TPS #038: Preventing Toxic Artist Relationships

Author: Andre Mullen - 2 min Read

Read Time: 2 minutes

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💡 Big Ideas:

1. The 4 steps to preventing a toxic artist relationship include putting zero-tolerance boundaries in place, learning to say “No”, countering passive-aggressive clients, and staying calm.

2. Toxic artists can cause the quality of management work to suffer, including the loss in overall pay.

3. Many managers suffer through the abuse because they’re focused on the talent more than the person.

4. The 4 steps to preventing a toxic artist relationship help artist clients not become a hindrance.

Let’s End Toxic Artist & Manager Relationships…

In today’s newsletter, I want to give you 4 steps to prevent a toxic artist relationship.

Every artist manager has had their fair share of dealing with a toxic artist. We all know who they are – highly demanding and think they’re always right. When things don’t go their way, they put all the blame on you.

“Annoying” when it comes to toxic artists is an understatement. It can ultimately cause the quality of your output to suffer, prevent you from meeting deadlines, and cause a loss in overall pay.

The reality is you as an artist manager will face – or may have even faced – a toxic client. Understanding how to remain professional is the key to dealing with them.

Unfortunately, many managers suffer through the abuse because they’re focused on the talent, more than person.

Time to change the narrative.

“Negative and toxic artists can make a huge impact on your productivity and time.”

As anyone working in the service industry knows, not all client relationships are created equal. Some just click immediately while others require more patience and effort to get them off the ground.

As you know, artist management ebbs and flows between CEO, CFO, therapist, mentor, advocate/lawyer, and business partner on any given day. However, recognizing a toxic artist client is based on a few traits to look out for:

• your client doubts your expertise and skills every time
• they’re “high-maintenance”, demanding more than what was discussed
• indecisive on a final decision

Here are 4 steps to prevent working with a toxic artist:

1. Put zero-tolerance boundaries in place

2. Learn how to say “No”

3. Use facts with passive-aggressive clients

4. Stay calm

When you’re working with your artist client, your purposes should be in sync. You’re working together – your client is growing creatively and you’re managing smarter.

If your client becomes a hindrance instead of a resource, then there is a problem.

Here’s how to prevent this, step by step:

Step 1: Put zero-tolerance boundaries in place

Zero-tolerance boundaries provide the freedom you need to serve your client.

Aggressive artist clients happen because you didn’t set any boundaries in place. An agreement doesn’t put these boundaries in place. These boundaries must be put in place in the beginning of your relationship.

Boundaries will empower you to manage smarter.

Being clear on what you will not tolerate lets your client know from the get-go what and how you’re expected to be treated. Examples include work hours, expenditures, communication with 3rd parties, etc.

Make sure to set your policies and communicate them to your client firmly.

Step 2: Learn how to say “No”

FOMO – fear of missing out – is what plagues nearly everyone working in the music industry.

You find yourself taking clients because you’re afraid of experiencing 1 simple concept with a huge impact:


You’re afraid of the loss of a client. The loss of an income. The loss of a potential star. The loss of accolades. The loss of being a success.

You take the client(s) to prevent loss and most clients see this and will take advantage of you intentionally. Sometimes, they’re not even aware they’re going too far.

All because you didn’t say “No” due to your fear of loss.

Learn to say “No” so you can prevent toxic artist relationships from occurring and hindering your ability to manage smarter.

Step 3: Use facts with passive-aggressive clients

Passive-aggressive artist clients will give you the thumbs up, and then come back to you later giving you reasons why it doesn’t work and they’re not happy.

Their communication is polite and friendly. However, you’ll find that no matter what you do to correct the issue, it won’t work.

It’s vital for you to have a paper trail when dealing with clients like this. Make sure you keep track of every communication in case you have to refer back to them.

Copy-paste what they’ve previously said if they’re distorting the facts.

Step 4: Stay calm

When you’re feeling frustrated with your client, it is important for you to protect your peace.

Negative and toxic artist clients will not hesitate about communicating to you with nasty emails, texts, and even social media posts and messages. In these frustrating situations, it’s important to stay calm.

Before you respond (read: retaliate), take a step back and literally breathe. Calm your mind. Be the better person – the more professional person – and remind yourself that this is not how you approach work and life in general.

In your artist management journey, to say that you’ll never have a toxic client is a lie.

However, I encourage you not to be afraid to let go if you think a client is becoming toxic, and if you’re no longer happy working with them.

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, your client should be inspiring you to work on their behalf.

Hope this helps.

✋🏾When you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

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3. Here on my website, I have resources that can help. Check out The Playbook for more information.

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