Originally from British Columbia, in Canada, Ace has worked in the music industry for nearly 30 years. He began his music career as a music journalist, writing for such magazines as Metal Edge and Metal Maniacs. In 2000 he made the move to Los Angeles to work for one of the biggest music merchandise companies in the world, Bravado. During his time there, he worked with artists as diverse as The Who, Christina Aguilera, Iron Maiden and Guns ‘N Roses.
In 2003, Ace started Siren Artist Management, with his business partner Adam Parsons. Since the start of the company, Siren has managed the careers of some of the greatest artists to ever take to the stage. With his roster including such bands as Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, Europe, Black Star Riders, Stiff Little Fingers and others. As a result, Ace has since become an expert in the field of artist management.
If you’re passionate about music or you’re a band looking for insider advice, then check out Ace On Music, his YouTube channel, where discussions range from industry behind the scenes to favourite album covers and more.
As part of a new series, I wanted to know more about the artist management role. Ace was kind enough to offer me an insight into his world and Siren Artist Management.
As a manager, what does your job entail?
I get asked this all the time. Everyone knows that bands usually have managers, but when pressed, few actually know what a manager does. The best way I can lay it out is to think of a band as a corporation. The band members are the board of directors and they hire me to run the day to day business of their company. Basically, I am the CEO. I drive the train… All the decisions for the band come across my desk. Albeit, in consultation with the board members.
Are you a personal manager, business manager or both?
I am NOT a business manager. All of my bands have very skilled and talented people who are wizards in the ways of taxes and the like. I am more of a personal manager.
When and how did you make the step into becoming a manager?
That is a great question… it isn’t like you can go to school and take a music management course (well, not usually). A great many managers come from either a financial or a legal background. But ultimately, in my view, it takes someone that can advance the band’s agenda and make things better then they were before he/she took on the job. It takes someone with enough self-confidence to step and do the job.
Who was your first client and what lessons did you learn during that time?
My first client were the 80’s stars Asia. Both my business partner, Adam Parsons and I learned a great deal from that time. Also, I learned a lot of the dark side of the industry and just how awful can be. That being said, I don’t regret a thing.
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in managing bands or artists?
First, have a true love for the music that you are representing. I don’t think a manager can do a decent job if he/she doesn’t truly love the music they are representing. I mean, how can you effectively sell something that you do not believe in? Second, know that it is mostly a thankless job. You never get the credit and you always get the blame. That being said, it is the greatest job in the world… but it is very demanding. Prepare to go all-in if this is what you want to do with your life.
What factors determine whether or not you will work with a potential client?
I have one basic rule. Whenever I’m approached by a new client, our whole team takes a looks at their situation as it stands today. Then we have big discussions of what exactly we could do to improve the situation if needed. If we find that we can’t really help, then we don’t take on the client. Things have to be improved with our participation, otherwise it would be unfair to take them on. And, of course, as I mentioned before, I need to love and believe in the client’s music.
Are you constantly looking out for new artists to work with?
Well, it isn’t really like that. Almost all of the clients we do have, came about as a result of them observing how well we did for our existing clients. We are very hands-on managers. So I will travel over to Europe 4-5 times a year to spend time with my artists at the shows. During this process, I invariably interact with the other artists on the bill. That is usually how the seeds are planted.
What mistakes do you think upcoming bands or artist make when looking for representation?
The bottom line is that all musicians need to understand that this is the music BUSINESS. If you want someone to represent you, you are asking them to believe in your vision. If you get someone that is willing to put in the work, make sure you do too. There are only so many hours in the day and it takes as much time and energy for me to manage an emerging act as it does to handle a well-established act. This cannot be a hobby…
What’s your favourite aspect of the job?
I’ve been a music nut since an early age. The fact that I now get to help shape the careers and legacies of some of the artists that influenced me so strongly in my early years, leaves me gobsmacked. I love to travel the world with the bands and see places and meet people that most never will. It’s the greatest job in the world!
What do you feel is the biggest misconception people have of managers?
That we are the “no” guys. That we are the gatekeepers… and we are. But ultimately, it is the fans laying out their hard-earned money for the product or performance my artists offer… We LOVE the fans… they pay our salaries!
When an artist is presented with the opportunity to sign with a label, what factors do the management team have to take into consideration?
So many. But the ones at the top are… Will this label promote this release with the effectiveness and oomph that is needed to make it a success? Are they offering enough money to allow my artist(s) to make a record they can be proud of? And maybe most importantly, the relationship that we have with the label folks. If they are difficult to work with, then it makes life very hard.
Is there anything you wish you could change within the industry?
SO much LOL. But it has organically grown over years of bands playing night after night. This is a difficult question only because things have evolved the way they have for reasons. But you need an answer… How about living for the day that people put their phones down and actually WATCH the show.
In regards to photography, do you consider live photography an important marketing asset?
Absolutely. In today’s day and age, artists tend to release records to give them an excuse to tour (where they make their real income). The media outlets really are not that interested in talking to the artists unless they are promoting something new. So when we get media covering our shows, it can only help raise awareness of the artist. Shows are all about a marriage of sound and visuals…
Do you ever check out a photographers work before granting them access to a client or show?
Not usually. When we do a tour, we usually hire PR people to vet any press that wants access to the band. We trust their judgement and usually follow their recommendations for who gets to shoot and who doesn’t.
Do you ever pay attention to photographs of your clients that appear online?
Not really. This is more an issue for the photographer themselves. This is their craft and how they make a living. If you are going to use their work, you should pay for it.
In your opinion, what makes a great live photo?
It’s that special moment where all the factors a line. The perfect pose, the perfect lighting and the perfect capture of the energy of the moment. These things are rare and difficult to quantify. So I will fall back on the old faithful “I know it when I see it”.
What do you think creates or breaks relationships between a photographer and artists?
The band needs to trust the photographer. The photographer needs to be able to pull out the image and style that the artist is hoping for. It takes a multi-level talent to be great at it… part photographer, part friend, part headmaster.
In a world gone mad, how do you feel 2020 will change the music landscape?
We spend large parts of everyday working on trying to figure that out. What we do know is that things will not be like they were for a long, long time.
If you could manage one band in history, who would it be and why?
Of all the shows I’ve seen, and the one I rate the highest, would be the Division Bell show that Pink Floyd staged at the Rose Bowl. I was in awe the whole time. Add to that the fact that David Gilmour is one of my all-time favs, I would love to work with them. I think that we would do an amazing job.
SIREN ARTIST MANAGEMENT