Orly Agai Marley is a successful entrepreneur and manager of the music industry. She started her professional career as a junior assistant in the music department at leading talent agency, William Morris Endeavor (then called William Morris). Orly was promoted after noticing a new opportunity at the veteran company: no one dealt with endorsements and sponsorships for musicians.
As Director of Talent Sponsorships, she closed a number of worldwide endorsement and sponsorship deals for A-list music acts and actors, including Enrique Iglesias, Black Eyed Peas, Salma Hayek, Ray Charles, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson, Juanes, Luis Miguel, Aretha Franklin, and many others.
After 13 years at William Morris, Orly took over the management of her husband Ziggy Marley; as well as his record label, Tuff Gong Worldwide, and music publishing company, Ishti Music. She also oversees promotion of his acclaimed worldwide tours, executive producing his multiple GRAMMY-winning albums and managing various business initiatives including the publishing and distribution of books.
In your own words, what is a manager and what does they do?
A manager is someone who looks after the career and longevity of an artist. A strategic planner who helps to build a brand, making sure the team is functioning properly and that all pieces of the business are being considered. Someone who can be honest and not always just say yes or OK. A buffer between the outside world and the creative world. Someone with knowledge of how to navigate the ins and outs of the industry. That would be a good manager. I would have to say that hopefully the aforementioned person is smart and can read some contracts.
3 tools or qualities that you find are important in a manager
Self Starter & good researcher
Someone who is able to check their own ego at the door and do the work to create opportunities
If you could define it, what would you say is your management style?
If I could define my management style it would be someone who is always looking for the balance between realistic and ideal. I always try to look outside the box and at the same time also be realistic with who our audience is and what we can actually achieve. I pride myself with being very honest and I don’t like to make any promises that I can not deliver. I am trustworthy. I always emphasize the importance of having smart people around. I never want to be the smartest person in the room. I enjoy the fight and the thrill of negotiating in order to create the best deals. I believe that it is very important to leave a little bit on the table when negotiating. Leave a good taste behind so that we can work together again. I don’t like to burn bridges. My relationships are important to me & I have always been able to rely on my network to create opportunities. I have been working in this industry for more than half of my life and I take a lot of pride in my integrity.
How did you become involved in management?
In 2006 & I was Vice President at William Morris and was pregnant with my second child. I made an unprecedented one way deal for Ziggy’s music to be distributed exclusively with Target (physical distribution only). I figured out how to put out his music digitally. I quickly realized that it was time for me to leave and start my own business and help my husband with his career. That is how Tuff Gong Worldwide got started.
Did you have any examples of managers you looked up to?
Scooter Weintraub who manages Sheryl Crow & Gary Clark Jr.
What are you looking for in an artist? What are you looking for in people you work with, your team?
I like to work with people who are malleable and open to grow. Without growth you can never win. That I would say is the most important thing to me. Do not get stuck.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your line of work in management?
I’m married to my client and therefore we sometimes have to have a hard line with not discussing business at home during family time.
What are some of the biggest joys or gratifications?
I would say that being able to get Ziggy to own his own entire publishing catalogue and masters since 2006 has been the biggest win for both him & I.
What are some of the challenges or difficulties that aspiring and up and coming artists face today?
There is so much noise and so much pressure now to be a musician and a content creator. If you are not doing it all you are not winning. The older format of people doing things for you as an up & coming artist is dead. You need to be a self starter and find your own team.
Could you share 3 tricks of the trade?
Update, maintain contacts and stay in touch with folks in various companies
Build your own content
Focus on wins that you can control (if you can’t get on to New Music Friday, don’t worry). Use your network to promote and spread the word. Focus on building and they will come!
How has this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic affected you, your team and artists? How are you dealing with it and adapting? Are you putting together new strategies, how are you facing your work- from the day to day to releases, tours, promo, etc?
YES all of the above. Trying to be positive and create new revenue streams.
Do you think this pandemic will have a long term impact in the global music industry? If so, how?
Yes, touring is done for this year and potentially next. I believe that both live & recorded music will be addressed differently moving forward for many years to come. No one will be doing meet & greets for a long time…. we are figuring out how to record and make music in a more isolated manner….
In this crisis, could you share some words of wisdom for managers, artists or workers that may be currently struggling within the music industry?
I recommend to make sure that your cupboard is full. Make sure that you are mentally & physically in a good place. Next advise would be not to put all your eggs in one basket and know when to walk away. Always have a good side hustle. Multiple sources of income. For example I have been running a real estate portfolio on the side for the past 10 years.