Music management business; how does it work?

Buravan(left) and his manger Jean Marie Mukasa (right) pose with a dummy cheque which the artiste won in the Salax Awards this year. Courtesy photos.

Jean-Marie Mukasa is a music manager for local artistes such as Buravan, Active Group and Kevin Skaa under his music label, “New Level”, based in Kacyiru, Gasabo District.

It was in 2012 that he took up the job of managing artistes with an aim to create a difference in the music industry. He spoke to Business Times about his experience in the sector, challenges, milestones, opportunities therein.

What exactly do you do in the music management business?

My role is to bring together and direct the people and projects necessary to meet the goals of an artiste or band. I have to make sure that deadlines are met and projects run efficiently. I also liaise with advertising agents, event promoters and talent agencies that we have affiliations to.

It is not an easy job to manage an artiste as you have to make them rise and shine, know the best way to promote their music, protect their image, and find ways of how they can prosper by getting them good contracts. Generally, the lives of my artistes are in my hands and answerable to them.

Jean Marie Mukasa, of New Level music label. 

To be a good music manager one needs to be organised, excellent with people and have a good understanding of the industry as it stands today.

I am supposed to meet the goals of my artistes and their record, it is a big task managing an artiste and turning them into stars. I also handle the ‘books’ of the artistes  for instance; income and expenses, making payments on the artiste’s behalf, taxes, investments although I have a financial team that helps me out on money matters.

We also negotiate contracts fees as well as book events in line with artiste’s career plan. We advise on career decisions, publicity and promotion, help them on career choices for example, the record producer to work with, or which songs to perform, and managing media relations.

How do you endorse deals?

We negotiate with our clients, prices are not fixed, for one of my artistes to perform on concerts, we usually charge over Rwf 2 million, but on other ceremonies like birthdays, or other parties, we charge below Rwf 2 million.

How do you earn from your music?

We sell our audios and videos on YouTube, Spotify, Apple music, Tidal, and Amazon.

What challenges do you face?

Many Rwandans prefer international music and some people pay little money for local content. This is despite the fact that the artiste could have a hit song, yet when an international artiste is invited to perform in Rwanda, they are paid significantly more money, this seems unfair. We need to support our local artistes, which is how the music industry can grow.

In Rwanda, we also lack implementation and follow-up on royalty payments, different radios and TV stations use our music without paying for it; this affects our job because we depend on music for a living.

How can artistes have legal rights of ownership for their music?

We are working closely with Rwanda Development Board to make artistes earn from their sweat, there is already a law on copyright in place. We are also trying to sensitise the Rwandan population to embrace the habit of buying our music as a way of supporting us.

Did you do any course about music management?

I have done different online courses which have equipped me with knowledge on managing artistes, but I seek guidance from other managers who have been in this business for longer.

What pushed you into this kind of job?

I love art, music is art. I wanted to improve the Rwandan music industry, and I know it is a process. The entertainment industry especially music is not taken as a serious business, which is not the case in developed countries as it is one of the sectors that they generate much money. I want my artistes and the Rwandan music to be known in and outside Rwanda; this can be possible if we work together with our musicians. It takes a committed manager to lift high the brand of their artiste to a level they want them on.

How is the music industry in Rwanda?

Many musicians in Rwanda are talented and the music industry has been growing steadily. There is creativity, and energy in today’s music. If all the artistes have good managers, the music industry will grow so fast in the next five years.

Being recognised by people and having a fan base takes time; many upcoming musicians are still struggling as they lack a united and supportive team. Some very talented musicians have released one song and gone off the scene because they lack funds to keep them in the music business. It needs persistence, and money.

What are the basics of being a  music manager?

Whether you are managing unknown musicians or major record labels, it’s important to understand the field of music in which your clients operate. Each different type of music has its own scene, fan base and unique way of working.

It’s imperative to research the music business you are in or want to enter and identify the key influencers, from the big promoters and broadcasters, to record companies. Get to know the structure of the companies you are dealing with to be clear about how business is conducted, who is accountable for what and who the decision-makers are. Go out and grasp their attention and command their respect. Having a dominant network helps you to be professional but friendly and approachable to maintain and create new contacts.