereotype away when forming his new business Blackskull with partner Sarah Sampson, which instead opts for a much more flexible approach. He says, “We present a useful, modern and flexible service for people in the music industry and feel that our academic knowledge complements our real world current experience. These assets, coupled with a keen business brain and an eye for detail, mean that any band that engages with us gets a very strong set of business skills, skills that maybe didn’t exist in your band beforehand.”
Both partners bring a wealth of experience to Blackskull. Sarah is the brains behind the highly successful Black Frog Management Group in New Zealand, is qualified in artist and event management, and has managed several bands worldwide, in addition to being a dedicated tour manager and driver. Jon, meanwhile, is a former HR Manager and owns several businesses including Black Bow Records, SkyHammer Studio, and Chariot Band Logistics. “I’ve been actively involved in the management of Conan since day one. Over time I have gained great experience of the ups and downs of band life, from the perspective of being in an active band. I’ve been actively involved in negotiating record contracts, joining and leaving booking agency rosters, negotiating festival bookings, handling disputes, managing a busy merchandising operation, handling logistics, as well as writing and recording and releasing music.”
What does this mean for bands looking for management? These two know what they are talking about, and can scale operations accordingly. “We aim to be useful to both bands who need help at the beginning, and bands who need it when they get too big and can’t juggle everything anymore. We take each band as they come and assess what they have, before suggesting what they can do and working on a plan for how to do it.” This consultation is essential, and it can lead to taking over some of the band’s functions (e.g. merch management, label negotiation, ticket allocation) but only where the band needs help. “If your merch runs well, then great, keep it going and we’ll support you in other ways. If your label isn’t working for you, then let us help you renegotiate a deal or move you elsewhere.”
Blackskull have already taken onboard a number of high profile acts, including Bast, King Witch and Slomatics. “Now we see a much bigger need for proper, formal, no nonsense advice for bands and we are excited to see the difference we make to our clients.” However, Jon is keen to remind us that “no band is too ‘small’ for us, we want to help everyone enjoy their time as a band or musician. Blackskull doesn’t just ‘manage’ a band’s business dealings, it will also be on hand for simple consultation and advice giving.”
Blackskull Management can be found at their website here (https://www.weareblackskull.com/)