Archive for October, 2007

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What managers look for in artists – plus comments from the last email

October 21, 2007

Date: October 21, 2007 10:48:49 PM EDT
Subject: What managers look for in artists – plus comments from the last email

Do you ever wonder why it’s hard to find a great manager?

Well, I receive a lot of phone calls (and emails) from artists and bands looking for management.

When I was starting out, I signed bands whose music I just loved.  And while that same principle holds true, over the past decade of managing, I’ve definitely added to the list of what I look for in an artist.  For me, it’s not just “do I love this music?” but also “Do I think this artist/band can go all the way?” and many other things I look for besides just great songs.

So, the topic of this email is:

What managers look for in artists:  (Where “managers” in this case, would be me!)

1.  Talent/creativity
2.  An artist that wants to be very successful
3.  Work ethic
4.  Charisma/star quality
5.  Great performer
6.  Passion/drive
7.  Persistence & patience
8.  An artist that won’t take “no” for an answer
9.  A marketable image
10.  An artist that is knowledgeable about the music business
11.  An artist that is good at marketing/promoting themself
12.  An artist that listens to me
13.  An artist that isn’t naive/too trusting
14.  An artist willing to do whatever it takes
15.  An artist with good morals/values
16.  An artist that wants me to succeed just as much as they want to succeed
17.  A unique voice/sound
18.  An artist that treats their family and friends with honesty and respect
19.  An artist with a positive attitude
20.  An artist that can take criticism
21.  An artist who is open minded
22.  An artist who is naturally lucky/has good timing

Now let’s go through the list, one by one.

1.  Talent/Creativity.  The most important thing I look for when signing an artist is their talent.  Are they a great songwriter?  (note:  I wrote ‘great’ and not ‘good’).  Are they a great singer?  Guitarist?  Piano player?   But above and beyond that, do they also write songs that are commercial?  Because at the end of the day, no matter what genre you’re in, your music needs to connect with people.  You need to be able to get people to your shows.  To make a living as a musician, as an artist, you need people to buy your music.  Also, I look to see if the artist writes songs that may sound like other artists out there, but that aren’t carbon copies.  (i.e. do their songs clearly rip off XYZ artist/band?)  Do their songs have a commercial sensibility with a unique slant?  i.e. you can’t sound EXACTLY like Gwen Stefani or Fall Out Boy, but few artists reinvent the wheel (like Nirvana).  I want an artist that writes melodic, catchy songs.  Songs that you can sing along to!  That are memorable. That people respond to.  Ultimately, your audience is the true test of your talent.  If people are responding by buying your music and coming to your shows, chances are, there’s talent there!

2.  An artist that wants to be very successful.  Everyone from Madonna to the Beatles to Kanye West to U2 have wanted to become big stars and become incredibly, massively successful.  I found this quote on the Internet:  “Somebody said to me, ‘But the Beatles were anti-materialistic.’ That’s a huge myth. John and I literally used to sit down and say, ‘Now, let’s write a swimming pool.’?” — Paul McCartney.  Of course, he goes on to say he also thought they were creating art.  But my point is, if one of the most successful and well respected bands in the world wanted to write hits, and was obvious about it, well, there’s a lesson there, don’t you think?

3.  Work ethic.  Talent means nothing unless you have the work ethic to back it up.  To me, this usually means that I look for an artist that tours like crazy.  I don’t care if you play 10 shows a month in your home town or perform in a different city each night.  Successful artists want to be out there performing and working like crazy.  Writing songs every day.  There is no “magic” to success.  It truly is just a ridiculous amount of hard work!  And if you believe you don’t need to work hard to get there, well, good luck!  Artists that aren’t willing to work to the point of exhaustion just don’t get far.  Because for every lazy artist, there are 10 that are working their butts off!

4.  Charisma/star quality.  I need to feel like the artist has that “special something”. That they turn heads when they walk in a room.  Most artists either have this or they don’t.  Confidence goes along with this and is very important to me, as long as the artist isn’t too cocky.  However, cocky artists succeed far more often than shy, insecure artists.  People generally respond to and are attracted to confident people.  Ever met an insecure salesman?  Chances are they weren’t very successful.  The confident ones are.

