Part 3 of 3
At least once every few months, I come across someone that asks me to manage them, and I always tell them the same thing, “I don’t even want to manage myself. Besides, I am the last person you want to be managing you.”
They always retort, “Why not?”
“I’m an artist. What’s worse is that I’m an artist who runs my own career. I would never give you a fair shake. Let’s say an opportunity to play with The Roots came across my table, do you think that I would offer it to you over me? Your manager should represent your best interests at all times, no matter what. Besides, what constitutes you having a manager right now anyway?”
“I need somebody who could help me get my foot through the door, and represent my interests.”
“You have albums out?”
“No. That’s why I need a manager.”
No matter the person, the conversation’s the same. More and more artists have latched on to this idea that they have to have a manager in order to get ahead. So oftentimes they sign with the first or second cat that approaches them with a resume or a mouth piece without really knowing anything about managers and what they should be doing. Also, they sign these contracts full of legal jargon and one sided clauses that, in the end, enslave them to the people who should be working for them.
Taking this into account, the first thing an artist should do before signing any contract, especially a management (publishing or label deal also) one, is go see a lawyer that is completely independent of the person whom you are making the agreement with. In other words, don’t let the lawyer of the person that you are doing the deal with explain the contract to you. You’re not their client. Most lawyers I know want a $1500 retainer before reviewing the contract and negotiating terms with the opposite party. Pay it, it’s worth it.
The average manager compensation is 10-20% of the artist’s gross income. The spectrum is usually based on the work the manager believes they have to do. Newer artists are typically on the high end, more established ones are on the low end. Also, most managers want to be reimbursed for their expenses. For instance, if your manager pays for your studio time, at some point, they would like to recoup that cost without it being apart of their fee earned. Regardless of the agreement, every penny that is to be paid should be 100% explained in detailed in the written agreement, and all reimbursements to your manager should be done only at your approval and with a receipt that proves the expenditure.
Choosing a manager is about more than the numbers though. It’s about trust. It’s about knowing that what that person brings to the table benefits you. It’s about having an active hand in your success.
My disclaimer: What I am about to say is in no way a judgment on the profession of entertainment management. Also, the opinions of Quanstar do not represent the opinions of First Team Music (well, yes they do) or WordPress.
Before I go on, let me say that I’ve never had a manager and have never come close to hiring one; however, the reasons for me not having one are based solely on not being able to find the right person for the job. So, Evaready and I created First Team Music to take ownership of our own careers.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t stopped looking for a qualified individual. As a matter of fact, over the years I have and will continue to meet with dozens of them, hoping to find someone who could ease our load and handle the job of representing artists who already have a plan in place. Of course we haven’t found one, and I have promised myself that I won’t settle for someone who can’t do a better job of building the Quanstar and First Team Music Brand than I can.
Before seeking or signing with a manager, I recommend everyone read and own This Business of Artist Management by X.M. Frascogna and H. Lee Hetherington and All You Need To Know About The Music Businessby Donald S. Passman. These two books, along with Kashif’sEverything You’d Better Know About The Record Industry (even though some of it is fairly outdated) will allow you the opportunity to make an educated choice on representation. They have proved irreplaceable for me.
Also, as to not leave you hanging, here’s some practical advice from Mr. Blue Collar (me) himself. Before signing you should:
I am an enormous cheap skate. I would rather tour in a PT Cruiser with no cruise control than a roomy minivan because it saves gas. I would much rather burn CD’s and print labels out of my house rather than send it out to be done. I would even rather sleep on someone’s floor over paying for a hotel; however, the biggest misstep that I’ve made in my cheapdom is not understanding the value of a great publicist.
A publicist is as general of a profession as being a teacher. Some are Kindergarten educators while others are fifth grade. Some teach high school history while others teach eighth grade biology. Their specialties vary based on their specific accomplishments; however, they all have the same basic training and work under the same purpose…teach. The same goes for the publicist. Some specialize in event planning while others focus on sponsorships. Some work with nonprofits, and some work with music. Their one purpose, though, is to get their clients as much exposure as possible.
Now don’t get me wrong, that exposure comes with a price. Most publicists that I know that deal in the independent markets charge between $1500-$2000 a month and want a 3 month contract. So really you’re talking $4500-$6000. Most times, the money’s due up front. For the average hip hop artist that’s scraping together everything that they have in order to survive and slowly prod ahead, this is almost an insult. I know, I’m one of of them. This is more than my entire recording budget. There was no way I could afford to pay that much for a publicist…I should have found a way though.
