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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To Take Your Music Fulltime And Follow Your Path

female singer Mara picture

Mara = Singer Songwriter | Guitarist | sexy | fun | entertaining | winner of numerous music awards.

When do you take your music full-time and what’s it like for an indie artist

by Mara

While complaining about working a 9-6 day job
in a cubicle for four years, I somehow managed to establish a fan base with 100 gigs per year in my own town, write, record, finance and release a CD and do a few out of town gigs here and there and call it touring.

I went to my first Taxi rally
and discovered a whole world of people making a living with their music – placing songs in film and television, independently touring, getting distribution in stores, selling CDs online and at shows – it all seemed so easy. So possible, if only I didn’t have to spend 40 hours a week at a day job. I could spend that time taking meetings and following up with phone calls and packages to everyone with the slightest interest in my music. I could get so much done, and set up a tour where I could go anywhere at any time and not have to worry about the boss.

I had sold a few CDs on my own in the first five months of release, but think of what I could do if I really put all my effort into it. I had a parting of ways with my job and decided to go it alone for as long as I could. I lasted a year before driving myself crazy.

I started the year with my annual UK tour,
which went great. I sold lots of CDs, gained fans, a working holiday, if you will. When I came back, I decided that if I can do that over there, there’s no reason I can’t do it here. So I started thinking about where I could tour. Music conferences were always fun for me because I love the networking, so I started applying to everything and booking shows wherever I had family and friends to crash with.

Looking back, I had a great year,
or at least a great few months of the year. Started off strong with the UK tour. When I got back, I got an honorable mention in the John Lennon Songwriting contest. Each month I had at least one trip planned. I was invited back to my Alumni college to play at Homecoming weekend. The following month I visited my family in San Francisco and played out there. I was also nominated for "Independent Pop Artist Of The Year" and my CD nominated for "Independent Pop Album Of The Year." I also got some accolades from Femalemusician.com.

In December, I headed to Austin to play a few shows. The new year brought accolades, saw me as a Hot 100 artist in Music Connection and Best Independent Artist from Femmusic.com. January was my big industry showcase where my new management company was going to show me off to all their contacts. I packed 120 people into a club on a Wednesday night and not a single contact showed. But it was fun.

In February, I went back to NY
and played at CBGB’s Gallery, where I had always wanted to play. I headed up to the Millenium Music Conference in Harrisburg and got stuck in the snow on the way to New Jersey. Plus another nomination from Just Plain Folks. March was SXSW which was amazing. Ended with a review in MC in March.

That was followed by four months of trying to get inspired to write new songs and being tortured by the fact that there was nothing going on. I was up for a Fox reality show, and actually did a few days of taping with them and everything, but it all fell through in the end. In May my manager and I parted ways. June I sprained my ankle and couldn’t do much for 2 weeks. July got an award from ASCAP.

Finally it was August and time to go back to Scotland, which again went well. While I was there I got a job offer. I took it.

I started the new job and did a lot of searching. I had taken my dream year off and gotten a lot accomplished, but in the end hadn’t written a single song and had completely run out of money. What was I missing? Maybe music just wasn’t for me. I had given it a shot and I wasn’t happy. My music wasn’t good enough, I was tired of promoting and doing press releases and people not coming out to shows and having to guarantee a draw. I was even sick of going out and supporting my friends who were doing the same thing. I had nothing to write about because I wasn’t living a normal life. I was frustrated and scared of what to do next, so I did nothing.

I stopped playing for a while
and did some of my own searching to find balance in my life. Took focus from the music, which had become my job, and looked at where I was socially, spiritually, and what I did for fun. I picked up the Artist’s Way, I started being more creative and treating myself better. I faced the fears of failure and repeating the same mistakes and made a commitment to myself to be kind and allow myself to do whatever I felt comfortable doing.

I found music again when
I started re-writing some older stuff. Then I wrote a brand new song that showed me I still had it. I realized that the whole year had me wrapped up in the business side music. I have always had an interest in it, and I’m good with the networking and relating to press and general schmoozing, but I let the craft suffer. In fact, I ignored the craft entirely. I did nothing to nurture the artist except put pressure on myself to produce from nothing. I also found that having a day job can be helpful if it’s the right one. It keeps you in the mindset of a regular person, so you can write songs about things that your regular people audience can relate to. If something isn’t working, step back and try something else. If it’s what you love to do, you’ll get back to it.

Also, it helps to have a plan. A very definite plan. So you don’t end up with four months of space where you don’t really remember what you did.

** Staying on track … not loosing focus … make every minute count! We like that. **

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Music Unions Local 1000 For Touring Musicians

Jamie Anderson Singer

Jamie Anderson is a singer, songwriter, comic, who’s toured since the 80’s, singing songs about food, sex and mama. She’s also taught songwriting and other music classes at Duke University, festivals and through arts organizations. Can be bribed with chocolate. "…solid songwriting and engaging stage presence." — Billboard

Music Unions – Local 1000

by Jamie Anderson

I know I’ve blabbed about my union here before but it bears repeating.

If you’re a touring musician and you’d like free legal advice, affordable health insurance, instrument insurance, a pension, and other bennies, you need Local 1000. If you’re a US citizen who plays in Canada, they can help you. Likewise, if you’re a Canadian who wants to play in the US. I have disability insurance for the first time in my life because of this union. And a pension! And it’s all affordable.

Sorry if I sound like a bad commercial but really, I can’t believe that more of you don’t belong. Maybe you have some of the fears I did before I joined. I’ll list a few and let you know the reality.

1. Fear:
I’ll have to make bookers pay me some ungodly union wage just to play. Reality: Scale wages are currently $220 for a large concert, $110 for a small concert and $70 for an opener. Does that sound like too much to you? And know that there are no union cops ready to bust you if they think you’ve played a large concert instead of a small one. You make that decision.

2. Fear
I’ll be buried in paperwork. Reality: I filled out ONE form to join. I file a simple monthly form to pay my pension. (I’m incorporated so I pay into my own pension.) A few times a year the union sends me a bill for my work dues.

3. It’ll cost too much.
I already make so little as a touring performer.Reality: It costs a one time fee of $100 US or $130 Canadian. Work dues are very reasonable. My last bill for work dues came to $56 and that was for two months. (You pay a percentage of your income so that amount does vary.)

4. Fear
It’s just a small bunch of disorganized musicians. Reality: Nope. I’ve never had a problem getting answers to questions. I once had a legal problem that got a response the next day. The union is affiliated with the AFM and AFL-CIO; very large unions.

5. Fear:
I don’t play music full time so I won’t qualify.Reality: You just have to be a musician who tours. Period.

I can answer questions but it’s best to read the website first. You can also talk to one of the board members. Their addresses are on the website.

And in case you need further incentive, check out who else is a member: Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, Ani Difranco, Janis Ian, Kim and Reggie Harris, Greg Brown, Pete Seeger, Ember Swift, Peter Yarrow, Laura Love, Tret Fure and many more.

** Our thanks to Jamie for reminding us of Music Unions and that they are a good option. **

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Money Managing Tips for Musicians Larissa Lam

Larissa Lam Female Singer

Larissa Lam is a singer, songwriter, music composer and TV host. Her voice spans the genres of jazz, pop, blues and rock.

On the Way Up – Making More Money for Musicians

by Larissa Lam

This is the first in hopefully many articles on money management for musicians. The focus is often on how we can make more money by booking more gigs, selling more CDs, working odd jobs, etc. However, one thing I have learned is that reducing expenses and planning your budget is just as important as increasing income. My goal is to give you simple tips in each article that will hopefully free up more time and money and reduce future headaches so you can be the artist that you’ve always wanted to be.

As the former Chief Financial Officer of NSOUL Records, Inc., a nationally and internationally distributed indie label, I had the dubious duties of reducing some massive debt and trying to keep money in the bank to pay artists, employees and irate bill collectors. I can happily say that after the first six months with the label, I was able to increase cash flow and put together a plan that got everyone paid.

I have the unique perspective of also being an artist so I understand that most artists just want to be artists and do not like dealing with the business side of things. However, the reality is that we are in the MUSIC BUSINESS. There needs to be an equal emphasis on the BUSINESS as there is on the music.

II. Article #1 – The Wisdom of Watching Your Money
You may say "Well, duh!" to some of the tips I’m about to give but you would be amazed how many people need to be reminded of what seem like basic principles. If you’re already putting these tips to practice, kudos to you. For the rest of you, listen up!

I now realize it was a blessing being raised by my very frugal-minded Chinese mother. For this first article, I will put forth some of my mother’s wisdom that has led to my financial stability. I will follow up in subsequent articles with expanded helpful tips for each morsel of wisdom.

Don’t Spend More Money Than You Have!
My mother never spends more than she has in the bank. Growing up, a bounced check was unheard of in my house and we rarely had short-term or long-term credit card debt. (More on credit cards in the next article.)

WISDOM #2 Know How Much Money You Have!
My mother is almost obsessive with knowing her bank account balances, especially before she has to pay a bill. Again, I realize this may sound very obvious, but honestly, how many of you balance your checkbook every month like you should? OK, I see not everyone is raising his or her hand. If you don’t know how much money you have in the bank you can’t make good decisions on how much money you can spend.

WISDOM #3 Save Money by Being Responsible.
In an industry full of flakes, it literally pays to be responsible. An example of this is paying your bills on time. My mother rarely misses a due date on a bill. Those pesky late fees plus interest can quickly add up. For example, a $35 late fee every month adds up to be $420 every year!

WISDOM #4 If You Don’t Need It, Don’t Spend It.
Every time I went shopping with my mother, I would hear that statement. That doesn’t mean you have to always go with the bare minimum. There are just many things that would be nice to have but are not necessary. For instance, an 8-page CD booklet for your indie album would be nice but is not necessary. The numbers speak for themselves, why spend an extra 30 cents a CD when 4-pages will do? That’s a savings of at least $300 for 1,000 CDs just on the print costs alone.

I hope these four "wisdoms" have been enlightening or at the least, I hope they have been good reminders about smart money management. There will be many more wisdoms and tips to share. Be sure to catch the next article, in which I will tackle "The Evils of Credit Cards and IOUs."

** Managing Money is tough for some of us. Thanks for the tips Larissa. **

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