Radiohead said it best in 2010: The entire music industry is operating on an analog music model in a digital world. This simply means that some of the ideas about how this business should flow create dams of confusion about what indies should do, when and how they should do it, and why.
Indisputably indies need to create a team of professional services around their music. This post is a compilation of information from professionals who do these jobs every day. It’s practical advice from years of experience. These are self-employed professionals who know what works and treat individual music careers with uniqueness to help the musician stand above the crowd. Whether it’s booking, PR/marketing, or management, here’s the scoop from the pros who know.
The first bit of advice is from a respected colleague, Judy Hubbard, the woman behind the career of Ray Wylie Hubbard.
The “which came first – booking, management or PR” argument is as old as the “chicken or the egg” debate. My answer to either is, who cares as you will eventually need each one. Unless you have been booking yourself for some time and your draw is at the point where an agent can see potential for income it will be difficult to find an agency willing to take you on. However, a well-connected manager can many times get you signed to a booking agency which can lead to beneficial opening slots with the agency’s higher profile artists; always a good thing. Likewise hiring a good publicist who is willing to take you on early in your career can help create a buzz not only to draw new fans but can also draw the attention of a potential manager.The key is getting the “right” management. Signing on with someone who has no proven track record yet takes a percentage of your income so you can say you have management and they can play big shot can derail your career quicker than bad songs about Texas. I think each artist/band should assess their own particular situation and make decisions based on what their greatest need is at the time. Some managers take on clients in an “artist development” capacity where they see potential and agree to work gratis until sufficient income is generated. I have seen booking agents do the same for an artist they believe in. So the real question should be how hard am I willing to work on my songwriting/live show/networking in order to propel my career to the point where I have a choice!For more information, please visit www.askmotherhubbard.com
Another respected colleague, and veteran booking agent, who asked to remain anonymous has this to say:
Booking drives the career of performing artists. I work with several high visibility Performers and bands. But I also work with a variety of emerging artists consisting of different styles of music that have something to offer many presenting organizations I have worked with over my 27 years of Booking. Presenters and venues often have specific programming needs over and above just putting someone on stage and paying them.PR and marketing are very important to the artist’s career to get their fans to shows. For the artists that I work with, management is usually the last service added to the team because the artist has to have enough experience and exposure to warrant seeking out the opportunities that make it worth the manager’s time.
Adrienne Manson, CEO of AWM, Inc. affectionately known as Lady A @WSFRadio on Twitter shared this information from her experience:
The most needed service for artists is management. A lot of artists have decided to go independent due to bad management. Artists looked, and are still looking for management services that will stand up to what they promise. Long gone are the days that artists put their sole trust in the management team. With so many deals gone bad, and mangers who promise WHAT they know they can not deliver to artists feel the only choice they have is to be independent.Artists still need managers who are not just in it for the money. Artists today have a difficult time trusting any type of management service, because of being ripped off by previous so-called managers. The entertainment and music business is a tough, and very hard to make it business. There are countless success stories of independent artists such as: Mikey Wax, Brandon Carter, Trina Elle (whose music was featured on Law & Order SVU), Janyse Jaud, nationally recognized for her work with the Batman series and many others.Artists need good management services to really help them gain the exposure they are looking for. When it comes to being represented artists are going it alone, and do not have the knowledge of the business they need. Artists are going through trial and error to find out what, and how things work in the music business. If they have a great management team artists would be able to focus more on their craft, and not split their time in-between trying to manage their bookings, practicing, and performing. Practicing, and rehearsal take a huge chunk of their time. Artists’ time is precious, and they really do need to have an awesome management team to back them up to push them to the next level.Visit http://www.awmrecords.com for more information.
Erin Scholze of Dreamspider Publicity and Event Services is a well-respected publicist from Asheville, North Carolina specializing in roots music. Erin embeds herself in the music scene attending countless shows and festivals each year where her clients perform. Here’s what she has to say:
“There really is no certain order to which services an artist seeks first, it depends on where the band is at in their career. If they have the beginnings of a buzz that can be cultivated, they need press. If they the bands starts playing a lot and as demand gets higher for them the need for a booking agent comes along. A lot depends on what is happening in their careers. If the band is on the road a lot, maybe they need to think about hiring a tour manager.
It would be wise for young artists to really take inventory of their personal skill sets and see where their own strengths lie as individuals within the band before looking for other avenues for help as they grow as musicians.
It is important that the band understands what each of the roles are within the music industry, and how they fit together, before hiring someone. There are a lot of people that may promise a magical world to suddenly appear, but really the players should never stop working toward their own goals. Clear communication between the band and their team is the number one most important thing that needs to happen for everyone to move forward in a positive way.
It’s a really good idea to have a publicist on board as soon as possible when working on a new album to trouble shoot problems that can be avoided and ensure that the small details are not missed. A lot of pre-planning goes into promotion that very often gets overlooked by younger bands as they get excited to get the album out and can miss critical steps, timing in getting the music heard, and reviewed around the release date.”
For more information about Erin please visit http://www.dreamspider.net.
Erin was included in an article published by Bluegrass Unlimited last January about music publicity that says:
Most bands don’t initially realize that it’s a full-time job taking care of business and publicity. Once you have your goals and priorities straight, much behind-the-scenes work is done by publicists—folks who generate or enhance a band’s image. The publicist is an integral part of an artist’s team who is responsible for getting the artist placed in media (print, radio, television, internet), telling their story, and helping to fashion their public image. Publicists play a very important role as part of the overall team with artists, agents, managers and others. Goals and strategies are developed collaboratively, and then team members need to maintain constant communication to achieve those goals and stay on the same path. ~Joe Ross
And finally, the last word is from Seth Godin via http://www.sethgodin.typepad.com:
“In the Mad Men era, we added marketing last. Marketing and advertising were the same thing, and the job was to promote what was made.
In the connection era, the marketing is the product, the service and most of all the conversations it causes and the connections it makes.
Marketing is the first thing we do, not the last. Build virality and connection and remarkability into your product or service from the start and then the end gets a lot easier. Build it into your app, your book, your movie, your insurance policy, and the red soles of your shoes.
What if the product is boring, someone asks…
Well, you get to decide what you make. If you’re entering a competitive field and you intend to grow, the best plan is to revisit your starting assumption and make something else.”