5.  Great performer.  Not only must the artist be able to sing well live (meaning on key, with a strong, powerful voice), they also must engage the audience and have a lot of energy up on stage.  Be funny, interesting and/or charming.  Whatever your angle, I look for an artist that will keep fans coming back for more.  So whether you were doing another show tomorrow night, or in a month, your fans should be dying to come back and see you again, again and again (and posting “when is your next show?” on your myspace page).

6.  Passion/drive.  Passion when they sing.  Passion when you meet them.  I need to feel like the artist want badly to “make it”.  Without passion and drive, well, not much will happen.

7.  Persistence & patience.   You must be incredibly persistent to ‘make it’ in the music business.  So many artists don’t try hard enough.  Or they do try for a bit.  Maybe even 4-7 years. But then they give up.  Just when they were getting close.  To be successful, I look for an artist with an “I’ll never give up” attitude.  At the same time, you have to be patient as success in the music business takes a long time.  Many times 6-7, 10+ years.  So I look for an artist that is not only persistent but also patient as there will be ups and downs and frustrations along the way.  This is not to say that you can’t ever be frustrating that it’s “taking too long” but it’s how you channel that frustration that is important.  Do you sit around and sulk or just work 10 times harder when things get tough?

8.  An artist that won’t take “no” for an answer.  Pretty much self-explanatory but if someone says no, ask someone else.  Or keep asking until that person turns their “no” into a “yes”.  Every successful businessperson has this attitude – they just won’t accept ‘no’.

9.  A marketable image.  Again, pretty much self-explanatory but for example, it’s far easier to market a goth band as there is a built in fan base there, compared to marketing a generic rock band.  Then again, Nickelback is pretty generic rock and is one of the biggest selling bands out there today.  Whatever it may be, whether you’re rock, country, teen pop or a singer/songwriter, you need to have an image that is marketable and that your fans can relate to.  So whether you’re a heavy metal band that boys and men like to rock out to, or a girlie girl who is sweet, cute and pretty and will inspire other sweet, pretty girls to idolize her, you must have a good, marketable image.  Look at the Grateful Dead – they tapped into all the stoners in the world and toured forever!

10.  An artist that is knowledgeable about the music business.  There is a lot to be learned about the music business.  I look for an artist that reads every book, every magazine, everything they can get their hands on about the music business – from music industry books to marketing books to books on publicity.  Biographies.  Business books. The more you read, the more it will help you in life and your music career.  If you’ve ever worked at a label or in the music business (or been signed), all the better!  I also look for artists that take classes – whether they are voice lessons or ProTools lessons or music business classes.  Artists that attend music seminars and conventions are far smarter than artists that do not.  I look for an artist that is constantly looking to learn everything they can about the business.  An artist that wants to improve themself from not only a business perspective but also as an artist.  I like artists that ask questions as it shows they want to learn everything they can.

11.  An artist that is good at marketing/promoting themself.  Any successful artist is great at marketing and promoting themself.  Wonder why Madonna is so huge?  She is an expert marketer.  I look for an artist that will aggressively market and promote themself.  A smart artist will know how to win people over and will market and promote themself well, while not “overdoing it” or “annoying people” along the way.

12.  An artist that listens to me.  I have to manage an artist that will listen to me.  Take my advice and constructive criticism to heart.  That’s not to say we’ll agree 100% of the time, but ideally we’ll be on the same page 99% of the time!  Because, 99% of the time, I’m right!

13.  An artist that isn’t naive/too trusting.  There are so many sharks in the music business.  In fact, I was once complaining to a friend over someone that was shady and he said, “Are they in the music/entertainment business?” and I replied, “Why yes,” and he said, “yeah, pretty much everyone in that business is shady. Watch out.”  And while there are gems out there, sadly, it’s probably a very small percent (5-20%) of people in the entertainment business that are entirely trustworthy, and will have your best interests at heart.  I need to work with an artist who is smart enough to walk away from anyone that pressures them into a deal, lies, cheats, and steals, or just generally overpromises.  So often I hear of an artist that signed with a manager or company and said, “I don’t know about him, but I signed anyway.”  Wow, what a bad idea!  Follow your intuition.  If it feels shady or strange, it probably is!  Do your research!!!  It may be as simple as asking everyone you know and doing some research on Google – and you’d be amazed how well known shady people are!  People’s reputations usually precede them.  Paula Deen recently appeared on TV and talked about how you should be very, very careful about anyone that approaches you in business.  She said, “They will suck you dry and steal all that you’ve worked for”.  A lot of people come out of the woodwork when you start making money in any way.  Smart artists realize this and look out for these sharks instead of getting into business with them.  And sadly, many of these people may work in “the business” for studios, labels or big, powerful, successful companies.  Don’t be impressed by someone’s resume.  Go with your gut instinct ALWAYS!

