The artist team, today & tomorrow: Takeaways from W&M Summer School 2022

As summer creeps to an end in the northern hemisphere, we’d like to take some time to reflect on some summer highlights — aka our Summer School Academy series!

Initially, in designing this latest iteration of the Academy, we wanted to provide more in-depth educational opportunities for our membership and utilize the brilliant minds within and around our community. For this Summer School cohort, we wanted to explore a lower-touch way to serve more members while providing an opportunity to prioritize their personal topics of interest.

Additionally, when examining the current music-tech landscape as well as the motivations for our members to join Water & Music, we came to the following realizations:

Ultimately, we decided to focus on The Artist Team: Today & Tomorrow as the core topic for this speaker series. We chose this topic because team-building has been top-of-mind for our community and the wider music industry in the past few months. As artists weather the current market storm, attempt to navigate a slew of oncoming emerging technologies (across Web3, the metaverse, creative AI, and much more), and seek to understand what it all means for their careers, many are acknowledging the daunting task of managing this work alone.

We sought to highlight established and emerging positions, ultimately settling on seven roles spanning from the most traditional of all (the artist) to newer additions (e.g., world-builders and community managers). We were privileged to have 20 speakers who provided insights about the nature and evolution of their roles, the skill sets that have helped them in their careers, and critical issues currently facing the industry from their vantage points:

Designing this course as a whole and taking programming notes for our community was also a team effort — co-led by W&M core team staff (marked with an asterisk) and a combination of both newer and long-time members:

The entire series — including recordings, text chats, notes, and a recap of highlights — is available to Water & Music members today. Still, we’d like to share some overall themes that recurred in our discussions:

Shifting responsibilities: Pushing work to artist teams

A recurring theme we identified across sessions was the growing burden on artist teams to manage more work that partners traditionally supplemented. Both Daouda and Taren shone a light on this particular issue during our Artist Managers panel. In a few ways, this presents a catch-22 for artists and their teams. To mitigate the impact of this trend, Jess Furman said it’s more important than ever to have strong partners and clear budget outlines agreed upon in advance with everyone involved. Beyond that, Adrian Burger highlighted the rise of emerging technology in assisting with accountability, which can help teams be mindful of spending and ROI.

Equity + new methods of monetization

Another common theme was the shift of traditional industry compensation structures from primarily commission-based or flat-guarantee agreements to more emerging business models spanning equity-based partnerships and new tools for financially mobilizing and rewarding communities (including but not limited to Web3).

Tapping into personal + fan communities

Speakers frequently highlighted the importance of the ability and willingness to tap into their professional networks and fan communities as a source of inspiration. Whether carefully developing a professional’s network of trusted sources or knowing exactly how to cultivate a fan community and create environments for those community members to create additional value, such value creation can benefit the artist and, at times, work for the fans in a community as well.

Big impact on a low budget

Our speakers stressed the importance of staying consistent by following a north star and trusting intuition when finding winning projects over chasing scale at all costs, despite the allure of higher budgets, more hands on deck, and significant, attention-grabbing consumption numbers.

Skills for success

Our guests shared skills for success for both artists and industry personnel. Music is an inherently personal business, emphasizing soft skills throughout the series, with speakers underscoring relationship-building, empathy, and respect as paramount for industry leaders. Beyond soft skills, our speakers also suggested trying on numerous roles or abilities (or genres or release styles for artists) to find what resonates most with you and what you’ll best be able to bring to the table.


Lastly, one trend on everyone’s mind — in music and beyond — is managing burnout. Our speakers highlighted the importance of setting & maintaining boundaries, preparation, and going with what you know already works.

These excerpts only cover a portion of what we discussed. Other themes include whether or not artist teams should really invest in Web3, what specific tools are available at low cost to help build artists’ worlds online, how to deal with the frustrations of eternally shifting KPIs for marketing and business strategies, and more.To access previous recaps and recordings for The Artist Team: Today & Tomorrow to explore this full breadth of themes — and to stay informed about what’s next for our Academy arm — join Water & Music today! You will get access to our member handbook in Notion, which is where all of our previous Academy recaps live. Explore membership options here.

Once again, a huge thank you to our speakers, our moderators, notetakers and to our attendees. Stay tuned for what is next!