Musicians: When do you need a Manager or Booking Agent in your Career

Terri Mazurek

Terri Mazurek is a Minneapolis-based social worker… turned booking agent. Founder and co-owner of Peppermint Booking Agency, Ms. Mazurek has been helping musicians succeed in the music business since 1999. She has participated in several music conference panels and also offers workshops on a variety of topics including one titled How to sell your music without selling your soul.

When do you need a Manager in your career?

by Terri Mazurek

Great question! You asked about whether you are ready for either a booking agent or a manager. For a new musician with one CD under her belt, I recommend neither (at this point). As a Booking Agent and artist manager myself, I’d like to suggest an alternative to you. Have you considered a booking assistant?

I STRONGLY recommend that newer artists find someone that they train themselves. Email your fan list or mull over your friends who really believe in what you do… you are looking for someone with a part-time job… who’s making enough to make ends meet but has some free time to explore a possible new career. Buy them "How to be your own booking agent" by Jeri Goldstein and train them in booking and general management stuff.

They’ll benefit from the opportunity to learn about booking and artist management, and you’ll benefit from a person dedicated to you, only.

Yes, you’ll have to supervise them and yes, they will need training.. but I’ve seen it work really well and HIGHLY recommend it.

As a social worker-turned-booking agent, I can tell you that it doesn’t take loads of experience to be a good manager or booking agent, it takes interest, heart, and enthusiasm. Good organizational skills don’t hurt, either! :-)

I make this suggestion because: If you’re not making enough money to support yourself, there is no way you will be able to pay a manager or booking agent enough to make it worth their while. The music industry is changing SO RAPIDLY right now, and *good* booking agents and managers are being really skittish about signing on with artists who are not yet proven (myself included). However, there are also plenty of incompetent and/or untrustworthy agents/managers who will agree to work with you for little money and then do nothing for you. I can name a dozen artists with a horrifying story about an agent/manager that signed with them and then screwed them over.

This brings up a bigger point that I want to bring up …some advice and experiences I’ve had as an agent that might help someone.

**WARNING** I’m about to step on my soapbox- be warned, people! :-)

*Steps up on the soapbox*

I hear from about 4-8 musicians PER WEEK looking for a booking agent. Almost NONE of them are actually ready for one and very few are treating it as a business arrangement. Many artists I know are waiting for "people with connections" to intervene and make it so they don’t need to be business people anymore. BAD IDEA.

ALL OF YOU need to remain business people… no matter if you add others to the mix… Actually, ESPECIALLY when you add other people to the mix.

It always surprises me that few folks who enter into a career as a solo musician or in a band really *get* that what they are doing is starting a business. Most still buy into the myth that they’ll be "discovered" and then they can focus on what they love – the music.

Sure there is an occasional situation where a certain musician happened to be in the right place at the right time and makes the right connection… but those artists who go on to be successful have not disengaged from the business aspects… in fact… I’m certain they remain very active in it.

It’s just a business deal.. it’s not something to be romanticized or put on a pedestal.

The best thing you can do for your career is to accept that you’ll be running this business as long as you want to be doing music.. and do everything in your power to be a damn good business woman.

When you are asking people to get involved in your business, you need to make a business proposal. Don’t try to woo them with your musical abilities… they need to know if you can make a living at it, and if you can afford to pay them. Sure, they need to believe in you as an artist, but first they need to know you respect them and would be able to pay for their investment in you. You need to think in terms of partners to your business… and then choose VERY CAREFULLY who you let in.

Please, let go of the illusion that someone is going to swoop in and take your career to the next level themselves. Instead, plan to take it to the next level yourself. Today: plan your 10 year, 5 year, 3 year, 2 year, and one year goals and identify the steps you need to take to get there. Figure out why you’re doing music (the deep-down motivation) and put it up on your wall. Keep track of your money – pay an accountant every 6 months to help you get your books together. Take a business class about starting and running a business. ONLY work with people who you trust and you believe are truly competent. Decide to be a light in the industry… someone who is positive, upbeat, doesn’t gossip, and generally makes others feel good (this alone could make a huge impact on your career).

Ok… enough of this unsolicited advice! ;-) I just want you all to succeed and not be screwed over because you want someone else to run the business… you can do this!!!

** Great advice from Terri. **

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6 Responses

  1. Marcel says:

    Thanks for the insight! I agree. I was just looking for someone to book me shows and I'd give them a percentage for what they do find me. But instead I'm going to make a goal to reach out for two gigs a day and see what results I get. I've always been too into the music and not the business. I'll also work on short and long term steps and goals.
    I'm glad i read this even as I'm seeing clearer what should be done and what attitude i need to have.
    My band is Merchants of Solace and I'm promoting my acoustic music right now.

  2. Greg says:

    Thanks for the wakeup. Truly I have been waiting for that magical moment of discovery. Time to focus on business.

  3. obryan says:

    thanx for the truth

  4. UNEEK VS CHRIS BROWN says:

    im very talented, i can sing,dance, and rap PHENOMINALLY. I know for a fact i can be bigger than micheal jackson or chris brown EVER did!!

  5. Charles says:

    Very helpful, I am trying to do both. Managing websites as well as making music. I am very new but blessed. Signed to a promotion/distributing deal. Thought a manager would be good for me right now. My fan base grows daily but I will focus more on the business as well.

  6. I'm a experienced artist that could use some help.Have my own c.d (go to web site)play classic rock solo as well ask anyone.I would appreciate hearing from you .

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