This is a re-post of an article I originally wrote in June, 2010. Even almost three years later, it still represents the mindset of a lot of musicians looking to succeed in the music business.
“How do I find a music manager?” “How do I find a booking agent?” “I just need to find someone to get my music to the next level.” I’ve heard these questions and statements before. And fifteen or so years ago, I sounded exactly like this. As it turns out, I wound up on the industry side of the fence and traded in the crowded smelly van for a record company desk job, but I do have some answers for you. If you showed up here via Google search chances are you won’t like what I am going to tell you, but I implore you to keep reading.
Let’s start at the very beginning: Do you have anything to manage?
I know – sounds like a stupid question … but is it? I’m not asking you if you have lots of work that you could use help with, nor am I making light of the pure volume of work that is the creation of both recorded and live music. What I am asking you is, do you have something ready to bring to market that needs managing … or are you still building out your product?
There is no shame (I’ll repeat it again, NO SHAME) in being in the developmental phases of your career. We live in an instant-gratification kind of world, which is why when I write articles like this I know statistically that a majority of people won’t have made it this far because they were looking for a “get famous now” button. Take your time and develop your product; this will help you rise above the MILLIONS of other people who went out to guitar center purchased their first instrument and recording gear and had the first song they ever wrote up on MySpace the next day, hoping for some kind of miracle that won’t ever come.
Back to management: Let’s talk about what you should have together before even considering approaching someone to invest in your career. *** Notice I said, “invest,” because, whether or not they spend a dime on you, management is an enormous expenditure of someone’s time.***
Before approaching anyone to manage you, you need to have most of these items together:
- No apology recordings of your music
- Professional looking photos of you or your group
- A basic, findable website (custom URL) you can update yourself
- A Mailing list and a place where people can sign up on said list
- A social network presence (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube)
- Live performance footage (preferably in front of a crowd)
- A well-written bio highlighting your accomplishments
These are the building blocks and the marketing materials you will use over and over and over again. There are no words, no email sales pitch and probably not even naked photos of an executive in compromising positions that will get you taken more seriously than having the items above in place. Many of these items can get pricey, so do your homework and shop around if you feel that any of these items are best done by work for hire. Having these materials will get your more gigs, get you taken more seriously by your peers and potential fans and ultimately (if you have a product people want) will help you build a business in music.
“Okay – wait – isn’t this super basic? Does he think we are idiots?”
No, absolutely not. But I can tell you that statistically aspiring musicians are looking at the wrong things to get ahead. Check out what people search for online for music related terms according to a Google AdWords query in April 2013.
Term: “Get My Music Heard Online”
Global Monthly Searches: 58
Term: “Get more people to my shows”
Global Monthly Searches: 28
Term: “Make a Living In Music”
Global Monthly Searches: 800
Term: “Marketing My Music”
Global Monthly Searches: 140
Term: “Get a Music Manager”
Global Monthly Searches: 1,900
Term: “How to Get A Record Deal”
Global Monthly Searches: 9,900
Draw your own conclusions, but I think too many people are looking for a shortcut to fame that — barring an act of God or Justin Bieber — just doesn’t exist.
I will be back with the subsequent portion(s) of this increasingly poorly-named article early next week and I will actually get up to the part where you approach someone, and what you should discuss.
In the meantime, do a search under “manager” in the search bar at the top right of the blog to find lots of fun interviews with very experienced music managers.
…Or continue to part 2 now.