Welcome to the first installment of “Work Like a Pro to Become a Pro,” a four part series by artist manager Budi Voogt designed to help artists work smarter on their music business so they can focus on what matters most: their music.
For the past three years I have worked with multiple artists, and observed the following: Artists can be be disorganized. It makes sense, as most true artists tend to focus all their energy on perfecting their craft and creating music. However, structure and organization are needed to build a strong foundation for success in the music business. As an artist manager, the first thing I do when working with a new artists is build that structure and establish some professional habits. That way, they can focus on making great music and I can help them make strides in the music business. Together, we increase their chances of making it big.
In this four-part-series I have laid out simple steps and tips that you can use to streamline your operations and get you working on a professional level. Whether you’re a producer, five-piece band or even an artist manager, there’s great tips and advice for everyone.
We’ll touch on how to create a good team, develop strong and efficient means of communication and set up an administrative backbone. I’ll also introduce you to some gadgets and extras to help up your game. So first, let’s talk about creating a stellar team.
To work more efficiently and to be taken more seriously by the outside world, you have to establish a strong team.
There are so many responsibilities that come with being a well functioning artist; scoring gigs, getting label deals, maintaining social media, and more. As an artist just starting out, you’re probably doing everything yourself.
You should realize that even though you might now be forced to, you shouldn’t be. How can you possibly expect to be great at so many things at once? Impossible – and probably all going at the cost of the most important thing: making great music.
The key players you should add to your team are a manager and booking agent. Then there’s also publishers, lawyers and accountants. We’re going to talk about the first three here, and treat the lawyer and accountant later on.
Even if you’re managing everything yourself now, inevitably you’re going to have to gather that team. For solo operations, this has even more urgency.
You might be wondering why you’d need people whom aren’t in your band, to be involved with your band. There’s three simple reasons for that; one being that the world will take you a LOT more serious if you have a ‘representative’ whom isn’t you, then there’s the expertise and insight these people can offer you, and that it allows you to focus more on making music.
A manager is typically the first and most important addition to your team. It is their job to represent you to the outside world, and to help you make it big.
Practically, this means creating a ton of opportunities, telling everyone about your music, coordinating others whom are working with/for you, bringing the bad news that you don’t want to, and more.
The best managers are often found in people that absolutely love your music, and that will go through hell to make sure that you succeed.
Often you’ll hear about huge acts whom have been with a single manager from the start of their career. These relationships form when the artist is still at rock bottom, and then you can be absolutely sure that the manager is in it for the love. It’s often relatives or friends that assume the role.
So, how do you find a manager?
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to look around in your direct environment for people whom seem right for the job. Look for people with a entrepreneurial mindset, possibly a business background and a ton of enthusiasm for your music. These people are your best bet, as they will go through much more for you, than an experienced and already successful artist manager.
Alternatively, you can contact management agencies whom represent a roster of artists similar in sound to you. Or, look at relevant record labels and contact whomever is calling the shots there. Label bosses and A&R’s tend to do management too.
If you can’t find anyone, but are in a band with multiple people, then assign the ‘representative’ job to one of your members. Pick the most entrepreneurial guy to do it.
In terms of payment, the norm for a manager is to take a 20% commission on everything. That means off your artist fees, merchandise income and even record sales.
Absolutely essential to your career too. The booking agent, also known as an agent, is responsible for getting you gigs, handling the logistics, and making sure you actually get paid.
Sometimes there’s overlap between the artist manager and booking agent, particularly in the early phase of a career. One enthusiastic manager can also be scoring you shows, or an agent could be negotiating label deals for you. The idea here is the same, ideally you’d have someone outside of your act, to represent you. This is a lot more credible to the outside world.
To find a booking agent, the same applies as for a manager. If you’re big, you can talk to actual booking agencies or get in touch with local people that have a reputation in your music’s scene. If you’re smaller, look for the entrepreneurial guy whom is super enthusiastic about your stuff.
If neither work, assign the task to one of your band members, or worst case scenario to yourself.
In terms of payment, a booking agent typically charges a 10-15% booking fee. Make sure this goes on top of your artist fee, so that third parties pay their actual cut and that it doesn’t come out of your chunk.
In layman’s terms, publishing agents are people who represent and administer your copyright, in order to create money from it.
To do so, they will create opportunities for you, and make sure you get paid for commercial use of your works. Practically, they will help you get signed to labels, set up collaborations with other artists, can deliver you lead melodies and songtexts, will collect your royalties via Performance Rights Organizations and more.
In exchange, you hand over your copyrights exclusively to the publisher, so that they have the ‘administration rights’. For payment, they receive royalties on a chunk of copyright, which you sign over for a certain period.
Good publishers can be part of a bigger publishing agency, which in turn are sometimes subsidiaries of larger record labels, or as one man operations. The best publishers have big networks, are credible, and particularly resourceful. It’s all about connecting the dots.
I’d recommend getting a publisher only after you’ve found a manager, and released a few records. Copyright is a valuable thing, but only creates revenue if there’s actual records being sold and being played on TV and radio. So, don’t expect a publishing agent to work too hard for you, if you haven’t got booming growth going on, or are exceptionally talented.
If you find these people to work with you as an act, chances are your odds will increase drastically. You can now focus on music, and you’ll have someone focused solely on representing you, and another to find you shows. It allows you to simultaneously cover all parts of the spectrum, and in the case of your music taking off, you’ll have everything in place to roll with the momentum.
Take note that in order to get signed by reputed agents and managers, you really need to have some influence. 500 Facebook likes and a few records are probably not going to cut it. This is why so many people start off with a friend or relative taking the job, and end up staying with them even if they make it big. All of them look for artists whom are in a growing rapidly, and/or that are exceptionally talented.
Lastly there’s accountants and lawyers, whom are essential as well, but we’ll talk about them further on.
This article is written by Budi Voogt, who runs Heroic Recordings and manages artists. He writes about the music industry and marketing on his blog, and has just released his first book ‘The Soundcloud Bible’. Stay tuned for Part II, which covers how to communicate effectively with your team and fans. Follow Budi at @HeroicRecordings on Twitter!