A lot happens behind the scenes in the music business that the general public are not exposed to. There is a world that operates behind the famous artists and brands. A world that keeps the business going day in and day out. Deals are made, licenses are done and contracts are negotiated to ensure money is flowing and people are getting paid. What you see on the outside are the musicians, singers and DJs that you idolise, look up to and aspire to be one day. What you don’t see is how they got there. The people that they have met with, done deals with, fallen out with, made money with have all shaped and moulded their careers to the point that they are immortalised in that A3 poster hanging on your bedroom wall. So how is it that they came to get there? The answer – The right team.
Below is a list of the 5 key individuals in any artist’s career that at some point they have more than likely needed. Familiarise yourself with who they are and what they do and you could one day be someone’s A3 idol too.
1. The A&R
About a year ago, one of the first articles I put out on this blog was on what to remember when submitting a demo to a record label. The article received a lot of traction from people wanting to know how and where to submit their music to record labels in South Africa. I believe a lot of artists are unsure of “how to get signed” and for those not fortunate enough to have the connections (or rich enough parents to pay for everything), there aren’t a lot of places to get the answers.
Wanting to sign with a label is a lot like trying to get a job at a company. Cold calling and spamming seldomly work, so it’s all about doing your research and making a personal connection. The A&R (Artist & Repertoire) is the person responsible for discovering and signing new artists and the person you are looking for when wanting to submit your demos. It’s imperative you look into the label that you are wanting to sign to (Do your research!). Simply emailing firstname.lastname@example.org may work out for you but you stand a far better chance making a connection with an actual person . If you can’t find the A&R’s email address online, spend some time reaching out to artists that have released on the label and ask them to put you in contact with the right people. This business is as much about connections as it is about talent.
2. The Publisher
Many artists (new or established) will inevitably at some point question whether or not they actually need a label. With easy access to online services that can distribute your music to millions of potential fans, getting your music out there is a few mouse clicks away. When it comes to publishing your music however, being self sufficient is not quite as easy.
Publishing is an extremely administration intensive job and having someone dedicated to collecting your royalties, licensing your compositions and collecting those licensing fees, is going to save you a lot of valuable time.
As is the case with labels, some publishers are more hands on than others, whether it’s getting involved with the creative process or heavily promoting the writer’s compositions. Having the right team in your corner putting you forward and going out trying to sell you to clients can make a huge difference to your earning potential. Pick the right fit for you and make sure you read over the agreement (or even hire a lawyer) as signing the wrong one could burn you for life.
3. The Manager
Although the need for a manager is subjective to any artist’s needs, it is important to understand what it is that they do to determine whether or not having a manager is a right fit for you.
There is a widespread misconception among up and coming artists in the music business that having a manager will make or break their career. The reality is, for most part, most roles a manager fills are redundant when it comes to up and coming artists and the roles they could fill, could be handled directly by an artist without having to share in the fruits of their labour.
By definition a manager will handle the day-to-day business affairs of an artist as well as serve as a guide to counsel and advise the artist in relation to their career in the music industry. Their responsibilities include but are most certainly not limited to negotiating record deals, acquiring sponsors, booking tours, promotions, merchandising and the list goes on. Although all very vital to the success of an artist’s career, I highly recommend you are familiar with and self sufficient in all these fields before looking for a manager so that you are completely aware of what it is that you expect from them, and how they can plug into your vision for your career.
4. The Booking Agent
Much like publishing, the administration involved in bookings and live performances is better handled by a 3rd party. Time spent doing contracts, invoices, booking flights and hotels, making sure tech riders are met and payments are made – is going to take away valuable time you need as an artist to focus on your music. Whether you sign to an agency or employ someone to handle the admin, it’s solely up to you and the attention and involvement you require. Don’t make the mistake of thinking however that the work is done when you sign with a booking agent – a good salesman can sell any product, but the true value is in being the product that everyone wants to buy.
5. The Publicist
Not to be confused with a PUBLISHER (you’d be surprised how many actually do mix the two up), a publicist will assist with securing you coverage in the press/media. Their job will be to get you interviews with blogs, print media, radio shows or tv shows, album reviews etc. Budget dependent you could hire a publicist on a retainer to handle your affairs on a daily basis, or you could work on a release-by-release basis (FYI – The same applies here about adding value).
The truth is, with all these “key players”, the relationship is a working one that requires both sides to put in the effort. None of them can replace the need for hard work and doing your fair share to set yourself up for success.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller