By Kenny Kerner
As a personal manager, the first thing local artists want to know is, at what point in their careers do they actually need to enlist a personal manager and, perhaps more importantly, where can they find one?
Part One is a lot easier to answer than Part Two. As an artist, you have many creative responsibilities like writing songs, rehearsing your vocals, scheduling band rehearsals, booking gigs, promoting your live performances, recording demos, and so on.
But, as an artist, there is also a fair amount of business you must take care of: interfacing with the A&R community, perhaps selecting a music attorney, putting together and soliciting your demo packages, making follow-up calls, etc.
My formula is a simple one: When the business side of things begins to take up as much time (or more time) as the creative side of things, you need help! [For additional management and career information, you might want to check out my book, Going Pro published by Hal Leonard.]
The second question is a bit more complex. Personal managers are by paid with commissions that they get from the gross earnings of the artists that they manage. Therefore, a brand new artist that has no earnings at all will not be contributing to the manager's income. What all this means is that if a reputable manager takes on a new artist, the manager will be working for nothing for several years until such time as he can secure a recording contract or some other advances for that artist. In a small number of cases, a manager will work with a "baby" band based exclusively on belief.
When I signed my current artist, singer/performer Heiarii, I was overwhelmed by his vocals and passion and knew it would be worthwhile. It's already paying off big time!
The problem is that nobody likes to work for nothing, including managers. Especially managers. So what's a new act to do? Clearly, they can't let the business side of things overwhelm their creativity. And also, they certainly can't neglect their business responsibilities which could be detrimental to their careers.
The answer is not one you're gonna like: It's called self-management. Simply put, it means that a band manages itself by delegating certain responsibilities and duties to each band member. Instead of the band "leader" trying to carry the world on his tired shoulders, he doles out the jobs to the other mates who pitch in. Here's how it works: One person handles the bookings of shows and the follow-up calls to the clubs. One handles the printing of flyers, the phone calls and e-mails to the fans. A third member is in charge of mailing out the press/demo packages, writing the cover letters and making the calls to the labels or attorneys. Then, once a week, at a regular band meeting (you guys DO meet to discuss business, don't you?) each band member reports on what he's done during that week and new chores/responsibilities for the following week are discussed.
This method seems to work well for a year or two until the band becomes a little more successful and has to start dealing with offers and contracts. But once the managers smell the possibility of either success or money, their doors swing wide open for you.
In some cases, a friend or relative of the band might also be perfect to act as the band's representative and make some telephone calls on behalf of the artist. Sometimes, a more businesslike, adult voice is just what the doctor ordered in terms of getting things done.
Always keep in mind that the more successful you become, the more power you have to both call your own shots and to attract professional industry people. In the case of a new band, having great songs, an exciting live show, a couple of strong reviews and a large fan following will do the trick. Easier said than done, I'm afraid. These goals all require very hard work, a total focus on your career and a strong plan of attack. Not to mention about two-three years of your life.
But don't be discouraged. There are many local bands that went on to international stardom by starting their careers with a gig at 1 a.m. on Sunday night in front of two people. As they became tighter and more intense, their audience grew. And once there was a "buzz" on the band, industry types began attending their shows—unannounced. Power and success are the best overall ways to attract professionals.
In the meantime, take control of your own careers and get the job done to the best of your abilities. All of the initial work you need done at the early stages of your careers can be done by band members themselves. And be sure you add an extra hour to each rehearsal strictly for taking care of business matters.
Remember, this is the music BUSINESS.