If you’ve been getting serious about taking your music to the next level, you may have heard the term ‘team’ bandied about.
Who are these people?
Let’s go through each of the potential team members and see what it is that they do. Then, we’ll look at some low-cost options:
- Music Attorney
- Music Consultant
- Public Relations
- Social Media Marketer
- Radio Promoter
There are two basic kinds of music managers: a beginner or ‘baby manager’, someone with drive, hutzpah, organizational skills, follow-through and a memorable personality who is basically learning on the job. Could be a friend, a bandmate or even a fan. Then, there are the professional managers with experience, success, and a large smartphone contact list. A manager can help you book your own gigs, create a game-plan and help you stick to it, hopefully connect you to producers, record company folks, sources of funding. They’re the all-around Jacks (or Jills) who love what you do and are willing to persevere to guide you to your career goals. If you’re really lucky, you may find a manager with deep pockets who’s willing to invest in you as well, but that’s a rarity. (They usually take 15%-20% of your income, though what constitutes your income can vary from contract to contract).
Agent (aka: ‘booking agent’).
The agent’s job is to book your live appearances in clubs, concerts, radio, television, commercials and may even find sponsors for tours. The agent coordinates between band’s manager and regional booking agents. Top talent agencies normally take on acts once the acts are established and making real money. Agents take 10-15% of income from live shows.
This is a lawyer who specializes in music business contracts such as publishing or recording deals, song writing contracts, copyright protection, licensing songs for TV and film, and to review any one of the different contracts which may come your way. For emerging acts, music attorneys may take an hourly rate of $150-$400, or a monthly retainer of around $1500.
This rare breed is the type of manager who takes no percentage of your income, but rather, for a monthly fee, can hook you up with A-list songwriters and producers, create showcases and help you procure publishing or recording deals. (Can cost anywhere from $500-$2500 per month with perhaps a 3-month minimum).
Public Relations (aka: PR guys)
They work to bring you and your project to the world by way of press releases, parties, radio and TV interviews and, sometimes, social media. If your PR person is well connected, they can promote you to other music business movers and shakers. Normally, you only need PR when you have something to promote, like a CD or a tour. (Usually costs $1500-$3500 per month, but you might find a newer, hungry PR agent who’ll cut you a lower-cost hourly rate).
Social Media Marketer
This is the new kid on the block. These are promoters, like traditional PR, except they specialize in getting you Facebook fans, keeping your Twitter feed alive and making your music available on multiple digital platforms. They can work with a traditional PR firm to get and keep your face in the public eye. (A good social media marketer can cost many thousands of dollars each month).
Once you have an EP or LP done, a radio promoter can be hired to get you “listens” on radio stations, try to get your record on the charts and help to coordinate CD distribution to stores. (Can cost $2500+ per month.)
Depending on the type of act you are, consider bringing these additional experts onto your “dream team”:
– a media coach, who’ll prepare you for interviews for print, radio and TV
– a choreographer – if you move on stage, you may need a pro to guide you
– a vocal coach to offer vocal technique strategies and vocal health maintenance suggestions to keep you on stage and out of the operating room
– a laryngologist, who is a voice doctor that will monitor your vocal health status and help keep you from having to cancel shows due to voice loss.
Don’t Have a Ton of Money?
Though having a lot of money to throw at your career is a definite plus, only a small portion of aspiring artists have the benefit of a wealthy family, generous friends or wealthy backers willing to dig deep into their pockets.
So, how do the rest of us create a successful career?
Step One: Be Your Own Promoter. Learn as much as you can about each of the skills required to pull off these ancillary gigs. Along with the internet, search out books on managing music bands, legal contracts you might encounter (e.g. recording, song-writing, production contracts); join low-cost organizations like NARIP or UK Music. Many organizations don’t require a membership fee but simply a fee to attend seminars on the business side of the game.
You’d be surprised how many people will say “yes” to helping you
Step Two: ASK. You’d be surprised how many people will say “yes” to helping you, especially if it doesn’t involve their writing a check or needing to spend a block of time helping you. Perhaps you know someone who might know someone. Learn the art of “earnest grovelling” with practiced questions such as, “I wonder if you would help me, etc.?” “Do you know an entertainment attorney, (or media coach, or music consultant) who might take a meeting with me?”, “Can you recommend a vocal coach or choreographer who has a sliding scale?”
If you ask enough people, someone is bound to respond positively and make an introduction for you. When a sincere artist says, “I don’t have much money, but I really want to do this”, there are always a few people out there willing to help, just for the sheer pleasure of helping. But you have to ask a lot of people and be able to take rejection to get to the ones willing and able to make a difference.
Step Three: Study Other Singers. Study the paths to success taken by current artists who have ‘made it’. Each has a unique story worth committing to memory. Learn the names of all the people on the way who played a part. Young artists often waste time ‘reinventing the wheel’ when it comes to creating a game plan. Model yourself on what’s already worked for others.
Step Four: Pay for a Consult. Sometimes it’s worth paying an attorney $350 for an in-depth meet-n-greet consultation. If there’s magic between you, there’s a chance that the attorney will help you for no or little additional fees. That is, until the contracts roll in and need an expert eye. But you must make it clear that you have everything going for you except money.
Step Five: Use a Friend’s Manager. Find out who manages your friends. This approach only works if you are not in direct competition with your friend. If you’re a male rock singer and your friend is a Latin pop singer, asking for an introduction may actually work. Be alert to the possibility that the manager is much better connected in the Latin pop world though than the rock world! There’s got to be a magic connection on both ends for this scenario to work.
Step Six: Do Favors. What can YOU do for someone else? Intern at their office? Be on call to pick up their kids at school? Do you have a skill you can barter for? Ten guitar lessons in exchange for a music video?
Step Seven: Learn from Promoters. You can do a lot for yourself if you’re willing to put in the time. Pay a radio promotion guy $150 for an hour and learn how to do your own radio promotion (expect that to take 10-20 hours each week of your time, but hey…what do you want for free?)
Step Eight: Hustle. Be nice, be helpful, be generous and don’t whine. Be dogged. Work your butt off to do as much as possible to promote your career and constantly be on alert for low-cost opportunities to meet people, show your work and make a lasting impression.
Lisa Popeil is one of LA’s top voice coaches with over 40 years of professional teaching experience. As a singer, she’s performed and recorded with Frank Zappa and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and her album ‘Lisa Popeil’ was a Billboard ‘Top Album Pick’. Lisa has an MFA in Voice, is the creator of the Voiceworks® Method, and is regularly featured in leading music magazines, journals, books and conferences.