Billy, please tell us exactly what it is that you do.
Billy: I spend about 60% of my time working with agents, getting
breakdowns of new auditions and trying to convince different clients and
representatives that my talent are the ones that should go on the
audition or fill the job. The other time is spent listening to new
talent that I might be interested in managing either in person, on cd or
on video tape. I love all sorts of performers. I keep in contact with
my existing talent and their managers via phone, email or in person. I
offer suggestions, look at videos and listen to tapes and CDs of their
Billy why does a new artist need a manager or agent?
Billy: A manager works with many agents. An agent will work with talent
and clients. A manager usually does not work directly with the
clients. A manager can offer a more hands on approach to career
development. Agents book jobs.
What is the process of finding a manager Billy?
Billy: A new artist can use a manager to really get started. There are
so many well connected mangers that can really open doors for a new
talent. However a manager gets paid by a percentage of money earned by
the performer. Therefore 20% of nothing is still nothing. That is why
a manager will not take on talent that he/she can not see potential
earnings for in the future. Managers and agents are never paid fees in
advance, they earn money as a percentage of future earnings.
What would you tell to an aspiring artist who lives in a small town with no
connections to the music industry Billy?
Billy: The internet can be a real help to talent living in small
isolated towns. They can upload their music to various sites like
mp3.com. These sites are monitored by various A&R reps from different
record companies. They can go to sites like the Music Connection site
and leave a free classified ad seeking out a manager. They can also
contact their state Bar Associations about obtaining lists of
entertainment lawyers that might refer you to qualified managers in your
area. Entertainment lawyers are good sources of information. Music
Connection magazine also publishes a list of managers every year who
will accept unsolicited materials from new artists.
What advice would give an artist making a demo Billy?
Billy: A demo is an artist's business card to the industry.
Unfortunately a demo is an expensive item to record. If possible the
artist should team up with a songwriter or producer who is also seeking
to show what they can do with their songs. Check out songwriting sites
on the web and request new producers or songwriters to get in touch with
you about recording a demo. Check with your local university about their
recording studio and ask at your local music store about anyone who has
a home studio that will keep their costs down. Expect to pay about $500
a completed track. It can run to way more than that too. Try to record
original music if possible. If you need background tracks and have no
original music, check out good karaoke music without the lead voice.
Never record a demo with the radio or singing along with a cd of your
own. You'd be amazed how many like this I have received. Never pay
anyone to shop your demo. Nothing will ever get done. It is OK to
promise to pay someone a percentage of your future earnings to shop the
deal, but no money other than that. If they can get money up front why
should they try to do anything with your demo. RUN!!!!!
Are there alternatives to having a manager Billy?
Billy: An artist can manage their own career for a long, long time. A
manager comes into play when an artist has a recording contract or other
source of income. (remember the 20% of nothing rule). Moms and Dads do a
great job of looking after their kid's business affairs. Don't discount
yours until you've outgrown their help and exhausted their patience. And
of course when 20% is something.
How does a performer get a record deal Billy?
Billy: It is mainly talent and a lot of luck. If you are a band, put
together a few songs, rehearse them well, and then start playing at
local concert venues. You can book yourself into these venues by sending
them tapes of your band playing, and a press package with a photo and
your band's history.
With some luck, along the way you will get to know some music industry
people. If they really like your music, they will connect you with the
right A&R people (these are people who actively goes out and looks for
talent to sign to a record label).
It is also very important to get a good manager. A good manager will
have all of those contacts in the music industry, and know A&R people. A
lot of management companies also hold open auditions for bands and new
Check in your local newspapers or trade magazines such as Variety and
Backstage for auditions.
What does a record company do for an artist Billy?
Billy: A record company basically acts as a bank, a salesman, a
cheerleader, and a post office for the artist. Once signed to a label, a
record company will loan the artist the money to record an album,
develop you as an artist (ie: dance classes, voice classes), and support
your promotional and concert tour. In the meantime, the label is also
working to get your album in record stores, and coming up with ideas on
how to market you and your music.
After everyone has figured out what songs will be on the album, the
artwork, your image, your hit single, etc. the record label then hooks
up with a distribution company to get your CDs in all of those stores.
One thing you must remember: All of the costs that goes into recording
the album, developing you as an artist, artwork, tour support must be
given back to the record label! This is what the industry call
Recoupable Costs. In other words, the record label will give you all
this money to do all these things in advance, but once your album starts
selling, they are going to recoup the amount of money they loaned you
from the album sales until they are fully paid back. Essentially,
everyone gets paid with the money that is made from album sales: the
record company, the publishing company (people who wrote the songs),
your managers, your agents, etc. and you will all get a percentage of
the record sale.
What advice Billy would you give a newly signed band or singer?
Billy: Take some business classes! A lot of artists who are really
talented have no business sense at all, and they are usually the ones
that gets screwed over by their managers, accountants, and yes, the
record labels. It is very important that you know exactly where all your
money is going to, what percentage of the album's profits will go to you
as a performer and as a publisher, how many albums you are contracted to
make with a record label, etc.
Also, keep yourself humble. Nobody likes an artist that is full of
themselves and thinks that they are the best thing that's ever happened
to music. That kind of attitude has made an artist less popular in more
cases than I can count.
How does someone know what a record label is looking for?
Billy: This is a tough question. A record label is always looking to set
the trend in music. They don't usually look for something that already
exists. With that said, however, labels do go through periods of time
when they sign an act that is very similar to what is already out there
and making a lot of money (i.e.: Backstreet Boys were doing so well that
there was enough room in the market for another band like them - 'N
Sync"). But usually these trends do not last, and pretty soon, people
get tired of the same type of music and they want something new.
Basically, if you believe in the type of music you are making, then
don't change yourself. Don't change your style or your music to suit
what you think the rest of the world will like - because they haven't
heard your music yet, and you might be exactly what people are looking
for in music!
Record labels are also looking for artists that have a great personality
and trend sense. This is what they call the "package." If you have a
great voice, or play an instrument really well, but on top of that you
are energetic, good looking, and very confident, it makes you more
likely to be signed than if you are negative and arrogant.
Can an artist distribute their own music Billy without a record label?
Billy: Yes! A lot of artists have been doing that these days. If you can
fund the production of your own albums, and have enough cash to pay for
a tour, you can book your own tour dates in your local area, sell your
CDs at the venues, and take home all the money! Plus the venue will
usually pay you a percentage of the door charge.
Another way you can distribute your music is through the Internet. If
you have already established a large enough following, you can set up a
website, and sell your own albums through your website, and that way you
don't have to share your money with anyone except yourself!
© 2001 Billy Tweedie