Indie artists make music for the love of the music, the ability to express themselves, and it doesn’t hurt to make some extra money on the side. For some, making music was not intended to be a full-time career, but could it be?
Major labels no longer control the music scene. Yes, they still have releases funded by a large marketing budget. Yes, they can afford to hire the best technical staff to make sure their productions are flawless, or as close to flawless as possible, but do they always have the pulse of the audience? Simply put, no.
The growth of home recording studios and social media marketing has changed the music industry. Anyone who wants to release music can. The music should be quality to be successful, but people have to hear about the product (your music) for them to buy it.
There are no recent, instant, overnight success stories that I am aware of, but I am glad to be wrong. Record labels want a proven track record before investing money in an artist. The days of developmental contracts seem as if they have faded by the wayside, and new artists often struggle to recoup their investment through their art. This does not have to be the case.
The Internet has made the world a smaller place. There are opportunities to be successful in the music industry, but you have to plan. No individual can do it alone, and it takes hard work to create a strong buzz about your music while remaining relevant and current. This is where the planning comes in.
BUILD A TEAM
The models created by major labels are an excellent starting point in the planning process. The majors did not originally have their artists doing the advertising and contacting venues to set up gigs. They have people who know people. Why shouldn’t an indie artist have the same? Artists should focus on their art while making sure they have others in place that can handle the business aspects. That may be difficult for some of you to accept, as you may want to make sure you get the best deal for your hard work, but a team who has a vested interest in your success will help push your career further than what you can on your own.
FIND A MANAGER
You can manage yourself as an indie artist, but this will take away time from your creative process. It will also add additional stress, and you may not have the same contacts a personal manager may have. Personal managers are one of the business minded members of your team that have a direct interest in your success. They receive a portion of your earnings, negotiated in advance. Managers want you to be successful, and a good manager will push you towards success because it directly relates to their success and financial earnings.
Personal managers help to develop an artist image and career plan. They help find labels, publishers, and establish/negotiate fees for different services provided by outside entities. They help find producers, songs, photographers, and stylists. They help ensure record releases are coordinated with tour dates. They make sure the album art gives off the desired image for your brand. A personal manager helps the artist put together the rest of the team to ensure the artist has the best opportunities to be successful, and they should, as the artist is footing the bill for these services.
Personal managers do not find work for artists. They should not and may be legally prohibited (varies by state) from booking shows. They are not producers, legal representation (though they can be attorneys), business managers (often accountants), publicists, road managers, or bankers. Personal managers should be able to help you find those team members, but the personal manager needs to focus on the artist by being an advisor, strategist, coordinator, and detail person. They make it so an artist can focus on being an artist.
Here are some things to keep in mind about managers. Their primary commitment must be to the artist. They may have a limited power of attorney to handle business on the artist’s behalf. They will not normally manage artists who compete directly with each other (possible conflict of interest), and they are normally located in New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. This allows them to keep pace with the pulse of the industry.
A good personal manager will be the scapegoat so the artist is the hero. One of their many jobs is ensuring your brand is firmly established, but how do you find a good personal manager? First, stay away from family and friends since this could hinder your previously established relationship if things do not work out. Second, ask for referrals. Get referrals from industry professionals and existing clients. Check out whom they have worked with. Third, beware of con artists. This refers to step two. Verify everything because you do not want to be exploited, losing everything you have worked for.
Personal managers should have industry experience and contacts in booking, recording, engineering, producing, publishing, and public relations. They should have knowledge of business and law with good communication skills. They should be honest, have industry knowledge, be capable, and have a good reputation. They should believe in the artist and understand the motives, priorities, and beliefs of the artist. They should enable the artist to create with a clear mind, and for all of that, an artist will normally contract out between 15-20% of their earnings to the manager. That may sound like a lot, but this allows you, the artist, to focus on being more productive in your art.
And most importantly, remember to always review contracts with an entertainment attorney to protect your interests.
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Leave me some comments. I enjoy your feedback, and I always look forward to helping fellow musicians. Follow us as we continue our series, “Lessons Learned From Major Record Labels.”