Monday, September 24, 2012

Laminate Managers, Artist Development and my Top 10 Pet Peeves

In my humble opinion one of the most overlooked necessities in the Texas Music Scene is Artist Development. In the "old days" a new band signed by a major label might spend the first couple years being "developed" by a team at the label before releasing it's first  record. They would school you in everything from image to musicianship to songwriting to fan base development. As smaller labels die out and larger ones tighten their spending Artist Development seems to have for the most all but disappeared. Many bands getting signed today either have already developed past the point of needing it and are selling records in the numbers which attracted the attention of the labels in the first place. Many of the brand new out of nowhere bands are creations of those very labels they are signed with, carefully put together based on look and demographic calculations.

But what about those artists who are out there trying to figure it out on their own. Many just have that "cool" factor and don't need a whole lot of help developing and are ready to sign on with an experienced professional manager. Many should never quit their day job, get this band thing out of their system and go back to the real world. Most fall somewhere in between.

One of my observations and something I tend to poke fun of a lot are what I call the "laminate managers." They go to every show you play because they get in free and have had occasional success with girls using the "I'm with the band" line. They are your fraternity brother, best friend, brother in law etc. Eventually they help you load in/out and sell merch. You let them tag along to a festival show which you are playing the noon slot in order to give the appearance of having a 'crew". You give them a laminate, they put around their neck. The result; instant hard on. The illusion of power, prestige and overall "I have arrived" feeling that accompany that 3 x 4 piece of plastic on a leash are overwhelming. They are committed 100% to doing whatever it takes to stand at the podium and again be awarded the gold medal laminate. They offer to be your manager. Knowing that having a "team" is a true sign YOU have arrived you agree. And though you notice a year later that nothing has changed in your career because your "manager" has no experience, no plan, no connections and no clue you swell with pride as you play the BBQ circuit because all 23 people in the audience can clearly see the shiny laminate hanging around your "crews" necks and surely they too will realize that you have arrived.

I love Artist Development. When you do find a good band that has what it takes to be a success there is nothing more exciting to me than to take what I have learned, utilize the connections I have made and share it with an artist who just needs some help to get to the next level. I don't advertise that I do this nor do I talk about it when I have signed on someone to work with. I already get too many requests for "listen to my band". In addition many times a few months into the relationship you realize the artist isn't willing to do what it takes or has his/her own agenda and just needs me to open some doors. Once this is apparent then I bail, no use wasting either of our time.

But every once in a while I connect with someone who allows me to create a plan, is willing to do the work with minimal resistance and has the patience to wait out what always takes longer than they imagined. The reward for them is a head start in an industry where swimming alone can be tiring and unproductive and for me the validation that after all these years maybe I have picked up a thing or two and that giving is always more gratifying than taking :)

So I have put together a few of my top ten pet peeves for those who would like a little unsolicited advice.

ARTIST DEVELOPMENT LESSON 101

10.) Come up with something original for your logo, ripping off Jack Daniels, Luckenbach, Lone Star or Corona Beer is not only unoriginal it's Trademark infringement.

9.) Never, ever wear Affliction clothing especially with Aviator sunglasses

8.) Do not use the words "critically acclaimed" or "hit single" anywhere in your bio unless you have a top ten on the BILLBOARD charts.

7.) No more songs which progress from a G chord to a D chord to an E minor chord. It's been done over and over and over; stop it.

6.) Never send unsolicited music to a busy music business professional. It will get deleted. If you are asked to send a sample of music ask the preferred method and how many songs ie. yousendit.com, SoundCloud, Dropbox or Email.

5.) Sending an email to a manager requesting to open for one of their bands with a "we are big fans and it would really help us" along with here is where you can go check us out will not get a response. It's not our job to help you and we certainly aren't going to go "check out your music"

4.) Emailing, texting or tweeting me wanting to know if I listened to your CD. If I have and I like it I will tell you. If I have and I did't like it I won't tell you that I didn't like it cuz even I'm not that mean. Chances are it's still on my stack.

3.) Opening bands who go over the alotted times; if you start late too bad, finish when you are supposed to. The headliner is expecting to go on at a certain time, make sure he does. If the crowd is digging you that much they will come to one of your shows.

2.) If your sound check takes over 20 minutes it's called rehearsal, you should have done that already

1.) There is absolutely no reason to wear a laminate at Cheatham Street much less 8 of them, there is no backstage You're embarrassing yourself, take them off.

10 comments:

  1. Judy, Did you listen to our CD? I LOVE IT! Seriously, will your "talent" play our guitars on stage? NO REALLY!? This list is the truth, sad as you might find it guys...swallow a little pride and listen to the voice of experience here, a little goes a long way. Thanks Mother Hubbard :)

    ~ tonebender

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  2. Brilliant . . . but I'm afraid those that need it most won't realize it was meant for them. I'm in the music business and my husband is in the music business (both of us in various capacities depending on the day). Yesterday he did sound and backline at a medium sized city where many local bands played. Then an "up and comer" who had made a tiny ripple on a national TV talent show played. She and her very large band had a 4-page instruction sheet and her "manager" (she called him Dad) had to have things just so. Artists need to realize where they are playing. You don't need the laminate at Cheatham and you don't need to bring a 10-piece band and three changes of clothes for a 20-minute gig at a city park at 4 p.m.

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  3. Thanks for the kind words. I feel your pain Anonymous! And you are right, most won't get it :)

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  4. #9 and #1, love you!

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  5. Wonderful info! Wonderful recipe! Wonderful mgr/mom, with a wonderful family! Thanks for leading us FB people here. Just checked in on Lucky for the first time cuz of you. He's got a great sound! Your husband has been bringing me joy for decades. He just keeps getting better. The addition of Lukas to the mix is great to watch (saw one of his early gigs w/Ray at the Austin "Enlightenment" Antone's cd party and the look of proud papa on Ray's face was priceless!) Will read the blog. Hope to see you at the Palm's in Winters again soon! (You should investigate Sierra Nevada Brewery up in Chico! It's like a giant 50s niteclub, and attracts a hip older crowd that sells out. About two hours north of Winters/Sacramento and a nice place to stop on the way to/from Oregon. They sell out mondays and tuesdays as well, know sound (the venue is used for Sierra Stage on PBS) and appear to treat people very well. Talk to Bob Lidell ( his wife is allegedly Janis Joplin's sister...).

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  6. Spot on and for the most part, I've avoided the things on that list. And last time I handed you a CD, I got a new fan outta the deal, so that's a win. :-)

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  7. Great read! I Play in a band that sometimes I feel gets a bit big for its britches. I know that our lead singer is guilty of a few of the items on your list. Worst of all is he's thinks he's a lot better than he really is. If I had the guts to step up and point these things out I would but I know this band gig is about the only thing I've got goin for me so for now I'm just gonna wait it out until I can meet up with some people who know where they stand and know how to follow the rules. Thanks for the words of advice (and in some way words of encouragement!)

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  8. amen! I would add in to the "critically acclaimed" bio point that you should not say "Grammy Nominated" if you were just in the giant pool in the first round. "Grammy Nominated" to most of the general public means you were on the list of 5 that got read at the awards show. :) Great post...more please!

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  9. The Cheatham bit made me spit out my coffee. All of it.

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