People ask me all the time why someone as talented as I am, and seemingly as capable of team play, is still independent, without manager, booking agent, or label. There are a lot of explanations, some which involve my own choices and attitudes, and level of willingness to let go of control. But- there is also the reality of these relationships. To explain this I am defining the most common scenarios, based on what I've seen and experienced in the music business. There are exceptions to the definitions below, and these exceptions are people who artists dream of meeting, and rarely meet because there are very few of them. They are the "angels" of the music business. But like Hunter S. Thompson said, the music business is a shallow money trench, etc....
Manager- A manager is someone who signs a contract with an artist which states that they will attempt to do a few limited tasks in order to get the artist "to the next level." As part of this contract, the manager gets to continue to collect 20% for some period of time after the contract ends, regardless of whether the manager has really done anything successfully. Sometimes this period of time is forever. I had an "acting manager" once and when it came time to sign that contract I backed out because I realized that in the year I'd been working with him he'd been completely ineffective, and I didn't want to pay him 20% of my earnings for 5 years for getting no results.
Record Label- The record label loans you money to make a record and promote that record (or their staff promotes the record.) Sometimes they get the record distribution to the 6 or 7 remaining record stores in the country. They generally want you to have a "buzz" and already have a booking agent, because touring effectively is what sells the most records. And if you don't have a manager and a lawyer to watch the manager, this company might just screw you royally. But-there are a lot of independent labels with good intentions and a lot of people who do this who work hard. I'd love to have an independent label working for me but so far the labels I've talked to say "Do you have a booking agent? If not then we're not interested." The fact is there isn't much money or time at indie labels to "create a buzz." The artist has to do this themselves. I've never been able to do it. A buzz costs a lot of money, kind of like getting elected to political office, because you gotta buy up a bunch of media.
Booking Agent- Once you're already making a lot of money playing gigs, a booking agent steps in and, for a percentage, does the booking work for you. It is a lot of work. It is less work for them because they have bigger artists they use as leverage to get you booked, but they've done the leg-work to get those bigger artists on their roster. They can also stick you on a tour with their bigger artist, which can be great exposure. An agent won't generally take on an artist until they're already generating some money. So I'm out of luck for starters....
Promoter- My experience with promoters, overall, is that they book the show, take some of the money, and then the artist is really responsible for promoting the show. Why are they called "promoters?" I don't really know.
Fan- These are the folks who show up at the shows, buy the records, tell their friends, and without whom I'd be on the street, literally. If you get enough fans you either attract all of the people above to work with, or decide you don't need them.
Thursday, October 6th 2011
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