Back in the day artists created and managers managed. The end.
When I hear artists today say “I just want to make music, I don’t want to do any of the business stuff.” I want to scream “YEAH, ME TOO!”
But that’s not today’s reality.
Artists who are lucky enough to have a manager who is passionate, dedicated, loyal and connected will be able to hand off some of the things necessary to advance their career, but definitely not all of the things that need to get done.
Artists who have managers (especially early on in their career) tend to relinquish all decision making and necessary business duties to their managers. This used to work when a successful artist had a full team around them: Manager, Label, Agent, Lawyer, Publicist.
Some successful artists still surround themselves with this team and think that’s enough.
But it’s not.
Your well-connected manager only knows how to handle a small amount of what is necessary to launch (and maintain) a music career in today’s rapidly shifting industry.
The Well-Connected Manager
Everyone understands the concept of a well-connected manager. She has multiple clients, usually works at a management company, and one of her phone calls is more effective than 30 emails and calls from a ‘best-friend’ manager. Many times, it is in the contract that this manager gets the band a record deal (or they part ways).
But what this well-connected manager doesn’t do is live and breathe the band she’s working for (she just has too many clients). She’s stuck in the system that had been set in place when she entered the field. She may have had some success, but to truly manage the career of a band today, it takes much more than just a vision and some connections. Trial and error is necessary. A passion is necessary. A well-rounded knowledge of how everything works, top to bottom, (not just top) is necessary.
The Best-Friend Manager
The ‘best friend’ manager starts with 0 connections and has to make them all. BUT he lives and breathes the band. He and the band work together on a vision and lofty goals. He screams at the top of every rooftop about how his band is going to take over the world.
Some best friend managers see their band to the top. Some get fired and replaced by a well-connected manager when they start to see some success.
But what BOTH types of managers are missing is the stuff that ACTUALLY needs to get done, day to day, to build a connection between band and fan.
THE NEW MANAGEMENT TEAM
Whether you have a label or not, there are crucial duties that are necessary in every band’s career. If you do have a label, many times the label will handle some of this for you. But with a 98% major label failure rate (that’s of the bands that are actually signed) you better understand what needs to get done on your own.
It’s important to have someone on the management team who can get the band opening tour slots. Get in-studio performances at radio and TV stations. Get the band signed (if that’s part of their plan). Get a publishing deal (or a licensing company). Get songs placed on TV and in movies. Who can get album reviews at major blogs and newspapers (if a publicist isn’t involved).
These people have the clout to make this happen. But their job description typically ends there.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a well-connected manager that handles the important minutia of the day to day.
This person picks up the slack.
He’s the tour manager when the band is on the road (or hires the tour manager). He imports mailing list names after a show; creates Facebook events; uploads tour photos to Facebook and the website; runs the merch table (or finds people to do it); manages the website and works with the graphic designer and web developer to keep the site up to date and truly representative of the band; writes the press release and bio (or finds a writer to do it); finds the best distribution company (if a label isn’t involved) and distributes the music appropriately; uploads songs to SoundCloud; NETWORKS on SoundCloud; creates the YouTube channel and understands the internal intricacies of the community and how to grow a YouTube subscriber base (hint: it’s not by getting a viral video (or 5); becomes a master at all necessary social media sites (and apps) and trains the band; manages all the finances (before an accountant is involved); contacts the street team in every city and arranges flyering, postering and Facebooking in advance of the band’s show; hires interns to handle all of the above duties that he doesn’t have time for; is the band’s therapist.
Well-connected managers don’t do this.
But this stuff not only needs to get done, it all needs to be up to professional standards. Everything needs to be representative of the band. If the band is unstoppable on stage or has an album that defines a new genre, but the website is a WordPress template from 2002 and the Facebook page has discombobulated information, 3 different tour calendars, 2 separate music players, and a tab that’s completely non-functional altogether, then you’re band’s fan retention is suffering.
Graphic Design Artist
This is one of the most overlooked (but necessary) elements of every band. Ideally, a band member is a pro on Photoshop.
BACK THEN, the label would hire a photographer and a graphic design artist and create an entire visual album campaign that would last for the album cycle of about two years. NOW, fans crave content regularly. New photos. New video. New songs. Every show (or tour) should have a unique poster. At least a new Facebook header. Not some MS Paint looking banner.
Every break the band gets there should be an image designed that can be posted everywhere. Have a song on a TV show next week? Don’t just tweet it, create an image and spread it. Images are 100 times more effective at spreading your message than just words.
Showcasing your tiny breaks reinforce to your existing fans that you are a band on the rise, worth supporting.
If everyone in your band refuses to learn (and master) Photoshop and Illustrator, then you need to have someone on hand who will do this for you at the drop of a hat. But, this will get expensive and the designer will not be on your time-frame. So, bands, learn this shit!
One of the most frustrating breed of people on earth. My brother is a web developer and I love him dearly, but like every one else in his field, he is overworked and stretched too thin.
Across the board, there is way more demand than supply for web developers. Looking for a career change?
The team at BandZoogle has done an amazing job at creating professional looking band templates that anyone can use. But this is only the beginning.
You should learn basic code. Know how to add links and change the pixel dimensions of your photos. Understand why all text is bold and italicized even though you clicked the b and i buttons off.
If you don’t learn this, then you better have a brother or lover who will put in hundreds of hours to create your professional looking website and work out all the bugs that inevitably arise (or have $10,000 to hire a developer on retainer). </rant>
If you haven’t noticed, YouTube is kind of a big deal. Aside from it being the #1 streaming website, it is a community. People use YouTube not just to listen to music, but to get to KNOW their favorite artists. YouTubers have it down. They know they need to put out constant content (their preferred medium is video) and they know they need to showcase their humanity.
Fans don’t subscribe to YouTube channels because they love the music; they subscribe to channels because they love the creators.
Regardless if you want to become a YouTuber or not (it’s a full-time job), you need to take video seriously. Singing to your Macbook camera and using the built in mic doesn’t cut it anymore. This isn’t 2007.
You need high quality video. Lots of it. You should film rehearsals, shows, hangouts, skits, music videos, and put up any other (high quality) video content that showcases what makes you unique.
You may get more views on your music video, but don’t discredit the importance of behind the scenes clips that showcase your personality. That’s what turns a passive fan into a die hard, lifelong fan.
Similar to the graphic design artist, hopefully someone in your band knows Final Cut and has a good SLR camera. If not, the newest smart phone cameras are good enough (for now) and iMovie can work wonders. But get started! And when you have the funds, upgrade.
Having to depend on others for video creation will slow your process down tremendously (and cut into your budget).
Similar to video, you should be putting out constant music. Music YouTubers put out a new, fully produced song and video EVERY WEEK. They don’t jump into top studios every week for the recordings. They work with their close friends’ (or at their own) home studios.
So build up your home recording studio (or make friends).
The above jobs are typically not handled by 6 separate people, but they cannot be overlooked.
The most successful bands are able to manage all of these duties on their own and only outsource the jobs they don’t have the time, money or ability (currently) to do.
Back in the day when labels handled everything, managers didn’t need to do much other than craft a vision, hire a team, and delegate. Artists didn’t need to worry about anything other than writing, performing, interviewing and love making.
We’re in a new age. And managers (and bands) need to step up!
Above image is a stock photo
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. He’s hosting a free music business meetup in Hollywood on March 29th. Read about it (and signup) here. Listen to his new single here. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake