Guest post by Sari Delmar, founder and CEO of Audio Blood.
Choosing a manager will be one of the most important decisions you make as an artist. Who you let represent you to the outside world is a direct reflection of how you handle your business, and a great manager can do magical things for your career. But more often than not, you're unfortunately going to come across a not-so-great manager who is slowly putting your band’s career in a dank, dark corner one email at a time. The wrong fit can quite literally sink you. Here are five common manager archetypes we recommend steering clear of if you’re looking to grow a long and steady career in the music biz.
1. The Too-Busy-To-Call-You-Back-Ager Beware the chronically busy and "important" manager. Being a busy manager is usually a good thing, but not taking time to hear their artists’ needs, cater to them, and collaborate with them will often cause fractures in the relationship. As the artist, you need to be able to reach your manager at any time for advice and late night strategizing. A constant dialogue is essential – after all, your manager is out on the industry front lines hustling for your career. When the manager is too busy to prioritize communication with the artist, it can lead to career decisions that the artist doesn’t support being made on their behalf. More importantly, what other calls is the manager not keeping up with? Opportunities are likely being missed if the manager is too disorganized to see them. Sometimes this type of manager is closely related to the my-career-is-more-important-than-yours-ager… which I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on.
2. The RagerThe rager manager is usually the first one to crack open that bottle of JD from the rider backstage. It’s nice that they can get loose and have some fun, but how many times can you get so slammed you forget to settle the show and then sleep through three calls from the Australian agent before it crosses the line? There needs to be a balance and seriousness around your business dealings. If the manager thinks his job is about getting wasted and hanging out with bands, he's going to be left in the dust when the band’s career hasn’t progressed beyond playing the local haunt every Thursday night.
3. The Name-dropper Don’t mistake the name-dropping manager for a great schmoozer. Schmoozing is an art that very rarely requires obnoxious name-dropping in order to be done well. Any industry veteran will see through the namedropper in a second. Sure, the age old adage is “it’s all about who you know," but anyone who’s really seen some success in this industry knows it’s more about what you do with those connections strategically than anything else. If you are looking for a manager who can list out the names of top A&R execs rather than actually get them in front of your band’s set, then you’ve found the right guy. If you’re looking for someone who can get them to the show and has genuine relationships with key industry players, they likely aren’t dropping names all over town and are bit more humble in their approach.
4. The Drama Llama We all know the type: instead of spending their days putting out fires and making the band look good, the drama llama manager can usually be found stirring the pot into a frothy boil. Being easy to work with in this industry will go a long way for managers and their artists. It doesn’t take long for a shit disturber to be rejected from key relationships or conversations. You don’t have time for this drama, and neither does the industry. Drama llamas can come in handy in other professions such as PR or music journalism, but managers need to be diplomatic and honest in order to do their jobs well. It’s okay, though – they’ll most likely find their way to the gossiping masses soon enough once they realize that management was just a detour. (Credit to Jeremy von Hollen who brilliantly coined the term drama llama.)
5. The Dad or Mom-ager Last, but certainly not least, under no circumstances (and I repeat, NO circumstances) should it be okay to let your parents manage your creative career. There are some rare cases in history where this has worked, but you will not be one of them. You need to pave your way as an independent adult and brand yourself within the industry. The Dad or Mom-ager instantly puts you at a different level in the mind of the industry: No matter how good your band is, you will always be seen as an amateur. Dear parents: I know you love your kids and would do anything for them. I know you used to be in a band and have some contacts from way back when, but trust me when I say your good intentions will work against your talented child’s potential. You need to stand by and be a cheerleader in their career, and support them with enthusiasm at every turn. You DO NOT need to be the one handling their money, stressful label rejection letters, begging journalists to review their album, and managing promoter relationships. Your relationship with your child will suffer, and his or her career will fall flat. Trust that the right manager will find your child at the right time, and that the industry will respond to his or her talents in due course.
I always like to think that the right manager will somehow find the right band and vice versa. The magical, musical gravity usually has a way of bringing the right people together. Until then, work hard, keep your head down, and don’t be lured by any of the sneaky managers above just because you’re feeling desperate. No great business decision has ever been made out of desperation, and this decision needs to be great.
When a band is at their best, there's an aura of positive vibes emanating. They're working together in sync and letting their ambitions get them to a higher place. It's a major characteristic I've seen in bands that grow from small-town to national to global. They fight to maintain positivity, and it isn't always easy.
So what keeps other bands struggling and stuck in the opposite groove? Negativity. Let's face it – everyone’s guilty of succumbing to negativity every once in a while. Whether it's letting someone else's negativity bring you down, or your own bad attitude keeping your band from finishing a song, it's safe to say that negativity can keep you from reaching your full potential. Negativity is your fear getting to you, and it can act as a creative block if you allow it to.
You may not notice it, but negativity could be holding your band back right now. You could have fallen into a funk in which many before you have found themselves trapped without even noticing.
Answer "yes" or "no" to the following statements to determine whether or not you're in a rut:
If you really want to make it in the music world (or any creative field), it means trying to see every problem as solvable, looking at an issue in a different light, ignoring those who might be bringing you down, and taking full advantage of the opportunities that come your way.
Here's some advice to get ahead of those adverse feelings.
1. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try againToo many artists quit when the going gets tough. Just because you've hit a bump in the road, or heard "no" one too many times, doesn't mean it's time to give up. Use any failed starts, bad experiences, or mistakes in your career as learning opportunities. Be sure to continue to grow both as an artist and as a business professional (because after all, music is your business) and see the potential in everything you do. And remember, your past is not indicative of your future. Just because your first band broke up, or your last album wasn’t a hit, doesn’t mean that this time is going to be the same. Don’t keep a tally of your failures as a record of self-defeat. Let it go. Make note of where you can improve and take the steps necessary to do so. Seek professional advice when you can't find it on your own, and never give up if this is something that you're passionate and serious about.
2. Stop caring about what people thinkThis is a tough one. It's probably one of the hardest things to get over in any industry, but it needs to be done. Don't let Negative Nancy and Norm get you down. Make the distinction between haters and constructive critics. A good way to tell the difference is by looking at where these critics are coming from – are they a reputable source? Are they people you know and respect or just anonymous commenters online? Have they been there since the beginning, or are they jumping in only to tear you down?
Try to separate comments from people who are just being rude and those who want to help you succeed. Make sure you acknowledge positive and constructive feedback, and make a point to really take their notes to heart. Always remember to pick your battles, and have the strength to know when to walk away. Some people are simply trying to bring you down. Determine if their comments are worth your time, and if they're not, just brush them off. Not everyone will want to see you succeed. Value those who do, and ignore those who don’t.
3. Ditch the "…someday""I don't have time," "I can't right now," "I won't ever succeed." Excuses, excuses, excuses. It's easy to shift the blame on outside circumstances and think your time will never come. An important thing to remember is that busyness is a state of mind. Take full ownership that making up excuses is a negative approach that'll stop you from actually going anywhere.
Don't think that someday your time will come. Your someday is today! It's your job to make the time needed to succeed. If this is what you want in life, and I mean, really want it, then why make excuses? If you can complete a task in five minutes or less – like sending an email to a booker or getting a schedule ready for next week – do it now. And on the opposite end, if you're unsure of something and have spent all your time obsessing over it – whether it's how a song is progressing or where to go next – leave it alone for a day and come back to it with fresh eyes and ears. The more you think about the future as unattainable, the less you'll get done today.
4. Band togetherIf you're looking to make music your full-time career, you're going to be spending a lot of your time with your bandmates. Which means you'll inevitably have lots of highs and lots of lows. On tour, you'll be in cramped vans and playing in small venues with five people watching you. Things will get rough. But know that pretty much every band goes through the same trials, and the point is to not buckle under pressure.
But if someone in your band is making decisions that are affecting the group negatively or making everyone else feel terrible about the show the night before, you need to take a moment for a breather. Make sure there's open communication, and people can really vent their frustrations. And don't bottle up things that are keeping you down. Resentment will build up; the band will implode. You can always turn negative circumstances around into a new approach.
5. Don't validate your fears You have to follow your gut. There's so much that could go wrong, so stop being afraid and start thinking about what could go right. The fear to fail can be just as detrimental as failing itself. It can be paralyzing. Express yourself. If you're afraid that something is going to go wrong, talk to your bandmates about it. Perhaps they're feeling the same way, or maybe they're able to reassure you and help you move forward. Think of what's already right. Be thankful. Positivity will fuel your work and can lead to success.
Best of luck, friends!
Courtney Parkes also contributed to this article.