Britney Spears, Larry Rudolph

James Devaney/WireImage.com

I just read that Britney and her old manager are back together? Woo-hoo? Huzzah? What can a manager bring to the table at this point in her career anyway?
—Maria, Pompano Beach, Fla.

Woo-hoo and huzzah, I suspect.

Conventional wisdom states that managers shape the long-term arc of a musician's career. They're at the vanguard of a young singer's introduction to fame, via Nickelodeon or the Mickey Mouse Club. They engineer the public deflowering when the pop tart turns 17 and it's time to hussy her up for the middle-aged, male Maxim crowd. And they bully producers and movie agents into "seeing" the "untapped" acting "talent" of their clientele, shoving them into their first movie roles and Oscar-bait projects.

In a few years, when Justin Timberlake thanks the Academy for honoring his star turn in some tortured, three-hour Liberace biopic, the real person he should thank is his manager.

"While a label may be interested in squeezing every last drop out of an artist, a manager is thinking, ‘What's best for us in five years...or 10?' " one longtime music marketer buddy of mine says. "That is, assuming the manager is any good."

For Britney, Larry Rudolph's big challenge—now that he's back in charge, again—will be reintroducing her as a bankable, reliable pop superstar. And he seems to have the chops to do it. Rudolph hasn't repped just Britney, but also Timberlake, Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson, Toni Braxton and DMX.

Other roles for a manager, per my evil genius informant:

  • Confab with other members of a singer's team—lawyer, label, business manager—on the details of a tour or concert series
  • Help dictate the singer's next single or the direction of an upcoming album
  • Work with producers in the studio to design tracks
  • Running errands for the talent, such as picking up a fresh load of swag

As my source puts it, "The label may say, 'We're getting good radio play in Detroit,' and the manager had better be like, 'Get my band routed through Detroit. I don't care if you have reasons not to.' "

And all that help comes in exchange for a mere 6 to 10 percent off the top of a performer's earnings.

Actors and sports figures usually have managers, too, for similar reasons. Not having one can spell disaster in those businesses. Sharon Stone, for one, has a bad manager. Know how I know? Because her transformation into a werewolf is almost complete and no one is doing anything about it.

Got a question about how Hollywood works? ASK ME already!

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