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Why I don’t work for free / on commission!

January 27, 2010

I wanted to address an increasingly common (and annoying) question I get asked now on almost a daily basis.

Artists always say “I don’t want to pay to promote my music to film/tv – I want you to work on commission.”

Well, the answer to that is very easy.

Why don’t I work on commission?

i.e. for free?

Because I’m too good at what I do.

And it’s too much work to do on commission.

I have paying clients and as such, there is no reason I would ever work 100% for anyone (even a big label or publisher) on commission, which essentially means working for free.

If you can find someone who’s willing to work for you on commission, go for it. But as in many things in life, you get what you pay for.

I recently met with a very prominent music executive (whose clients have sold tens of millions of CDs) who wanted to hire me to promote his catalog of superstar and up and coming artists. But, like many artists, he wanted to save money. So he hired someone “on commission only” and you know what? It’s been a “disaster”. The company hasn’t placed one song for them. He would have been better off hiring me but live and learn, right? He saved his company money but he also has NO sales to show for it!

Because as good as I am at what I do, pitching music to film/tv is just like music PR or anything else in the entertainment world. You have to have EXACTLY what someone needs, the competition is FIERCE and there can be a lot of hard work for no direct results. I know, it’s a tough business to be in and as such, I’ve learned over the years, not to work for free. This is actually a good part of the reason why I’m not taking on any new management clients at this time. Because unless the artist is 1) already established 2) grossing $50-100K a year so they can pay me a percentage of their income or 3) has money to pay me to work on retainer, I’m simply not interested in essentially working for free for an artist. I’ve paid my dues over the past decade and definitely am moving forward, not back!

Now I know, you’re an artist, and because the music business is “sexy” you’ll find a lot of people who are willing to manage or pitch your music on commission to get their foot in the door. Many people will do this simply because they WANT to be in the music or entertainment business.

Well, that ain’t me.

I’m not aspiring to be in the music business.

I AM in the music business.

I’m friends with record label presidents, heads of major music publishing companies and a slew of others big and small. I’ve worked VERY hard to get to where I am (and sure, I’ve paid my dues and worked countless hours essentially for no pay – but that’s in my past). And sure if you’d caught me about 8-10 years ago, I likely would have jumped at the chance to take on another TALENTED band because I had hope they would make it big.

Well, as you know, things in the music business have changed DRAMATICALLY and the amount of artists getting signed is less and less every year, as are the advances paid (if any).

As such, I changed my business and got into film/tv pitching and promotion and now into radio promotion and music PR.

Because, at the end of the day “hope is not a business plan”.

I’m a person with bills to pay, just like you, so working on commission will never make sense for me. Especially not when fees have come so far down to the point where you’re sometimes lucky to get $500-1000 for a song.

***

Also, I don’t compete with every fly by night company or person that’s jumped on the bandwagon the past few years “trying” to get their foot in the door doing music pitching to film/tv.

Imagine this.

It’s like hiring a professional surgeon who’s been operating for 8-10 years who went to medical school and graduated with honors vs. hiring some kid who “things I can cut real well” or who just go out of med school and you’re his/her first patient. Or someone who wants to “try” being a surgeon because it “sounds fun”.

Now of course, pitching music isn’t rocket science or brain surgery.

But it is an occupation that requires great, no amazing relationships with those in the film/tv community. Now you can go with someone (like me) who has these relationships and has for over 8-10 years. Or someone who is just starting out.

Just the way you hire a music publicist with years of experience vs. someone who “thinks music PR would be fun” and knows one reporter.

Or, put in terms you might understand even better.

You can buy a PC. A PC is usually cheaper than a Mac. But it has crappy Microsoft software, can get viruses easily and let’s face it, PC’s just aren’t as cool as Macs. Sure, a Mac may cost more but to most artists it’s worth the extra money.

Well, so am I!

***

Also, the way I run my business, I’m not a music library.

Music libraries can be great for a handful of artists – but for the vast majority of artists, if you throw your song, album (or albums) into a music library with 2,000 other CDs or 200,000 other songs – what do you think your chances are of getting chosen?

Very, very small!

Music libraries don’t usually pitch specific songs – and if they do you are EXTREMELY lucky. It’s almost akin to winning the lottery!

What I do is HIGHLY specialized; a real niche service.

If I chose to pitch your song for a campaign or music request, I’m likely ONLY pitching your song. Or maybe a handful of songs.

So you’re paying to get specialized attention.
And the music supervisors and contacts I have know and appreciate that I don’t flood them with a million crappy songs. So they listen to what I send them because they know when I pitch them, it’s likely a good fit for their project.

***

Sure there are some companies that will rep you on 100% on commission. But you have to be VERY VERY VERY good if not AMAZING to get repped by them. Like off the charts amazing, writing for other hit artists or an artist that has already shown they have placed a million songs already. I’m working towards becoming even more of a boutique company like this but even so, you’d have to make $500K-a million dollars in placements to be able to work on say, 20% commission. Frankly, I don’t know how companies survive working this way. I suppose if you came to me and said “I’ve been placing my songs at $8,000-10,000 a cue, let’s cut a deal” I would consider some type of different arrangement than my standard deal. But I’m guessing this is not you…

***

It’s up to you.

Do you want to be part of the .99 store of music and an artist selling in the discount bin? i.e. associated with a company that has an image for being cheap?

Or be part of a well-respected, high end, specialty boutique store?

The choice is up to you!

I’m a Mac, not a PC 🙂

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
http://www.truetalentmgmt.com


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