14.  An artist willing to do whatever it takes.  Again, not at the expense of their friends, family or people they do business with (like me), but an artist that is willing to do whatever it takes, whether it be playing shows with less than stellar turnouts or writing a thousand songs.  The artist must be open minded, willing to try new things, and willing to fail.  Because only by doing these things can one become truly successful.

15.  An artist with good morals/values.  Again, we all want to get ahead, but I refuse to compromise and screw over someone for the sake of making a bit more money for myself.  Sure, it’s easy to make money the sleazy way, but if it takes me (and my artist/band) a bit longer to get to the top by being honest, then so be it.  I want an artist on the same page as me.  I don’t believe you have to screw anyone over to ‘make it’.  And anyone that tells you that you need to cheat someone to get ahead is someone you should run, run, run away from!  “Sometimes you need to cheat to get ahead?”  Nope, I don’t think so!  Only cheaters and sharks say that!  Personally, I’m not impressed if someone in the business has a lot of money or appears very successful.  Many people throw values and morals out the window just to get money.  So don’t trust someone just because they have (or appear to have) a lot of money.  How did they get it?  The ethical way?  Or the shady way?

16.  An artist that wants me to succeed just as much as they want to succeed.  At the end of the day, the more successful I am as a manager, the more successful my artists will be.  I want an artist who wants to see me get paid just as much as they want to get paid for their hard work.  I want an artist who will gladly pay me my commission/fee rather than be dishonest so they keep a bit more the money for themself.  I want my artist to be happy when I’m written up in magazines and promoted as the more press I get as a manager, the better it is for them!

17.  A unique voice/sound.  Turn on your radio.  I’m serious.  Do it right now.  I bet you can name the singer or band within a few notes, right?  Most every successful artist has a very distinctive voice when you hear them on the radio.  So should you.

18.  An artist that treats their family and friends with honesty and respect.  I often look at an artist’s relationship with their family, friends and significant other as an indicator as to what type of person they are.  i.e. if they truly love, respect and are faithful to their significant other, chances are they will be like that with other people in their life, including (hopefullly) their business partners such as myself.  But if they disrespect those around them, that’s a warning sign for me to stay away.  If I like the artist as a person, chances are, this is someone I’d want to manage.

19.  An artist with a positive attitude.  You have to stay positive if you want to succeed.  I meet a lot of jaded and bitter artists.  It’s sad as I see these artists wasting all their time making excuses and complaining, instead of just getting out there and working hard!

20.  An artist that can take criticism.  It takes a special type of artist that can take (and even seek out) constructive criticism.  But criticism will just make you better – a better songwriter, a better performer.  If an artist is too insecure or doesn’t want to hear criticism, they are often doomed from the start.  Every person has room for improvement.  How good a writer would you be if your English teacher had never corrected and marked up paper you wrote?  You have to take and seek out criticism to grow and become a better artist.

21.  An artist who is open minded.  About new opportunities.  In general, successful people are open minded.  You have to be willing to try something new.  Thinking “out of the box” may be what breaks your career wide open.

22.  An artist who is naturally lucky/has good timing.  At the end of the day, no matter how hard you work (creating your own luck), random luck like just being in the right place at the right time really helps.  If you’re a lucky person in general, chances are that you will also be lucky in your music career.

As a footnote, I might add that all the above are almost all requirements.  I’d add to my “wish list” an artist that is young, attractive, and already making money from their music career.  In my experience, the younger the artist is, the easier they tend to be to work with (and the more they listen to me).  Looks aren’t everything but it sure helps, for example, if the artist is good looking as it helps to sell CDs when you put a cute picture of a girl or guy on there (come on, admit that you’ve noticed CDs by artists you think are attractive).  Solo artists are easier to work with than bands as there are less people there to manage, but I choose artists based on the music, not “are they solo vs. a 5 piece band”?

Ironically, these days, I would either take a young, attractive artist or someone that is older, more mature and more saavy about the business.  An artist like this will approach their music career seriously – as a real business.  And are more saavy in general.

When you manage someone, you’re really starting a business with that artist.  So whether we’re running this music career or opening a taco shop, the entrepreneurial spirit and skill set needs to be there.  Because you’ve picked the most competitive business of all to start up – your music career!

And lastly, it’s fifty times more work to take an artist who has made almost no money to one that is making a lot of money than to manage someone who already has the ball rolling and is pulling in income.

Well, that’s about all I can think of for now.  But I’m sure I’ll have a few more criteria to add by the time you read this!

And if you think that’s a long list, well, now you might begin to understand why so few artists make it to the top – and stay there!

I hope this email gives you some ideas and challenges you to grow!

Also, please read on below to find comments from artists about management and my last email, and a good question!

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA  90210

http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

“Motivation and determination are 1000 times more potent than talent alone”
-Some guy online
“Be nice to everyone.  You never know if the intern will be the next president of your record company.”
-Michael Buble
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“People have to learn they have to juggle everything until they get lucky. They need to work a steady job, make a living and make time for the band. They need to take all the money they make from the band and throw it back into the band”
–David Draiman, Vocalist for Disturbed, interviewed in Music Connection

******

It’s amazing how many artists have no understanding of the business.  I
want to thank you again for your constant advice that shows you care and
are a no nonsense person/manager.  That’s professional and that’s
important and that’s why you are in the position you are.  Take care.
-Tey

{Editor’s Note:  Thanks Tey.  I really appreciate your note and all the supportive, kind, sweet emails
others have sent me regarding this last email piece I wrote.}

*****
Question:

Hi Jennifer,

First let me say thanks for all the info ..I’ve really benefited from it.

However I do have a question.

When do you consider it a good time to solicit a manager?

Right now I sell a good number of CDs on cdbaby…and I do good on snocap & itunes as well…

I have performed out of state with some national acts…i.e. Marion Meadows, Bob Baldwin & Alex Bugnon in addition I’m on my way to the Pacific to do a USO tour for the military.

Is this enough to attract the attention of a manager?

Thanks,

Shelby

Answer:

Hmm, not sure that you read my last email.

Are managers approaching you?

Are you making any money with your music?

How many CDs have you sold?

You must have something really going on for a reputable manager to want to get involved.

When you say you’ve sold a “good amount” of CDs on CD Baby, what is that?  100?  1,000?  Or 10,000?

Based on the little information you’ve told me it doesn’t sound like you’re ready.

*****
And this response came from a manager friend of mine:

Once again – I have to chime in…

There is SO much information and “how to” books available both in bookstores and on internet sites that explain this very thing (and they are all pretty much in agreement with each other) that it just flabbergasts me when people still do this.

Once again – if you get your project to a certain level on your own, you won’t HAVE to call managers or record labels:  they will be calling you.  The fact that someone even contacts me these days (unless it’s a straight referral – and the person referring someone to me usually calls me to set the contact up so I am prepared for the call) tells me right off the bat they are fairly clueless to how the industry works in general – especially these days.

Sounds to me like you got the typical – hey, do everything for me and make me famous fantasy type “artist” calling you, instead of the DIY result-oriented artist with a story to tell – as in, we are selling out shows like crazy, our merch is doing great, and we are on the radio and in several record stores, etc. You know – like the competition?!?

{Editor’s Note:  Good point.  However, I have managed 2 artists that sent me unsolicited CDs through the mail.  So yeah, it doesn’t usually work that way but in their cases, it did.  So never say never!  And the one band I approached to manage was the laziest one of them all as they weren’t out there hustling; they were sitting around waiting for something “big” to happen.

