Archive for July, 2009


How to destroy your music career – in 10 easy steps

July 28, 2009

Usually I do my best to write articles that are positive and encouraging.

However, I have a feeling this article will get more reads titled “How to Destroy Your Music Career in 10 Easy Steps” than if I called it “10 Things To Avoid Doing”.

Anyhow, here is goes:


1) Believe what everyone tells you. This is true in life — and especially true of anyone who works in the music business – whether they are an agent, manager, publisher, record label President or executive, A&R, etc. As an example, an artist I worked with was once told by a music executive/publisher, “Sign with us, we’ll get you out on tour with major artists, we’ll get your song featured as the song of the week on iTunes, we’ll get you in all our movies and TV shows and soundtracks and on camera, we’ll get you a REAL manager and a record deal.” Well, almost none of those promises were ever kept (again, beware of anyone who promises you the world – they rarely deliver even 10% of what they promise). And of the ones that were, these were things that were being done ten times better with the artist’s previous rep. Although the artist did get signed to a record label that “broke Coldplay”, it was a b.s. deal and within 6-12 months the artist was off the label. No real manager ever appeared. No tour ever came about. The artist never got featured on iTunes. A few soundtrack and placement opportunities came up but ironically, when the artist had another rep, they had dozens more placements and didn’t have to sign away the rights to their music – they had full ownership and control. When they were with an “indie” rep, they were playing in front of crowds of 10,000. Now where is that artist? Working as a waiter. So yeah, if you want to destroy your career overnight, believe all the lies and promises people will tell you in the music business. Especially from people “high up” who drive fancy cars. Sad to say it but many of the people at the top got there by cheating artists like you out of their music, or stealing a manager’s years of hard work after that manager poured every penny they had into that act. Do you need to join with someone like this to become successful? Of course not. But they’ll try their best to convince you you need to be “shady” and “look out for your own interests” when the only interests they have in mind are their own.

2) Sign with any manager – just to have one. I have had so many artists tell me, “but it’s better to have A manager than NO manager.” Absolutely NOT TRUE. Every single artist I know that signed with a manager that I told them not to sign with gave up on their music career. A bad manager can take you from being UNKNOWN to being HATED. Yup. A bad manager can burn bridges that you may never be able to repair. Worse, they can rob you of time or money – or both. And take your reputation with them. I’ve worked with artists too that were unprofessional in general and when it came time for me to take over, many agents and clubs I’d call would say they wouldn’t deal with them because they heard “stories”….so….don’t sign with a bad manager and don’t be unprofessional yourself or you’ll be blacklisted all over town.

3) Be late. Be flakey. Or don’t show up at all. This applies to gigs as well as phone interviews for radio, newspapers, etc. Remember that story I told you a while back about a band I worked with? I called in a favor to a publicist friend and the artist “forgot” about the interview. Twice. Do you think that publicist friend wants to help out that band (or me) ever again? Of course not. It made me look bad too. So don’t be late to anything. Be EARLY. Don’t be flakey. Believe me, your reputation precedes you and suddenly you may find no one wants to book you or interview you or help you at all.

4) Don’t work on rewriting your songs. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Notice how most hit songs are written by 2 or more people? Sure, it helps to have someone else write with you but overall, great songs do not come easily. They require a lot of work. Writing. Rewriting. Being meticulous about your songwriting CRAFT and not just recording something as it came to paper. I read an interview with my favorite band Keane recently and the songwriter said he sits at his piano for 8 hours a day, working, every day for 8+ hours….and maybe after 3-4 days he’ll have one good song. So take that advice from a band that has sold over 8 million CDs. Same with Nickelback. Like them or not, they have had hit after hit after hit. Chad writes, rewrites and then writes again. Think you’re better than these guys? Hmm, well, how many CDs have you sold? Maybe it’s good to pay attention to the pros.

5) Complain constantly. About anything. Especially about not having enough time or energy to work on your music. Successful people work so hard, you’d be amazed! The President of a major label I know said he works from 8am until midnight EVERY DAY! So you think he’s gonna sign a band that complains they can’t do their day job AND work on their music career? Hey, if you’re 1/2 his age and don’t have the energy to keep up these hours, well, that’s fine, but don’t expect anyone is going to sign you with that attitude.

