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Producers No Longer Go It Alone

September 01, 1986|PAUL GREIN

The team of Ned Shankman and Ron DeBlasio has managed record producer David Foster since the mid-'70s, and now they also handle Dennis Lambert, Jay Graydon and 10 other producers.

Michael Lippman has represented Ron Nevison since he launched his management company seven years ago. Two months ago, the Beverly Hills-based manager greatly expanded his producer roster, acquiring Bob Buziak's stable of top producers (which includes Don Gehman and Keith Olsen) when Buziak was named president of RCA Records.

Those two management companies have come to specialize in a relatively new phenomenon in the music business. Until the last 10 years, even the hottest record producers didn't have managers. They generally handled their own affairs, perhaps with the help of a lawyer or business adviser. But today many top producers have signed management deals.

There are several reasons for the development. Producers today assume more responsibility in a recording project than they did a decade ago, and also have greater opportunities for career advancement beyond the recording studio.

Also, the current practice of using several different producers on an album has led to increased options: Instead of spending up to a year producing one album, a producer can now supervise one or two cuts on several different albums.

DeBlasio says the main reason producers are taking on managers is that they now have more responsibility for the finished record.

"Before, the producer was a guy who came in and helped out," he said, sitting in the conference room of his Santa Monica office. "Now, the producer is the person--not unlike the motion picture director--who selects the property and the direction. He gets the musicians and arrangements and machines, really puts it together.

"A good producer is part artist, part writer, part arranger, part accountant and part psychologist. Doing all these things is a big job for one person, so he needs as much help as he can get."

Shankman added that the advent of synthesizers and other new technology has given producers more control in the studio, in part because the producers often play the machines.

"Making a record today is a complex engineering feat," he noted. "The logistics of booking the studio and renting the instruments are much more complicated. There are tons of instruments and sound equipment--more things to keep track of and more money to be responsible for."

The increased opportunities for producers in film and television also has made their career choices more complicated. "Producers have very long careers now," DeBlasio said. "They're spinning off into other areas of the business--not burning out as record producers and ending up as insurance salesmen.

"In the old days, a producer would produce records until he finally became a staff producer or head of A&R (artists and repertoire) at a record company. Producers today are starting to get a shot at producing motion-picture sound tracks and TV shows. They don't want to sit behind the console all their lives."

Shankman and DeBlasio, who also manage X and Gordon Lightfoot, said managers serve two main functions for producer clients. They can help producers decide which offers to accept, and can follow through to help ensure a project's success.

"With management, there's a central clearinghouse through which record companies, artist managers and everyone else can find out what a producer is working on and when he's going to be available," DeBlasio said.

"For practical and political reasons, record companies like to have a buffer between them and the producer," he added. "They want to maintain a good relationship with the producer and don't like to have to give him bad news. In those cases, the manager is usually elected."

DeBlasio added that, unlike some artists, producers generally understand the business side of the music business as well as the artistic side.

"They can take off their artist hat and talk about what the record company needs and what radio is looking for at that time. They also understand what sales and promotion are all about, and they're usually willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved."

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