6 Essential Tools for Indie Artists

By W. Tyler Allen

Being a DIY musician in today’s industry requires, work and hustle — but it’s possible. Straight up, it’s completely possible to become a successful independent artist in today’s digital landscape. How exciting is that?!

You can make it, but like any profession or task, you need tools. Throughout my career working with artists and management teams, I find that there’s a lot of tools out there that are simply overlooked, or just not known about.

Here are some items to add to your “tool kit” to ensure that you’re marketing and managing your work properly.

1. First, The Things You Already Have…

I find that often in the music industry, we are signed up for certain memberships or use certain programs, but we really aren’t using them to their fullest potential.

For instance, did you know that TuneCore offers publishing administration services, for a small one-time fee? With this service  they actively assist in the process of getting your work licensed in TV and film.  This is just one of many services that your distributor can provide for you. Do your research, as there is plenty more!

Similarly, is your music registered under a PRO (performing rights organization), such as BMI or ASCAP? It really should be. A PRO is how to ensure you’re getting actively compensated for your work.

But did you also know that PRO’s also have workshops, networking events and even pitch sessions? While some of these may require some travel, your PRO tends to do more than just look out for royalties. For instance, many PRO’s will have music supervisor sessions, where a supervisor listens to pitches and considers your music for placement in TV and film.

Your distributor may also offer conferences, speaking series, or even concerts. Look into these events — and see how they can benefit you.

Research the tools you’re already using and see how you can ensure you’re optimizing them.

2. Buffer and/or HooteSuite

I believe that artists should tweet and post in real-time. Scheduling too much of your content can come off as impersonal. However, you also want a consistent presence. So I do recommend looking into scheduling programs such as Buffer or HooteSuite.

These are especially useful for when you’re touring or busy recording — however, I find them the most useful for certain “pieces” of content. A good content mix, which I’ve discussed before, is about 70% branding, 20% personal posts and 10% sales posts.

A scheduling tool can take care of those occasional promo posts, or brand building posts — so you can focus on simply interacting with others, and using your social channels as you normally would.

Buffer and Hootesuite are two of the more popular platforms, however, there exists dozens of similar outlets. I prefer Buffer as it automatically posts during your customized “peak hours”. So you simply schedule, and it posts automatically during times that are the most active for your follower-base. This feature is also optional as you can schedule whenever you’d like.

I also dig Buffer as it automatically pulls photos from links, where as with HooteSuite you have to manually insert the link.

HooteSuite, on the other hand has integration with Instagram, and if you’re a manager or agency, you can manage multiple accounts for free — and an unlimited amount for only $10 a month.

Regardless of how you go about handling your social media, a scheduler is key to having a solid content mix. It allows you to consistently have a social media presence even when you’re on the road, touring — or maybe just not feeling up to it that day.

Although, remember that you need to schedule a mix of content — so, re-share your videos, but also throw up new music you like, or local events you want to check out. Be dynamic — but also, with a scheduling tool, you can also remain consistent.

3. Canva

I always recommend an artist hires a designer for any kind of complex design campaign. This might be an album cover, or a banner for a website. However, images go beyond that — artists need visual content on their social media channels. Images always do better than text posts — so, little things like “Coming Soon” graphics, simple show reminders, or even graphics with your lyrics on them can go a long way.

However, these aren’t really worth investing in a designer, especially when tools like Canva exist. Canva allows for simple graphics, and also gives templates that include dimensions for certain social outlets, as well as text tools. It doesn’t have great “photoshop”-level editing functions. But it does allow you to quickly edit a photo, as well as add in lines and other tools to really create some compelling and simple social media (or blog) graphics.

I highly recommend you check Canva out if you need a quick image boost on your social media.

4. Boomerang

Boomerang is one of my secret weapons. Boomerang allows Gmail users to schedule emails — while this might seem like a small feature, it’s actually huge for artists who want to pitch press, but don’t have access to a professional email tool. Sure, you can use MailChimp for this, but email inboxes register it as as a “marketing” program, so it goes to a “promo” or even a spam folder.

To use Boomerang, first, I activate up Gmails “canned response” feature. This allows you to quickly pull up pre-written text without having to go and copy/paste. That way you can tweak a pre-written pitch, quickly.