Here’s the reasoning:
The average independent is a one man show. We record, executive produce, book, manage, fund, and find a way to be an artist in between all of that. We either do a little bit of everything and really get nothing accomplished, or we excel in one or two areas and let everything else go to the wayside until we can figure out how to properly deal with it. The things that we concentrate most on is our musical content, booking and things related directly to them. The thing that usually suffers the most is presence (I’m using it as a synonym to exposure). With presence, comes value, with value comes money. In other words, the more you’re talked about, the more you make.
Convinced? Great! Slow your role for a minute though (that rhymes). As I said a few paragraphs ago (still rhyming), publicity is a general profession, so it is imperative that you know exactly what you need from a publicist. Do you need press to support touring? A project? Are you looking for sponsorships? These are things that you should know before sitting at the table with someone to discuss being represented. This is your money…your hard earned money that takes food out of your mouth and away from your dream if it doesn’t work out. So make sure it does.
Here are some things that you need to be wary of:
Every artists’ career is made or broke by marketing and infrastructure. Marketing is your advertising and is the engine that drives the car in the race. The best marketing strategies are pretty simple and easy to execute. All have general tasks across the board, but vary on specific terms and tactics which are based on the artist and the demographic that is being targeted. I am currently working on a series of articles that deal with marketing to the “underground hip hop” (I hate that phrase) and college demographics. This will take a few months to complete, so by process of elimination, my next three articles are about infrastructure.
Your infrastructure is all about who’s handling your marketing and revenue streams; in other words, the pit crew that makes that engine run. The most important components of this is management, publicity, and booking. They determine how you’re going to get out there, who’s getting your music, where your music should be pushed, and when is the best time to put your music out there. For many independent hip hop artists all these questions are dealt with and answered by one person…you. This in itself is a pretty huge task, especially when adding the time and concentration it takes to write songs. Overwhelmed by these tasks, most artists, including myself, have shopped the market for help to alleviate some of the pressures of the “Do It Yourself” lifestyle; however, in the process of looking for a manager, booking agent, and/or publicist I can probably guarantee that most run across one of these people:
This perfect storm of give and take makes it nearly impossible to know who’s legit. I felt like I was making nothing more than a guess, and I wasn’t; however, I wanted that guess to be an educated one so I hit the books at my favorite “free read” spot, Border’s. The following articles are some of the things that I’ve learned about each.
Part 1 of 3
Booking a tour is very meticulous. First, you have to figure out where you want to go, then you have to contact all of the promoters and clubs in each area. Compensation has to be negotiated, contracts sent and received, and, in most cases, deposits made. Booking agents take this stressful task out of the hands of the artist. Good booking agents are aggressive, and fight hard to get their clients the money they deserve. They DO NOT increase your money. If you average $500/show before you have an agent, you’ll probably get the same with the agent minus their fee.
Here are some things that you should know before looking to to hire one though. First, a booking agent’s standard fee is about 10%-15%. If an agent asks you for a flat fee, like some might, they are probably not very legit. Why would you want to even do it anyway? If you have someone working strictly of a percentage of what you make, then it is only obvious that they would bust their ass to get you your dough because they get paid only from you getting paid. So be prepared to give that agent $50-$75 per show for that $500 that you’re making. It’s worth it.
Please note, though, that just because you’re looking for a good booking agent doesn’t mean that they are looking for you. For one, unless you’re signed to a major labor or a touring heavy hitter none of the bigger firms will fuck with you (though there may be a few exceptions); the smaller agencies typically always have a full roster because if they don’t they probably won’t eat.
The next thing, which is always hardest for entertainers to grasp, is that you may not be worth their time. Booking agents, as stated before, are compensated through a percentage of what you make. You being paid $300/show may not be worth their time, because that means that they would only get $30/show. For example, $300/show at 100 shows/year is $30,000. The booking agent would get $3000 of that. This is small beans in eyes of the booking machine; however, there are instances where agents may take you on as a client because of your upside. Who knows?
Also, another reason why a booking agent may not be interested in picking you up is because hip hop is a specialized art form that deals with specific crowds. Meaning that, unless you are an established artist, there may not be 100 shows/year worth any real money available to you.
Despite all of that, if you want a booking agent you should look into getting one; however, make sure your ducks are lined up because first impressions are everything in this business. Here are some quick points:
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.