1991-1992: Don Osborne, California Artist Management


It’s hard to realize that at the time I was president of NAPAMA, it was barely more than ten years old. It seemed to have come such a long way. And yet, looking back, it’s wonderful to see how it has grown from those days. NAPAMA had no paid staff then. Working with a dedicated, hard-working volunteer board, the time commitment was enormous, particularly since we were struggling to deal with some important issues, going beyond conferences, which had been, and perhaps remain, the focal point of NAPAMA’s work. And name tags, the source of so many debates. Was it possible to move beyond that?

Health care had been a long-term concern, and it took so many years before NAPAMA could address it effectively. Self-represented artists and single-artist managers had started their own separate organization, feeling that NAPAMA wasn’t able to address their issues. A pressing concern at the time was licensing requirements for artist managers in various states, significantly in California and New York. Only a few states required talent agent licenses at the time. Florida had recently enacted a law that put artist managers in the same category as modeling agencies. California had just changed its talent agency law making it more difficult and costly to become licensed there. And the situation in New York was not at all clear. The law appeared to require licensing, but this had never been enforced for talent agencies. It was one of NAPAMA’s first ventures into legislative advocacy, a good learning experience, and a chance for NAPAMA to become a presence in places where we were previously unknown.

We had a particularly strong relationship with Arts Presenters then, primarily through Suzie Farr’s personal support for our work. She came to our board meetings regularly held at Sheldon Soffer’s grand 81st Street apartment overlooking the American Museum of Natural History. We were concerned that this relationship was so dependent on our personal relationship with Suzie, that we wondered if we would be able find a way to institutionalize it for the future. Arts Presenters had only recently added its first manager to its board of directors, and we were still a long way from managers becoming voting members of the organization.

We may still talk about name tags, but in 30 years NAPAMA has made enormous strides and has so much to be proud of.