(Note: Always tweak your pitch, state the writer’s name, tell them how you found their info.. make ’em feel special. This is key.)

Then, you simply go to the Boomerang icon, that now appears in your email window, and schedule it! You can schedule a certain amount a week for free, or for a small fee you can schedule a larger amount. It’s certainly worth the cost.

I even have access to major PR databases and scheduling programs, but I still find myself using Boomerang for the scheduling aspect. I simply feel that it’s easier to tweak the pitches in Boomerang, and make them more personalized towards the writer. Rather than just launching them all out in bulk.

This is also good for artists with small media lists, or who just want to send pitches out to a few key people before a launch.

Bonus Tips: Searching for writer emails? Use outlets like ZoomInfo for press contacts — another good way? Google ’em. Seriously, try searching a writer’s name and you’ll be surprised with how often you find some form of contact info.

5. Google Drive

If you’ve worked for any agency, start-up, or company with a lot of moving parts — you may be familiar with project management programs such as Slack, Trello, and BaseCamp. These are all great tools, and I’ve used them with a few labels — however, they’re only really necessary for large teams with numerous projects.

So… if you have an in-house PR team, booking agent, a designer, an inventory specialist and a manager — then sure, use these programs! But if you’re reading this, you’re likely a team of less than 5 folks and having project management tools may be a bit overkill.

While I’ve used these tools with large management teams and indie labels, most of my clients work directly off of Google Drive. Google Drive is just like Dropbox, though since it’s cloud base — it’s a bit easier to navigate and edit documents in real-time. Here’s what I use in Google Drive:

  • Google Drive Folders

Obvious, but great for separating out photos, PR documents, tracks, and organizational documents.

  • Google Sheets

This is my go-to tool for weekly status updates. I have columns for “Task”, “Status”, “Next Steps” and “Responsibility”. Then we work with the team (managers and/or artists) to fill out each item.

I also use Google Sheets to keep up with media lists, budgeting, track what writers I’ve pitched, venue contacts and more.

  • Google Docs

Another obvious but good tool is the Google Doc. Google Docs allow for one document to be shared with your team for collaboration. So, this could be a marketing plan you’re working on with your manager, or it could be a social media content calendar.

It’s a great tool to create a document, and have a team give insight and feedback.

6. Good Ole’ Fashion Knowledge.

Hey! I know you wanted some hacks and quick tips, but I can’t stress this piece enough. Simply, educate yourselves.

One of the largest ways artists step towards failure is by trying to rush success. This might be going broke paying for sketchy promo deals, or maybe just giving up because they aren’t seeing results soon enough. However, the real success comes in understanding the industry. It goes into knowing what makes a good pitch, how to network, what makes a good social media presence.

You might say, well — I can have a PR team handle that. Yes! But… how are you going to know if they’re doing a good job? How do you know if your manager is doing their par? If you don’t understand what goes into these two arenas, you can’t gauge their productivity.

Recently, I started offering musicians my Artist Launch Kit which, instead of blindly pitching on the artist’s behalf, I give them all of the tools they need to pitch press and operate their brand. This includes a series of pitches, an EPK, a custom media list, as well as a marketing plan.

However, it goes beyond working directly with folks like me. TuneCore’s blog has become a great resource for artists, same with HypebotSonicbids, and more. There’s also some incredible social media influencers out there who talk about music marketing (without trying to sell you something too often.)

Read blogs, connect and network with folks in the industry, education is everything, especially as our industry continues to grow.


w tyler allenAs a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more about Tyler Allen’s music consulting and background on his website here.

Building Your Team as You Build Your Career

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Eugene Foley – founder and president of Foley Entertainment, a full service music industry consulting firm and licensed entertainment agency.]

As the career of an artist evolves, so will their support team.   In the early days of someone’s career in the music business, they often have to handle all aspects of their career without help from experienced professionals. For the artists who are fortunate to have success, eventually their team will grow. That will allow the artist to focus on writing, rehearsing and performing, while their support team handles the business, financial, legal and marketing aspects of their career.

Let’s take a look at the most common team members and at what stage of someone’s career do they generally come onboard.

Level One

– Publicist & Radio Promoter
– Entertainment Attorney

During ‘Level One’ of an emerging artist’s career, the main focus is on songwriting, recording, tightening up live performances, creating marketing materials, building a web site and social media pages, and increasing the size of their fan base. Once those things are addressed, artists usually start reaching out to clubs and other venues to begin securing live performance opportunities.

During this phase of a career, an entertainment attorney can help an artist get important legal matters in place, including, but not limited to, matters related to copyright and trademark, drafting an inter-band agreement, setting up a business entity and other tasks along those lines.

The next team members to join are often a publicist and a radio promoter.   You can have amazing songs and a fantastic live show, but consumers have to find out that you exist. An experienced and well-connected PR firm and college radio promotion company can secure a tremendous amount of favorable exposure for your music, videos and live performances. They will target newspapers, magazines, blogs, regional TV Talk shows, college and online radio stations and anywhere else that would be willing to give you coverage and exposure.

In these early days of someone’s career, little to no income is being generated and what little may come in from music and merchandise sales and gigs is often just reinvested right back into the project.   So the artist has to wear many hats at this stage of a career before attracting an experienced manager or a booking agent.

Traditionally, managers and booking agents work on commission-based compensation with managers generally earning 15% to 20% and booking agents 10%. So unless a good amount of money is coming in, or serious major label interest in on the table, most top-notch managers and agents will not express interest.

So the artist has to guide their career on a day-to-day basis and turn to the entertainment attorney or a top music industry consultant for advice whenever needed. Most ‘Level One’ artists also book their own gigs at clubs, small theaters, colleges and local festivals. For those who are successful, graduate up and evolve into a ‘Level Two’ artist, help is on the way.

Level Two

– Publicist & Radio Promoter
– Entertainment Attorney
– Personal Manager
– Booking Agent

By the time the artist reaches ‘Level Two’, their publicist and radio promoter will have the buzz and leverage high enough to start targeting bigger press, bigger radio stations and large market TV talk shows.   By now the social media followers should be a high number and it’s time for the artist to get on the radar of top managers and booking agencies.

Once those two team members are added, the artist will finally have full-time help with the day-to-day operations of their career and begin securing well-paying gigs at respected, popular venues. Opportunities to tour with headlining major label acts may even arise thanks to the booking agent’s contacts and connections.

Quite a few artists and groups reach ‘Level Two’ and build a very respectable, long-term career and make a nice living doing what they love. The best of the best climb the career ladder one more notch and reach ‘Level Three’.

Level Three

– Publicist & Radio Promoter
– Entertainment Attorney
– Personal Manager
– Business Manager & CPA
– Booking Agent
– Music Publisher
– Record Company

By the time an artist reaches ‘Level Three’, several new team members join the mix, including a business manager, CPA, music publisher and a record company.   At this point, many artists add a commercial radio promoter to the team, while keeping the college promoter who has been onboard since ‘Level One’.

By this stage in someone’s career, they are touring globally, performing at venues that have a capacity of 10,000+ and selling a great deal of, downloads/streams, merchandise, and CDs/vinyl. Income is also coming in from their music publisher and numerous licensing opportunities offered to ‘Level Three’ artists.

The personal manager, attorney, business manager and CPA all work closely together to guide the artist’s career and the booking agent keeps the well-paying live shows flowing in.   A record company would be helping the artist record and market new songs and helping with financial support, especially in areas of publicity, promotion, marketing, advertising and tour support.

The artist would continue to focus on the creative aspects of their career and all of the team members are working like a well-oiled machine driving the project to the top of the charts.

An industry with a similar climb is baseball.   A baseball player starts out in youth leagues and the better players keep climbing the ranks through high school, college and minor league baseball.   As their career rolls along, they’re securing better trainers, more experienced coaches and managers, they’re adding new professionals to their team, such as an agent, nutritionist, physician and sports psychologist – along with marketing and endorsement executives. As a baseball player’s career takes off and they reach the major leagues, their needs change and evolve and so does their support team.

It’s the same thing in the music business. If someone has a great deal of talent, works hard, builds the right team, formulates a smart game plan and everyone is steering the ship in the same direction, they have a real shot to climb from ‘Level One’ to ‘Level Three’ over a period of time. Good luck on your climb!


Eugene Foley represents artists, bands, songwriters, labels, managers, producers, engineers and other industry participants. Clients have earned nearly 40 Gold & Platinum Records & three GRAMMY® Awards. Foley is the author of the acclaimed educational book, “Artist Development – A Distinctive Guide To The Music Industry’s Lost Art.”   He’s a frequent music biz expert guest on television and radio and lectures extensively on topics including artist development, marketing, music publishing and intellectual property. Foley offers a free music & career evaluation to all unsigned artists, visit: www.FoleyEntertainment.com.

September Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Expands Video Features, Partners With Hulu

It’s rare that a month goes by without some sort of news around the music streaming platform Spotify’s latest ventures. Last month, we reported on Spotify extending a test to U.S. customers that added videos to their playlists, specifically within its wildly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist.

This past month, Spotify rolled the feature out globally. The expansion was highlight by an exclusively-shot video for pop star Sam Smith’s latest ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ single. Included in 40 popular international playlists, this quick development one month from its initial testing shows that the company is feeling confident in the feature’s reception from fans. As MusicAlly points out, the expansion of this feature is notable as it highlights Spotify’s video strategy shifting towards playlists as opposed to original shows.

Speaking of original shows, Spotify has also expanded its marketing of premium subscriptions by partnering with another likeminded and innovative player in the media space, Hulu. The two industry disrupters have teamed up much to the delight of college students heading back to campus this semester by offering a bundled subscription package: just $4.99/month for Spotify Premium and Hulu’s on-demand streaming plan. Spotify already offers a $4.99 student special, but this bundling deal is sure to sweeten the offering for a lot of tempted college kids looking for entertainment on the cheap!

Between finding new ways to entice paying subscribers and expanding artist-friendly creative features that we’re seeing in their video strategy, all signs point to Spotify staying on course as an innovative leader in a space in which indie artists can earn more revenue. We already know that music videos continue to be a big part of artists’ marketing strategies, and this combined with college campuses being a breeding ground for new music fans gives artists all the more motivation to get creative in this space.

 

RIAA Reports Strong Growth in Music Industry Thanks to Streaming

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) dropped it’s 2017 mid year music industry review in September, and it turns out everything is coming up streaming! Not a huge surprise to most, obviously, but the numbers are definitely encouraging overall.

Comprising 62% of U.S. industry revenue in 2017 so far, paid streaming is now the largest contributor to the industry, a slice of the pie once dominated by digital downloads. In fact in just two years, that number jumped up from 33% in 2015 – while digital downloads accounted for 22% less this year, down to 19% from 41% in 2015.

Another less surprising point from this report is Spotify and Apple Music remaining ahead of the pack in terms of paid subscribers; but it’s important to note that paid music subscriptions overall grew in the U.S. to 30.4 million – a 50% jump.

Music to investors in the space’s ears? Probably. But the big takeaway for TuneCore and the indie artist community we support: streaming continues to grow among music lovers, giving artists more and more opportunities to get their music heard and discovered on the platforms we distribute to.

 

Australia’s Music Market Emboldened by Indies

A joint report by Deloitte and AIR (Australian Independent Record Label Association) dropped this month, revealing that Australia’s independent labels account for 30% of the country’s $400 million music market.

Always known for some its legendary independent labels and innovative music, Australia ranks #6 in the world music market share. Streaming accounted for 55.9% of digital revenues in 2016, up almost 30% from 2014-15.

While some indie artists may overlook the continent’s power in terms of music discovery, we here at TuneCore are celebrating the figures in this report – because whether it was an indie label or directly through distributors like TuneCore, this shows an encouraging trend towards independent music’s popularity.
Additionally, it’s a helpful reminder that when you distribute your releases worldwide, territories you might not personally visit or tour in can be viable when it comes to revenue and building a fanbase. Read the whole report here.

5 Reasons It Pays To Collaborate

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

They often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” but what does that actually mean? Sure, we all know the benefits of growing our own team to carry out our own vision, but what are the real benefits to working with others who don’t work for us?

In years past, as I tried to get former businesses off the ground, I had been approached many times to collaborate with other business owners. More often than not I said no, afraid someone else would cloud my overall vision or try to usurp whatever I was currently working on and take it for themselves. I also had bad flashbacks of school projects when group work meant me busting my ass and four or five others benefiting off of my all-nighters.

So I pushed ahead on my own.

After two businesses failed to reach their full potential, I realized it was time to get out of my own way and realize the potential of combining forces. It’s one thing to hire internally and have a team help execute your vision – in fact, it’s crucial – but it’s quiet another to work with someone else who is in your same position (the captain of their own ship), but who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.

Whether you’re a business owner or a songwriter, when it comes to true collaboration, it’s no longer about making your vision work, it’s about doing what works, period.

You don’t have to abandon your vision, but you do have to be open to improving it.

If you can trust that it’s just as important to have people who work with you as it is to have people to work for you then you can profit (in more ways than one) from these five benefits of collaboration:

1. Opens you up to a new or larger fan base: If you’re an artist who is trying to build their fanbase, positioning yourself to be a featured artist on someone else’s track or reaching out to share a stage with an artist who has already established a tour can get you in front of others who may not be familiar with you, but who are already primed to be potential fans of yours. Don’t stay up on other musicians as a way to “keep an eye on the competition,” but stay informed on who’s making moves as a way to keep an eye out for collaboration.

2. Opens you up to more prominent industry attention: Especially if you’re in the songwriting business, collaborating with another writer who already has the ear of industry decision makers can elevate your chances of getting their ear as well. That’s not to say you should only work with people who have reached a certain recognition – working with someone else who is on your same level can be just as beneficial. Not only are two brains almost always better than one, but creating something from two different perspectives can give your project the unique spin needed to make others listen.

3. Gets you a life long partner in this industry who has your back: Creating art is a very vulnerable process. Creating art with someone else can create an almost immediate bond. In an industry that can be very unforgiving, forming a close relationship with someone who can 100% relate to your specific position in the industry can be invaluable as you grow together.

4. Makes you better creatively and professionally: As I said above about not needing to abandon your vision, but being open to improving it, collaboration causes you to reflect on what you bring to the table and push further. A strong collaboration will force you to dig deep and put it all on the table. Much like an accountability buddy when trying to finish a task, when there’s someone to answer to you’ll try harder. On a professional note, knowing how to work with other personalities and talents is never a skill you should let get rusty.

5. Gives you a great story: When you bio is all about you, it becomes a snoozefest. Everyone loves a good love story in the movies, and everyone loves to hear how a song or project came together from a successful collaboration, especially if it’s an unexpected one. It gives you plenty of content to share and drip out as part of your promotional campaign. It makes cross-promotion a no-brainer, once again getting your work in front of a larger audience.

A little bit of skepticism with who you choose to let into your creative world is healthy, but paranoia or being overly controlling has never served anyone in the long run. Remember that in the end, it’s all about presenting your fans with the best version of yourself and sometimes it takes others to bring that out of us.

Here’s to making the dream work!

August Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Begins Testing Videos Within Playlists


It’s amazing to think about the progress that streaming platforms have made over recent years. Streaming itself was and is a groundbreaking way to listen to music digitally, but one can even point to the amazing influential powers of playlists as an example of how quickly the way fans discover music and engage with their favorite artist changes. Any independent artist who has been added to a higher profile playlist will likely be able to tell you about the positive impact it has on their career, too.

This month, Spotify – which also announced that it has surpassed 60 million subscribers – officially rolled out the inclusion of videos within its incredibly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist (it began testing this feature in March, as reported by MusicAlly). While this is only available in the U.S. for now, it marks another impressive step towards integrating new forms of content for fans to geek-out on. One could say this move also shows video giants like YouTube that Spotify can keep up with the demand.

Outside the realm of traditional music videos, this will be exclusive video content from various artists aimed at engaging fans in a less traditional manner: Spotify claims fans will be able to see everything “from 2 Chainz visiting Dr. Miami to assist him with a butt-lift surgery to Sza hanging out in the woods and talking about her rise to fame, or Wale getting a gourmet meal from a five-star weed chef”.

As this feature is sure to be rolled out further in the coming year, independent artists can see this continued commitment to playlisting as a positive. Getting placed on a playlist can be a powerful way to market your music to new fans, and the opportunity to include video content down the road only sweetens the deal. TuneCore always offers artists the opportunity to be considered for feature placements (with no guarantees, of course), and this facet of marketing and promotion should be implemented into their upcoming releases.

 

Nielsen Report Shows Interesting Millennial Music Consumption Trends


Tired of reading reports and headlines about how ‘millennials’ are eating, drinking, ruining industries, and interacting with the world around them? Too bad! But hey, at least this recent report by Nielsen actually pertains to folks – millennial or otherwise – making music and distributing to digital platforms.

Millennial music fans display “Lots of Love, Lack of Loyalty”, Nielsen says. The report touches on a lot, but when it comes to music, it appears as though fans in the 18-34 range are using multiple platforms to tune in with little regard for the brands fueling them. 57% of millennials are using two or more apps to stream music, compared to only 39% of those streamers over the age 35.

While it’s commonplace to bemoan the decline of terrestrial (and even digital) radio listening among this generation, figures around how much radio they’re dialed into have barely dropped since last year (10 hours and 14 minutes per week down from 11 hours and 17 minutes per week). An interesting thing to note, though, is that millennials are “21%more likely to frequently choose songs than to let the music play without making changes” – an obviously different listening experience from what broadcast radio offers.

As mentioned above – if you’re an artist distributing to popular streaming platforms, this is some must-read stuff. The report concludes that loyalty to platforms aside, “the reality of today’s media scenario is that the addition of new offerings has actually inspired increased consumption.”

 

YouTube Begins Offering In-App Messaging & Sharing


Tired of reading what those animals in the YouTube video comment sections have to say? Yeah, we all are. The good news is that YouTube has launched an exciting new way for fans to share their favorite content with their friends and chat about it without ever leaving the app. As streaming services like Spotify scale back their messaging offerings, YouTube hopes to inspire more sharing, discovering and private conversation while keeping folks in-app.

YouTube Product Manager Benoit de Boursetty says, “We think it’ll make sharing easier, faster and more fun on your phone… These shared videos all live in a brand new tab on your YouTube mobile app, making it easier than ever to catch up on videos your friends have shared or to show them a few of your own favourites.”

The demand for music on YouTube continues, and thankfully independent artists are offered a way to not only distribute properly but also collect sound recording revenue from the Google-owned giant. It’s not hard to believe that we’ll see a spike in sharing among dedicated users who might shy away from music-first platforms such as Apple Music, Deezer or Spotify. As an app that attracts less-than-active music listeners at higher rates, YouTube’s new features stand to make it a friendlier place for artists to share their new releases.

Being The Boss: Managing Your Manager

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Eli Ball, CEO of Lyric Financial. TuneCore and Lyric Financial partnered in April to bring artists TuneCore Direct Advance.]

 

As an artist your career is your business and you are the CEO. Before you begin protesting that you are an artist and you have a manager to deal with the business stuff, hear me out.

The music industry is full of so-called “professionals” who want to tell you how to be successful. In fact, many of them rely upon the assumption that you are not in charge, but make no mistake about it: you are the boss. While it absolutely takes a great and committed team to build a successful business, you as CEO are ultimately responsible (not your manager). Consider this: your manager is effectively the COO/CFO (chief operating officer and chief financial officer) of your business. As your COO/CFO the manager’s job is to execute your vision and be a trusted sounding board for your ideas. Sure, a good manager will bring you opportunities they think will advance your career – that’s their job. But remember, your manager works for you, not the other way around.

Here are some tips to help get you off on the right footing with your manager:

The Benefits of Having a Clear Vision

First, you need to define your vision for what you want to represent and accomplish as an artist. Be very clear about your goals and what you are willing to do and not willing to do in order to achieve them. Notice I did not use the word “comfortable”, since running a business is anything but comfortable. It’s challenging at every level of your being and the more success you have the more challenging it becomes.

By having a clear and concise vision that you’ve actually written down and discussed with your team, you save yourself from the directionless confusion so many artists fall victim to. It also gives your manager a clear idea of what you’re looking for and defined goals to achieve and to be measured by.

Be Aware That Your Career Needs Will Evolve As You Grow

There’s an axiom in the business world, that “the team you start with is not necessarily the same team you finish with.” In plain English, as you grow your career, the challenges you face at one level may require a different skill set from the one needed at the next level.

With that in mind, and setting aside for a moment the important issue of loyalty (to be discussed on another post), as CEO you need to be very comfortable that your manager can help you not only immediately, but is able and/or willing to adapt as your career grows. I am not advocating that you change managers whenever you hit a rough spot or the next level, far from that. However, as CEO you are responsible for making sure you have the right people on your team and the right people in the right roles (check out Jim Collins’ insightful book called “Good to Great” to learn more building a great team).

5 Fundamental Issues You Absolutely Need to Address

Regardless of your experience level and whether you have a manager or are considering hiring one, here are some basic issues you need to discuss with your manager:

  1. Does he/she clearly understand and share your vision and goals?
    As noted above, this is crucial for a successful long term business relationship. Of course, you need to really have a clear vision from the get-go to make the most of your artist/manager relationship, so if you don’t yet have that down pat, perhaps work on that first and find the right partner second.It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a one-time conversation. As your vision and goals evolve be sure that your manager continues to be in sync with you.
  2. Is there a fundamental level of trust and respect?
    How do you measure this since trust and respect are built over time? In the beginning, it boils down to personal chemistry. Do you feel comfortable with this person managing your business and representing you? Do your homework. Research their background and check industry references, education and training to determine whether their skill set will be additive to you and your team.If you already have a manager and it isn’t working, you need to ask yourself why and address the issue(s). Then trust your gut. In the end do your best to make the right decisions and if it turns out to be wrong, correct the mistake.

 

  1. Do you communicate well?
    Your relationship with your manager is the most intimate business relationship you will have. It’s a two way street. You both need to be able to speak honestly and without reservation on any topic. You will need to strategize together, support each other, constructively criticize each other and hopefully congratulate one another on mission accomplished. As an artist you are responsible for writing, recording, promoting your music, touring on the road, as well as keeping an eye on your business, i.e. – You’re busy as all hell! It is critical that the two of you can communicate almost telepathically and regularly. Make sure to put some strong systems in place that respect each of your personal styles, withstand busy schedules and changing time zones.

 

  1. As CEO what level of detail do you want to be involved in?
    Like a producer who manages the recording process in the studio, you need to be clear what you want to be involved in and just as importantly what you don’t. This is not a one size fits all template, since like a producer you organize your team to work fluidly with your personal style, strengths and weaknesses. Are you a delegating leader or do you like to be in the weeds on day-to-day decisions? What frequency of reporting and level of detail works for you? When are you able and ready to process business information given your responsibilities as an artist?Before any unnecessary confusion and frustration arises, you and your manager need to be in agreement on this issue. Expect to have to revisit this frequently. Your business is dynamic and constantly evolving. As such, the amount of information and decisions to be made increase with the growth of your career.

 

  1. What is your business plan?
    Assuming you and your manager are in sync on the previous four topics, a formal written business plan on how as a team you are going to execute building your career is absolutely critical before you take another step. This is the road map that will guide you towards achieving your vision. What tools and resources will be needed for touring, recording, promotion and administration? How do you plan to fund each part of it and manage the cash flow? Are you selling rights to your songs or recordings to raise capital? Taking on investors? Bootstrapping it, using one source of revenue, say touring to pay for the recording? Or a combination of all three?Keep in mind that a business plan is not set in stone rather it is an evolving document that provides a clear rational guide for your career journey at each step. As you face challenges and opportunities it will need to be modified. But having a clear well thought out map to begin your journey beats the hell out of flying by the seat of your pants, simply reacting to external factors rather than proactively dealing with them.

I hope this helps give you some perspective and a common sense guide to managing your career. Best of luck. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so stay true to your vision and learn to smell the roses along the way. It definitely makes for a more fulfilling life.