In Part Four, I discussed some best practices for turning friends into managers on a trial basis. This option may not work for everyone, though. As much as you love your friends, perhaps they can’t seem to get out of their own way long enough to manage their own lives, let alone your career. It may be time to find your way into the office of a professional music manager. This, however, is often easier said than done.
Approaching a music manager should be thought of like approaching an investor with a start up company that you are looking to get funded. When trying to get someone to invest in a start-up, it is always easier to get people to contribute when a business has momentum and is well beyond the blueprint phases — meaning, it is either on its way towards being profitable or already profitable. It is essential that you have this in your consciousness when you approach someone to invest his or her time in your project. It is also essential that you have in mind exactly what your business selling points are above and beyond what your music sounds like; it’s very rarely enough that your music sounds great.
A great deal of being successful in your approach has to do with understanding the perspective of people on the industry side of the fence. It is about appreciating how overwhelming it can be to sit behind a desk where dreams go to die and how inundated successful music managers are with people who want something from them. Keeping this in mind, here are some best practices in making an approach.
1) Don’t go in cold.
If at all possible find someone who knows a music manager with a decent roster or another type of music executive who would be willing to make an introduction for you. Not at all a revolutionary idea but surprisingly one that is often overlooked. Begin to ask friends and acquaintances directly if they know people who work with music. It really doesn’t matter if it is your friend’s cousin’s roommate – something about being vouched for – even if it is 2-3 degrees of separation can really help create initial contact.
2) Present well.
This is a snippet of a real email I got recently from someone looking for help:
“i luv 2 sing , it is my world &ill never giv up. im already doin dis thing myself&i hav a guy dats a friend dat sing 2. im thinkn abt goin 2 college n persue my career @ da same time.wat shood i do 2 b well-kNown??”
Needless to say, if your point of first contact is through email, use spell check. You aren’t texting a friend of yours drunk at some bar; you are trying to make valuable connections that will serve you in your music career for a long time to come. Whether first contact is spoken or written, however, take baby steps. Your goal is to meet someone first, not to sign a management contract in perpetuity within the first 30 seconds. When you are a manager or an executive with successful clients, there are just too many aspiring musicians to respond to all of them. These managers and executives have to pick and choose who they pay attention to. My experience is that most people respond — even to cold calls or emails — if you present yourself well.
3) Be specific and mention business accomplishments:
Write thoughtful and individually-tailored emails to potential targets. (Generic form letters often fall flat and also tend to reek of desperation.) Why are you targeting this executive specifically? What did they do with their career or their client’s careers or who suggested you reach out? Give them business reasons to reach out to you. It’s not about “I’m the best singer in the world;” it’s about “I’ve got a mailing list of 1500 people, or “my shows are selling out,” or “I just did demos with a guy who worked with other artists you have heard of…”
4) Take it slow and provide value
You could say, “I want you to manage me,” but every manager has different ways of working. The person you are approaching could be the completely wrong fit in spite of their successes with other clients. Saying this to a stranger is about as reasonable as proposing on a blind date prior to shaking someone’s hand.
You may be better served by saying, “I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and get your advice” or “I love what you did with the marketing plan on your client X and was curious if I could ask you a few questions…” or if you are really crafty come up with another compelling business reason that this executive could benefit from knowing you. Perhaps, “I would gladly do demos at my studio for some of your artists in exchange for some advice,” or “I am connected to a bunch of artists and producers that you should probably know about, or “I can help you promote shows locally.” These are all business reasons that I have watched artists use to further their relationships with executives. It may not be necessary to do so- but it is a good option and can help build relationships.
Where does that leave you? Well, hopefully it leaves you …
- Asking your network for leads on introductions to qualified music executives.
- Thinking out your business pitch prior to sending email or picking up the phone.
- Determining what you do or who you know that could be good conversation currency for relationship building.
- Using Spell Check and keeping in mind that you are asking very busy people for their most precious commodity – their time.
I’ll be back soon for the next installment of the music manager series, where I will go over the investor / manager and momager and dadager phenomenon. If you missed it, check out my interview with Music / Tour Manager Dave Lory from the New Music Seminar