I like artists that call or contact me because it shows they aren’t sitting at home, waiting to be discovered.  They are picking up the phone, calling me.  Or sending out blind CD submissions.  And true, these things usually don’t work, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know, right?  For 99% of artists, cold calling a management company will not get them signed.  But for a few of you out there, it just might.

On the flip side, playing devil’s advocate, I know artists who are doing the DIY thing and are getting approached by shady managers that have no experience yet promise them the moon and stars.  So while I agree with what the person said above, i.e. “if you build it, they will come” where “they” is a manager, record label, etc., I also believe in hustling and getting out there and doing everything you can to make your career happen.}

http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

“Motivation and determination are 1000 times more potent than talent alone”
-Some guy online
“Be nice to everyone.  You never know if the intern will be the next president of your record company.”
-Michael Buble
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“People have to learn they have to juggle everything until they get lucky. They need to work a steady job, make a living and make time for the band. They need to take all the money they make from the band and throw it back into the band”
–David Draiman, Vocalist for Disturbed, interviewed in Music Connection

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Advice for artists when contacting managers a.k.a. “Things to say (and not to say) when calling me (or any manager)

October 9, 2007

Date: October 9, 2007 8:31:57 PM EDT
Subject: Advice for artists when contacting managers a.k.a. “Things to say (and not to say) when calling me (or any manager)”

It’s so incredibly important to be professional in the music business.

A lot of artists cold call me looking for me to manage them.

Very few artists do a good job of it.

So I’d like to give a story, and then some tips on what to do (and not to do), what to say (and not to say) when calling around looking for a manager:

Here’s the story:

So the other day I get a call on my private phone number from an artist.

The conversation was so unbearable I just have to vent and share with you.

PLEASE don’t make these mistakes when calling management companies!

This person called me out of the blue on my private number, not my published number.  I have no idea how they even got my private number but of course, right off the bat, I was put off.

Anyhow, the artist did everything WRONG on the call.

First he said he got my info from someone who’s already on my mailing list.  I couldn’t make out the person’s name who referred him.  But saying “Bob Smith referred me” pretty much means nothing unless the person you mention is an artist I’ve managed or worked very closely with. There are literally THOUSANDS of artists and bands on my email list.  So having one of them pass along my name and information doesn’t mean anything to me, especially if you don’t mention Bob Smith from XYZ band and especially if I haven’t requested a call or music from you.

Anyhow, this guy proceeded to ask me, “Who do you manage and what’s your background?”  I was flabbergasted.

Big no no!

Don’t call up a manager (or anyone in the business) — and then expect them to sit there and give you their background.  (If I approach you or contact you, and you don’t know me and have that question, that’s different).

If you’re cold calling me, you are not a client I am trying to sign.  You are an unsolicited phone call!  An unsolicited phone call is like being a piece of junk mail or spam email.  Google my company name and/or my name if you want to know what I’ve done.  Or look at my web site to see what type of artists I represent.  Don’t EVER call a manager and ask the manager to give you their bio over the phone.  It is rude, off-putting and will not make the manager want to talk to you ever again.

Let’s see, then the guy proceeded to ask if he could send over mp3s or a myspace link to check out.

I told him, “I only accept CD submissions”.  So instead of offering to send a CD (or confirming my address), he starting arguing with me!

“Why do I only accept CD submissions?  Because that’s my policy.  That’s why.”  And if I listened to every mp3 or myspace link artists sent me, I’d have no time in the day to do my actual work!

Don’t argue with someone YOU ARE COLD CALLING!  If they are even remotely interested in hearing your music, send them a CD or press kit (ask which they prefer).  Don’t argue over why you don’t want to send a CD in!  Otherwise, why bother making calls in the first place?  If you don’t have the interest in or money to invest in sending out your CD, there is no point to calling around to management companies!

Anyhow, I realize artists don’t have anywhere to turn to for advice on what to do and not to do in business but this chap was so completely unprofessional that I had to share the story with you to make sure you don’t do the same thing when calling anyone in the business – or that your friend in a band doesn’t do it also.

