This guest post is written by Jeff
Rabhan, artist manager, music-
industry executive and
clients have garnered twelve
Grammy Awards, sold more than
one hundred million records and
generated over one billion dollars
in global receipts. Rabhan
currently serves as Chair of the Clive Davis
Department of Recorded Music at New York
University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
After 20 years in the business and hundreds of
showcases under my belt, I’ve seen a lot of aspiring
artists who have two things in common: They’re all
looking for a manager and all trying to get signed.
But for the great majority, that’s a pipe dream. The
odds are against you. I know it sounds harsh, but in
truth, many artists miss their opportunity by not
Finding a proper manager can be a painful and
frustrating process for many artists; the seemingly
endless amount of pitching, sending out unsolicited
material and inviting seasoned pros down to
showcases only to be met by rejection on the other
end can be debilitating. Many musicians blame the
managers — it’s easy to convince yourself that their
blind eye and stone ears can’t see and hear your
musical greatness. But in truth, artists often are not
properly prepared for management, nor are their
careers in shape to the point where an experienced
manager would be interested.
So how do you know
the right time to get a manager and what are the
best ways to secure proper management?
DIY until you no longer can
If you’re sitting at home on the couch right now,
chances are you don’t need a manager. You should
be your own booking agent, publicist, marketing exec
and radio promotion person before anyone else. For
one, you’ll learn about all of the different aspects of
your career and become educated. Second, you’ll
build the relationships yourself instead of hiring a
manager based upon who they “know.” Hopefully, by
the time you’ve reached the point where you are so
busy that you can no longer handle the tasks, proper
management will have taken notice. After all, if you
have a lot going on, the buzz of a band finds a way of
reaching music execs.
- In fact, there’s a funny saying amongst music
industry people: “If you’re unsigned and great,
I’ve heard of you;” meaning, if all of the pieces
are put together and you’re ready for the
major leagues, managers will find you, as will
labels, and lawyers too.
Trust me. Rock bands are famous for handling their
business correctly. They split up the chores, handle
the tasks and operate their band like a business. This
is one sure way to impress a possible manager. I
remember before Incubus was signed to Sony Music,
they had a strong relationship with their fanbase in
southern California, kept meticulous fan lists and had
plenty of merch to sell so much of the groundwork
was done. The rest is history. Remember: If you’re a
new act, no one is waiting for your music to come
out. So get all the elements right first.
Get your online presence together
Any manager worth his salt will want to see an
organized online presence. That doesn’t mean a
website with a few old songs and bad pictures!
Managers, labels and executives alike will want to
know that you are part of an active community that
includes a destination website for your project or
band, as well as Facebook, Twitter, a ReverbNation
profile, or even a Tumblr. The website should be
updated, platforms linked, and the artist active. This
is the bare minimum! In today’s market, artists are
getting deals with labels and managers based upon
the strength of their online presence alone. You
could be one of them if you “work” your social media
fanbase. Just ask Justin Beiber if YouTube helped
Know who you are
Very few managers are interested in figuring out who
you are for you. Without a strong sense of identity, a
sonic footprint, and a dialed-in look you are wasting
time pursuing representation. Take the time to
experiment and know exactly who you are, who your
audience is and how you communicate with them
first. A manager can help you execute but only you
can determine those key points. Stepping forward
without these three things intact is like a guitar player
leaving his instrument at home the night of a gig.
Branding is the phrase that pays and every artist
needs to be in the branding business.
- Some artists take offense to the term
“branding” and feel that it goes against their
artistic ethos. Think again. As a wise manager
once said, “No one wants to manage the
greatest band you never heard of.” Branding is
Captivate a following in your hometown
A manager friend of mine once told a band looking
for management “Don’t call me until you can sell out
the best club in your hometown!” I believe that
message holds true. If you’re not popular where you
are, how can you expect to be in demand anywhere
else? Work on establishing yourself in your
hometown and making yourself a household name at
clubs, radio stations and the musical community.
Bands that are making noise locally are usually the
ones that get snatched up long before projects that
have no local development.
Master your live performance
These days, an artist with no live following looking for
management is like a tree falling in the forest. With
so much income reliant upon touring and
merchandise sales in today’s market, most managers
will want to know that you are capable of earning on
the road and building a fan base every time you get
out and perform. This means that if you’re a band,
you are tight and know how to sell it from the stage.
If you are a solo artist, you should have a band
together that showcases your talents and they are
prepared to perform your material at any time.
- I can’t tell you the number of times I was
hyped on a band that I went to see and they
couldn’t deliver it live. It’s a deal-killer every
Avoid “Uncle Joey Syndrome”
Many musicians fall prey to
this horrible disease! Rarely
is an artist served well by
having a family member or
close personal friend as
personal relationships are
destroyed in this scenario
than successful careers
made. Plus, opinions are so
subjective that often family
is blinded by the reality of your situation. Hire the
best person with the most experience you can find.
Occasionally you meet the artist who believes that
their career is the family business. I’ve managed
artists who have insulated themselves with family
and do not have the ability to see themselves clearly.
Objectivity is the key to great management and blood
rarely possesses it.
Having great songs is truly just the beginning.
Download “100 Miliion” – Ayomide Pgee
Without building your base and utilizing all of
the tools available, you may find yourself in the
unpleasant situation of waiting to be heard. So
get off of that couch and know that success is in
your hands. If you build it, they will come. Let me
know your thoughts in the comments below.