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Characteristics of Artist Managers with Rob Lanni and Susan de Cartier

Characteristics of Artist Managers

I’m really excited to have Rob Lanni, co-founder of Coalition Music (Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan, Finger Eleven, Justin Nozuka, etc), and Susan de Cartier, founder of Starfish Entertainment (Blue Rodeo, The Sadies, Oh Susanna, The Jim Cuddy Band, etc) as guests of Smart Band Management’s first ever ‘Expert Round Up’ post to share characteristics of artist managers.

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Rob and Susan were both huge inspirations for me when I first started doing business in the artist management world, and their advice (whether management related or otherwise) has truly influenced how I’ve shaped my work along the way. They have both been managing some of the largest acts to come out of Canada, seeing their artists (and their companies) through some prestigious awards. These include a variety of JUNO awards, MMVA’s, and most recently, the induction of Blue Rodeo into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Not only do these two have a lot to offer, they are super cool too. Both of their bio’s can be found at the bottom of this article.

In over 2 decades of managing artists, Rob and Susan have seen it all. They understand what characteristics will make you fall and what will help you shine. As much as we all prefer to stay away from the negative, and focus on the positive, it’s also very beneficial to understand what NOT to do (as long as it’s followed by what TO DO).

What are some characteristics that can cause a manager to fail, and what are some characteristics that will help a manager succeed?

Bad Characteristics of Artist Managers


There are too many answers and some of these don’t apply to everyone but, in point form, below are some answers. I couldn’t tell you which is the most predominant characteristic.

  • Not patient enough. Stars are not created over night. It takes a long time.
  • The manager isn’t making enough of a living and, quite simply, runs out of cash.
  • The manager’s desire for growth and accumulating possessions are the main reason for working with artists and the manager’s needs are greater than the needs of the artists. Basically, he/she puts him/herself ahead of the artist.
  • Unprofessional – huge ego, poor communication, no integrity, dishonesty, greed and deceit.
  • Poor business practices
  • No planning for the future


Good Characteristics of Artist Managers


  • Vision:  This is a business of long term gain over short term gain.  Keep your eye on where you want to be and make decisions that can get you there.   
  • People skills:  This is a relationship business and networking, negotiating, etc. are critical to success.  Plus, it’s not just creating relationships, it is maintaining them.
  • Creative Problem Solver:  A lot of my job is problem solving so a manager needs to be able to do this calmly and efficiently.
  • Industry knowledge:  Ideally, it is great to have a manager who has knowledge on the industry and the contacts to move your career forward. But everyone starts somewhere and I remember starting in this business and not knowing a soul.  
  • Responsibility:  I manage several bands and can always sign more.  Artists, on the other hand, have one career.  I don’t take that responsibility lightly and managers need a strong work ethic.  This is a fun business but it is a business.  
  • Nagging:  I need to be the one who keeps everyone on track both in the studio and on the road.  This is part of my job but I need artists who are responsible for their own career and take it as or more seriously than I do.  I simply won’t care more than you do so if you regularly blow the interview or miss sound check I will lose interest…and so will everyone else.
  • Multi-tasking:  This can be a hectic business and managers have a lot of balls in the air at all times.  On the up side, no two days are alike!
  • Honesty:  Being honest is the one thing you can always maintain.  It also builds a solid reputation for both the manger and the bands they represent.
  • Level Head:  What’s more personal than art? Nothing.  However this is a business (notice how I keep saying that?) and not everyone is going to love the art your artist creates or want to do business with you or agree with the decisions you are making.  That’s OK and it is critical you remember IT ISN’T PERSONAL!  Stay calm, explain, offer other viewpoints – your artist will respond emotionally enough for both of you and your job is to be the level head.  


Susan de Cartier has been in artist management for over 20 years beginning her career working with Blue Rodeo and Crash Vegas in the 1980s. In the mid-90s she formed Starfish Entertainment and has been managing artists and developing talent ever since. The Starfish roster includes Blue Rodeo, The Sadies, Oh Susanna, The Jim Cuddy Band, Skydiggers, Greg Keelor and The Swallows. In addition to managing artists, Starfish also runs The Woodshed Recording Studio, which has recorded Blue Rodeo, Jim Cuddy, Feist, Neko Case, Kris Kristofferson, The Sadies, Bruce Cockburn and The Constantines, among others. Throughout its history, Starfish has been directly involved in the creation and release of more than 40 albums. Now representing some of the best bands Canada has to offer, Susan has also guided Blue Rodeo on to become one of the most successful bands in Canadian history, selling over four million albums worldwide to date.

Rob Lanni (with partner Eric Lawrence) is co-founder of Coalition Music (Management) – a full-service management company.  The current client roster includes artists Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan, Finger Eleven, Justin Nozuka, USS, Incura, The Balconies, Ben Caplan, Faber Drive, Glenn Morrison and These Kids Wear Crowns.  Established in 1990, Coalition’s early focus was primarily on touring and being accessible to their artists. Coalition has since evolved into a full service company which includes Coalition Music (Records), a label partnership with Warner Music.  In 2010, Coalition Music moved to a new home in Toronto, a 12,000 square foot building that houses the offices, rehearsal and production suites, showcase room, recording studios, and education spaces.  Rob is currently on the Board of Directors of the Music Managers Forum of Canada (MMF) having served as the organization’s first President.  In addition, Lanni represents the MMF on the FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) Board of Directors.  For more information on Coalition Music, please visit


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