6) Refusing to tour / not touring enough. Let me tell you a little story. It’s all true. Two artists / bands started the same year in the late 1990’s. One decided to focus on touring. The other decided to become “studio” musicians and spend all their time in the studio writing, recording and making records (because that was “easier”). The “studio” band made an incredible album with a multi-platinum producer. They came close to getting signed to a record deal (twice!) but ultimately, nothing ever happened. The band never toured outside of their home city (except for a few gigs), had no fan base, and ultimately broke up. The artist that focused on touring was signed to 2 major labels, was dropped both times, was then signed to another indie label, recently had a video on VH1, had a charting album/single and song on the radio and has made his living on the road making music full-time for YEARS. Need I say more? Without touring, how are you going to make any money? People respond to live shows and will support you by buying a CD at your concert. After all, how many CDs have you sold off your myspace page? I’m guessing very few….

7) Don’t pay attention to details. I once worked with an artist. We booked that artist into a major music festival that had thousands of people attending. It was a big deal in their home state. Yet, the artist did NOTHING to promote the show or even find out what stage and time they’d be playing on until the day of the gig. Then the artist got upset with ME because no one was at their performance (yay, blame the manager). Umm, excuse me, but if you’re the singer, if you’re in the band, it’s YOUR job, not mine, to promote your show and make sure you’re happy with where you are playing, the money you are getting, etc. A manager (my job at the time) can only do so much if you ignore all the details until the last minute. If you don’t promote your shows, how do you expect anyone to attend?

8) Playing a bad show – EVER. I don’t care how many people are in the crowd. 2 or 2,000. You ALWAYS need to be professional and put on a great live show. Not a good live show. Not a mediocre show. But a GREAT live show. A band I worked with recently performed for a crowd of 10-20 people. They were so dejected at such a “poor” turnout, yet they put on a great live show anyhow because that’s just the type of band they are. Well you know what? One of the people in the crowd was an A&R scout at a major label and the next thing you know, the band was being followed on tour by that A&R scout and being flown to NYC to showcase for that major label. The band ended up with a large publishing deal. Think this would have happened if that live show has sucked? Of course not! So be professional and put on the same show whether there are 2 people there or 20,000! It literally may make or break your career.

9) Being too trusting / saying “I’m the artist, who cares about that BUSINESS stuff?”. Sadly, we’ve all heard the stories of artists getting ripped off. In the 1990’s, Billy Joel’s brother-in-law stole millions from him as Billy was too busy being “the artist” — and then Billy was shocked years later when he discovered his crooked business manager had stolen tens of millions from him? Wow, really? Billy then went on tour for a LONG time trying to earn back that money. There are many great people in this business, don’t get me wrong. But there are also many, many snakes and shady people who will rob you blind if you work with them or let them. Artists can be easy prey because they are generally very trusting. Another artist I know who has made millions, signs all his invoices – even if it’s a $50 Staples invoices for office supplies. Same story, someone stole a LOT of money from him years ago — so now he has to approve everything. Smart! At least he learned his lesson.

10) Not reading / understanding the contracts you sign. Want to get ripped off? Then don’t both reading or understanding the contracts you sign. I don’t care if you have an attorney that “does that for you” – it’s still your job, your responsibility as an artist to understand and READ every single document you sign your name to, even if it’s online. Why do you think artists get continually ripped off? Because they are often lazy and don’t bother to read AND understand what they are signing. Don’t be an easy target. Be smart. Take the time to read books on parts of the business that you don’t understand. Ask questions. People have so much valuable information they are willing to share with you if you just ASK THEM! You can also find so much information at your fingertips just using Google. Of course, this information isn’t always 100% reliable but it’s a good place to start!

I write this article to help you because I want you to avoid making these common mistakes so only the good things happen to you.

Hope it helps,

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

~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity

“More than eighty percent of self-made millionaires in America began with nothing or in many cases, less than nothing.”
— Brian Tracy

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.”
— Malcolm Forbes