How Green Day's Manager Is Turning Visual Artists Into Rock Stars

Feb 28 2014, 2:34pm CST | by

How Green Day's Manager Is Turning Visual Artists Into Rock Stars
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Art is the new rock n’ roll,” says Logan Hicks, a New York-based artist who is known for exploring urban themes in street art, paintings and photography. Hicks has taken on a rock n’ roll management team—long-time Green Day manager Pat Magnarella and veteran record label executive Roger Klein— to help steer his career. Magnarella and Klein’s venture into managing visual artist is PMM Arts Projects, a “disruptive business model” that borrows heavily from rock n’ roll with aspirations to make visual art bigger than ever.

The Internet has made contemporary art accessible to young people like never before. “Everyone is ADD, so people can click through 400 images in one minute,” Hicks told me. “With visuals, it’s something you can absorb without having to pause and focus strictly on, so it kind of seeps into your consciousness.” The implications of these changes for both art and the commerce around it are only just beginning to be recognized.

In rock n’ roll, it has been the manager’s role to bridge the gap between art and commerce, following a model that was established in the early 1960s by people like Albert Grossman, Bob Dylan’s manager. Those early managers were visionaries in that they saw the incredible commercial potential inherent in rock n’ roll music. As Fred Goodman points out in his book, The Mansion on the Hill, managers revolutionized the power dynamics in rock n’ roll by negotiating unprecedented control for their artists while at the same time inventing new revenue streams that expanded the scope of their artists’ commercial reach.

Transferring that model to visual art is just as radical. Unlike musicians, visual artists do not have managers. And just as record labels used to have all the power over musicians’ careers, power in the art world is still largely concentrated in the hands of galleries, which can be frustrating for artists. As the late artist Jean Michel Basquiat said upon quitting his gallery, Nosei, “I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot.” With the onset of the Internet, the art world has become more decentralized. By representing visual artists’ interests and supporting their long-term careers, Magnarella and Klein increase their earning potential while making their art accessible to more people.

“An art gallery, much like a record company, is always looking for talent that is going to make them money and that’s it,” told me Klein, who worked as the Vice President of Artists and Repertoire (A&R) at Epic Records for 15 years. “They’re not the enemy. The record label is never the enemy. But you do need a manager to get in between the artistic entity and the commercial entity, being a record label or an art gallery.”

Klein and Magnarella apply the same management philosophy to art as they do to music. “It goes back to the tree falling in the forest,” Magnarella told me. “If no one knows it’s there, how are they going to know if they like it or not? With music it’s getting people to hear the music, getting people to come see the band. It’s the same thing with the art. The goal is getting people out to see the art, sending them art, getting them excited about the art.”

Because they are oriented to the long term, the fundamental building block of their strategy is growing a fan base. That’s why Magnarella and Klein make sure that no one walks out of their art shows without some art. “If you’re a billionaire and you’re buying art, we want to know you,” Klein told me. “If you have no money and are a college student and you just like the way it looks, we want to know you, too.” A college student who can only afford a $100 print might,  be on the market for a $25,000 painting ten years from now.

The challenge has been to grow the audience for visual art. “If I could get the 15,000 kids that go to a Green Day show or Warped tour to see this art, they would totally get it,” said Magnarella. “But they don’t know it’s here, they don’t know it exists, they don’t know who these artists are. So instead of just bringing it to this little group of art collectors, how do you bring it to the masses. How do I get my 16-year-old daughter excited about art as she is about music?”

One way they have attracted attention to art is by directly tapping music fans. When Green Day released 21st Century Breakdown, Magnarella and Klein commissioned Logan Hicks to curate a show based on the lyrics to the album. He sent the song lyrics  to 18 different artists, who created a painting for each song. They put on the exhibit at a London gallery during Green Day’s UK tour, and on Green Day’s summer tour, they had LED screens in the arena lobbies displaying the artwork and giving fans the opportunity to download the images for free.

Another way to get people pumped about art is to promote art shows as if they were record releases. In 2010, they promoted a pop-up show for the artist Charming Baker in New York City by having a street team put up 10,000 fly posters and hand out 25,000 postcards all over Soho, Chelsea, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. Although the Charming Baker paintings had all been sold before the show even opened, visitors to the show could buy limited edition prints for between $100 and $500, or walk away with a free postcard, sticker, book, or signed smaller print. “Nobody who comes to the pop-up shows will ever walk away empty handed,” said Klein. “Ever.”

Their efforts paid off. “When we started with Charming Baker, his paintings were selling for about $2,500,” said Klein. “At his last show in Los Angeles they were up to $150,000.” The print market is another source of income. At last year’s London Art 13, they sold more than $400,000 worth of Charming Baker prints in the two days prior to the show.

From the artists’ perspective, working with Magnarella and Klein is attractive because it grants them more artistic freedom. “It’s great because I can keep doing just whatever it is I’m doing,” Hicks told me. “I feel like in the past I was really good at making a hit song but I wasn’t good at making an album. A lot of galleries, they put you in a group show so you have one, two, maybe three pieces in a gallery show. You’re next to 15 other people and you can’t really get an idea of what an artist is like that. But now, we’re doing entire shows. So I really feel like I’m making albums instead of songs now.”

Logan Hicks’ upcoming pop-up show, Love Never Saved Anything, opens on March 7th at 154 Stanton Street, New York.

For more about the intersection of rock n’ roll and business follow me on the top of this page or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google.
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Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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