This is a bit facetious and might make some people
angry. I'm not picking on mothers! However my opinion is based on my experience
and observation. Unless they are proven
music industry professionals -- hopefully managers -- do not hire your mother, father, uncle, cousin,
brother, next door neighbor, boyfriend, etc. to manage your
career. Rather than destroying a career
this is often a way to stop a career dead in its tracks on the way to the
launch pad. Even if the relative or
friend is a proven personal manager, still give it some serious thought. More than one artist has ended up suing their
father or other relative over the way their relative handled their career. Tragically then the breakup is not only a
business one but a personal one.
Assume you work for a record label and it is your job to
decide whether or not a budding artist is going to be signed. Assume further that you have three
extraordinarily talented young artists to choose from. Depending on the size of your label you will
be committing anywhere from $500,00 to $1,000,000 or more to “break” the
artist. Choose wrong too many times and
your job might be in jeopardy - indeed everybody’s job at the label given the
state of the music industry today.
Given those facts, do you care who the artist’s professional
team is? Of course you do. These people can help or hinder the road to
success for the artist, you and the label.
Artist number 1 has no manager at all.
Artist number 2 is managed by a successful industry manager. And artist number 3 is managed by her mother
who is the successful owner of a local bakery.
All things equal, which artist will you sign? Number 2 of course. Second choice (first in the case of some record people) will be artist number 1 since the label will have the opportunity to make manager suggestions to the artist.
Relatives - particularly close relatives like mothers and
fathers - are not always able to exercise cool objectivity and professionalism
when needed. They love their children
and want to protect them for sure. A
noble cause but not necessarily best when it comes to making business
decisions. Music industry gatekeepers
know this. They have learned it the hard
way. There was a time when I presented
unsigned artists to labels in hopes of procuring a recording agreement for my
client. Even though I had strong
relationships at the labels I learned that some would not even let me in the
door if I had mentioned that mom or dad would be involved in career
management. One powerful producer told
me that he did not want to even listen or see a picture of an artist managed by
a relative for fear he might like the artist and sign them. I believe that reinforces the point I am
There have been artists managed by one parent or another who
have become quite successful. To the
best of my knowledge there aren’t that many.
Some have overcome the “parent” hex and turned out to be competent music
industry managers (Joseph Jackson). But
even then some of those have had very public parent-child arguments and
eventual break-ups - both professionally and personally (Leann and Wilbur Rimes).
So as a rule if you have aspirations of becoming a successful recording artist,
and have reached the age of majority and have a choice, think twice before
committing the guidance of your career to a inexperienced parent or other
relative, no matter how good your and their intentions might be.
Over the years I have represented a number of bands and
individuals trying to break into the music business. Most all of my clients now are established
companies and artists but I am pretty sure that the beginners are still making
the mistakes that they always did.
One such mistake is ignoring the advice of the professionals
they are paying for advice. A songwriter
client of mine turned down an opportunity to work with an established music
publisher because his friends told him he was being “screwed” in the deal. The songwriter had an experienced music
industry manager and an experienced music attorney (me) who were able to secure
this opportunity for the writer. Very
little money was going to change hands in the deal but for an unknown these
days to even get a major independent publisher to pay for the demos and have
their professional creative directors pitch the songs is rare. And the deal was for a reasonably short
period of time. A great opportunity to
launch a career. And in this case the
only opportunity for this writer. In a
slow music business economy I have seen established songwriters with prior hits
take deals like this. But it just wasn’t
good enough for my client . . . and his “friends”.
Did I mention that none of the friends were successful music
industry songwriters? None had achieved
any significant level of success in the music business. Why then would my client have taken the
advice of their friends over that of a professional artist manager and a
veteran entertainment attorney? I really
don’t know the answer. But he was
dropped by the manager shortly after that and to the best of my knowledge isn’t
any farther along in his career than when I last talked to him. Hopefully he and his friends are doing well.
Sometimes it is family advice that kills the career of an
aspiring artist or songwriter. Advice
from family members who know nothing about the music business of course. I have seen it happen. And I am sure it is
hard for the writer or artist to ignore the advice of those he or she
loves. The damage is not the advice - it
is taking the advice over those who know better. The poison might exist be cause the advice
given is just plain wrong or ill advised. Or it might be because the relative wants to
launch their own career as a music business mogul. Those of us in the business have seen the
latter as have the general public when law suits are filed among the
family. I don’t doubt that most parents
who give advice to their children are doing it out of love. But that still doesn’t make it good advice.
Another situation that I found particularly heart breaking
is the case of the artist who believed that he should hire an expensive
producer to produce his first indie album solely because the producer used
to be successful. I don’t believe
that should be enough. I told them that
I could get a producer for them in the same music genre for a third of the
cost. A producer who was known as an up
and coming producer/songwriter in the industry.
A producer who had produced a top 5 project just the year before. And did I mention - for a third of the cost?
The artist did not even want to listen to the work of the newer
producer. That would be fine if this had
been all about the artist spending his own money for an album that he only
wanted to have available to sell on his own website and at engagements. However, the artist had no money. The parents of the artist had no money. But they borrowed the money to pay the more
That artist and his parents certainly had the right to hire
the producer of their choice. But in my
opinion they certainly should not have made a decision of this magnitude
without even investigating the options.
Especially considering the financial impact on the parents. Fast forward just a few years. Last year the producer I recommended had 4
number one singles on the charts and is in demand as a producer. And his fees and royalties are now greater
than the producer that my client hired.
As an end note, please know that I recognize and have worked with artists and writers whose friends and family know how to be supportive without endeavoring to be advisors about business specific matters of which they know nothing. Investigate your options if you
have them. Many writers and artists do not choices. If your manager or other professional gives
you advice you don’t have to take it - but in my opinion you really should give
it some weight as you make your career decisions. Ultimately career decisions are yours (and should be). Try to be smart about it!
I recently came across an article entitled “10 Things Not To Do In Nashville”. The article contains a lot of advice I have given to Songwriters in my posts over the years. It also contains advice I have not given.
For the still aspiring songwriters in the world, I thought I would share the article. Let me know if you agree or disagree with what you read. Click here and read on.
Yesterday I had lunch with a senior executive at a major
publishing company. After sharing work
and family news and stories and he asked me:
“What do you see as our biggest challenge?”
I thought for a bit and finally had to give a very non-unique answer. In
a less eloquent manner I stated that that the music business’ biggest challenge now
and in the foreseeable future is to obtain and apply the willingness and
ability to timely adapt to a rapidly changing consumer driven marketplace,
specifically as it pertains to technological advancement.
I don’t believe that technological development is going to
slow down. There will be new formats of
delivering music to the users that we haven’t thought of. I have been a defender of the major labels
and still am. Yet, I must admit that
many of us in the established music industry have been slow to adapt. ,myself included in many ways. Change is never easy but survival often
depends on it.
When Walt Kelly penned the following words through his
famous comic strip “Pogo”, he described what he saw as the human
condition. “We have met the enemy and he
is us.” I believe the greatest challenge
for the music industry in this and the coming decades has been and still is “us”. Our future health lies in the ability to
recognize and accept consumer preferences and desires and then to find a way to
satisfy those desires in a profitable way.
Acceptance of major change is a bitch. But I’m getting there.