Let’s see, now that I’ve vented my frustration with the utter lack of respect and professionalism that this person showed me, let me give you some tips for artists/bands for contacting management companies:

1.  First of all, make any phone calls brief and get right to the point.  No, we don’t want to hear you sing a song over the phone or hear a song played over the phone.  Simply state your name (or name of your band), maybe where you’re from, and say what you’re looking for.  i.e. “Hi, my name is Jane Smith, I’m from DC, and I’m looking for a manager/show at your club/permission to submit music to you, etc.”

2.  If you’re looking for a manager, you really need to have something to manage.  i.e.  YOU NEED TO BE MAKING MONEY!  Managers work on commission so unless you want to pay me a monthly retainer to represent you, I cannot represent you unless you’re making money from your music – whether it be from licensing your songs, ticket sales or CD and merch. sales at gigs.  Asking for someone to manage you otherwise is akin to a beggar standing on the street and asking for spare change.  I don’t do handouts.  Sure, there are managers that are starting out in their career and will manage you “for free” but I’m not one of them.

3.  Be professional, polite and upbeat when you make calls.  If you’re not excited about your career on the phone, why should I (or anyone else) be?

4.  If leaving a voice mail, leave your name, a BRIEF message and your number (twice – clearly and slowly) so the person doesn’t need to replay the message 10 times just to write down your number correctly.  YOU may know your phone number, but on a voice mail, rattling off “Call me at 510-555-5365” really fast will not work, nor get you a return call.

5.  If you speak to someone’s assistant, again, be friendly, leave your message with them, and if you develop a rapport in the 30 seconds to minute you’re on the phone with them, you can then ask if you can follow up or their policy is “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

6.  In general, follow up is a good idea.  But if you follow up a couple times through the phone or email and don’t receive a response, it’s probably safe to assume the material was received and the person isn’t interested in working with you.  Believe me, if a manager or A&R rep hears something they like, they’ll get in touch with you!  Showing good follow-up is important but being a nag isn’t going to help you!  i.e. Don’t call 3 times in a week or send them an email every other day when you just sent the package last week.  That just shows desperation!

7.  Be sure to mention (quickly) what type of music you make.  If I get a call that says, “Hi, I’m Jason, I want a manager, call me back” I’m just not going to bother.  But, on the other hand, if you tell me quickly that you’re Jason, a singer/songwriter from Seattle, and you have researched my company and see that I rep a lot of artists in your genre and want to get your songs licensed for film and TV and you know I’m an expert at that, you’re MUCH more likely to get a return call.

8.  RESEARCH THE COMPANY YOU’RE CALLING BEFORE YOU CALL THEM.  These days, you can learn most everything you need to know from spending 5-15 minutes on Google.  And that time spent researching will not only save you from embarrassing yourself on the phone, but it may make the difference between impressing the person on the other end of the line and getting signed versus not even getting a return call!

9.  Again, in your 30 second to 1 minute phone pitch, if there is anything unique about you, point that out.  If you’ve sold out a local club in your home town of a few hundred people, be sure to mention that.  Or if you’ve gotten airplay on a major radio station in your home town.  Or that you’ve played X number of dates this year and sold X number of CDs at shows.  Again, don’t ramble, but if you have a major accomplishment that should make someone want to manage you, tell them!  Just be quick about it!

10.  Don’t blindly mail out CDs.  Most of them will either get returned to you or will go in the trash.  It’s ALWAYS best to speak with a manager first and get their permission to submit a CD to them.  Most reputable managers will not take unsolicited material at all.  Or maybe they will but their assistant or intern will listen.  But maybe it will just end up in the trash.  Don’t waste time and money by sending out CDs blindly!

Anyhow, I hope you can learn from all the mistakes I’ve seen (and heard) other artists make over the years as they’ve called or emailed me.

And if you’re doing everything right, good for you!  Pat yourself on the back and get back to work!

Pass this email along to any artists you know who may benefit – thanks!!

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA  90210

http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

“Motivation and determination are 1000 times more potent than talent alone”
-Some guy online
“Be nice to everyone.  You never know if the intern will be the next president of your record company.”
-Michael Buble
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“People have to learn they have to juggle everything until they get lucky. They need to work a steady job, make a living and make time for the band. They need to take all the money they make from the band and throw it back into the band”
–David Draiman, Vocalist for Disturbed, interviewed in Music Connection