In the music business, everything starts with a great song. But the decisions you make after the music is made will have as big, or perhaps even bigger, impact on your success or failure. So picking a great team of professionals is one of the most important and impactful decisions you're going to make.
Getting that team together is important because it allows you to focus 100 percent on your music. Having a great professional team in place also provides you with valuable knowledge and perspective in important areas of your career like making music, marketing and promoting the music, building a live show and touring business, and building your brand. It'll also lead you to better decisions and results that can maximize your success and ultimately extend your career.
So what are the most important things to consider when choosing who you want to take along on your musical journey? Read on...
Focus on the "what" before you think about "who"
Imagine you're in a rock band that wants to make records and play live shows. You've been doing everything on your own for what seems like forever, but you're actually making progress. "What" you need now is an experienced manager, one who gets rock music and has real connections at labels that know how to market rock bands. You need someone who has connections in the live business to help you tour and take things up to that mythical "next level."
Now, say you have a friend who's been coming to every one of your shows since you started. She reaches out to you and says she wants to manage the band. She knows your music, knows your fanbase, and has a couple of creative ideas on how to get more fans. She doesn't have any prior experience or connections in the business, but her passion is evident. What do you do?
Your friend is someone "who" wants to manage your band, but doesn't have "what" you need. If you let your impatience or frustration with having to deal with the business guide your decision, you might agree and sign a contract. In the short term, you may think you solved your problems, but in fact you have not solved any problems at all. You got caught up in the "who" and not the "what."
Instead of thinking about who can fix your immediate problem, you need think about what you need to get to the next level. What would that be? You need to sign to a booking agency. You need to get your music in front of A&R people at record companies. You need a publishing or licensing deal. What you need should dictate who you hire.
Enthusiasm is great, but experience and contacts are invaluable
You hear it all the time that connections are everything in the music business. Let's look at why. If your songs and performances are where they need to be, what you need is a phone call or two to some people in the music business who can elevate what you're already doing. So your friend says she'll pick up the phone and start cold calling agencies and labels. She's sure you'll have a deal once they hear the music and see a YouTube video of your band. This sounds reasonable, right? Not so fast.
The thing about the music business is that people like to take calls from people they already know. Agencies like to do business with people they've already done business with. Record companies like giving money to people they've given money to before. That's why connections matter, and that's why experience, relationships, and track record win over enthusiasm more often than not in the music business.
If you decide to enlist with your friend and fill current needs, you'll have wasted time at the very least. In the worst case scenario, you'll have signed a management agreement with somebody who can't help you. Even worse, that management agreement you signed might prevent a manager who could actually help you from coming on board. That's the biggest impact that getting involved with a business partner too quickly can have on your long-term goals.
I have come across countless acts in the music business who've signed with the wrong manager or label because the artist wanted help in the moment. Instead of relieving the burden with what seemed like an easy fix, the artist's situation became a tangled mess. (If you haven't already seen this video about the Turtles and their management woes, you should watch it. It's a sadly comical sketch of what actually happens when things go wrong.)
When you're thinking for the long-term and picking your business partners, be smart. Do your homework. Don't be afraid to ask potential business partners about their experience, contacts, and track record for fear of scaring them off. If you don't get the right answers, you're not talking to the right prospective partners.
If you're really serious about a career in the music business, you'll find a lot more tips on building your team in my new online course, "Renman U Insider's Guide to Today's Music Business." Click here for a free preview.
Read more about picking and hiring your team:
- Is It Time to Hire a Manager?
- How to Build Your Professional Team as an Indie Band [Video]
- 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Music PR Firm
- How to Build the Dream Team for Your Music Career
- Is It Time to Hire a Booking Agent?
Over the last 36 years, Steve "The Renman" Rennie has become one of the most successful and respected professionals in today's music business. He has amassed a broad swath of experience as a concert promoter (Sr. VP of Avalon Attractions, now Live Nation, 1984-1990), record company executive (Sr. VP and GM of Epic Records, 1994-1998), internet entrepreneur (ArtistDirect, 1998-2000) and artist manager (Incubus, 1998-2014). Now, he is dedicating himself to mentoring this next generation of artists and music pros through his website, Renman Music & Business, an online education portal for the music industry, and Renman U, an interactive online course designed to be "an insider's guide to today's music business."
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