Somewhere in the litany of people they thank, the stars and standouts in the music industry usually give a shout-out to their managers or agents when accepting an important industry award.
Why is that? The artist’s people are just doing what they’re paid to do, right?
Yes, that is right. But what they are paid to do is a huge job: Get an artist from the middle of the pack to the pinnacle and keep them there. Sometimes that’s ensuring the artist’s career continues on an upward trajectory by signing the right bookings in the right venues at the right time. Other times, it involves all the logistics that make for a successful tour.
In short, agents, managers, media teams, and other members of the retinue are vital to increasing a performer’s marketability, securing work, earning more, and keeping their careers headed toward that prize podium.
Connecting with the right talent pro is more difficult than it sounds.
Having star-potential talent is part of the equation. But there are hordes of performers in your category that have plenty of talent. That means you are in a fierce competition for the agents and managers who can make a qualitative difference in your career.
Money is also part of the calculus. Agents get paid a percentage of your income, and if a potential rep doesn’t think your sound and style will produce the big pay days, you might have to settle for the B-team until you start closing in on A-quality contracts.
Managers and public relation types typically get paid on a retainer basis, which means cash up front. That means you’re betting your cash on the chance they can move you up in the profession.
(Agents and managers fulfill different but related functions. Learn more at “5 Differences Between Agents and Managers” posted from Romano Law.)
Like other creative endeavors, agents, managers, and promoters typically specialize in a genre, and the best go after trend-setting talent, so that narrows your field of prospects. Given the competition, it might sound like securing the right people is impossible. Not quite. It’s difficult but not impossible.
Try these proven strategies for finding talent pros and start making beautiful music with them.
You never know when you’ll meet the right people. Be ready!
Digital business cards have a cool factor that printed cards don’t. Plus, they’re easier to handle and much less likely to end up in a drawer with the ones two thousand of your competitors have handed over. Digital cards live on your mobile device. Touch the home screen icon, tap in the contact’s information, and—boom—your info is in the prospect’s smartphone. You can get one made on a freelance site like Fiverr inexpensively.
Website builders like Wix or Squarespace let you click-and-build an online presence using templates. Or they’ll custom-design one if willing to invest in a uniquely you website. A good website should feature or link to your performance videos, provide a calendar of upcoming performances, your music resume, and contact information. It’s key to also use a personalized domain; your URL is a reflection of brand so invest in one. They’re cheap.
Make sure your voicemail message is professional. It’s okay to make it fun or creative but avoid sarcasm or trite messages like “I’m probably taking a nap right now so catch you on the flip flop.” Talent professionals want to work with other professionals and that should be reflected in your voicemail.
It worked for Justin Bieber, and it might help—it certainly can’t hurt!—you. Post your best music and performances to your social media channels; your B-material won’t get it done if you hope to work with top professionals. Consider your collective posts as a demo reel. When you come into contact with a professional, you’ll be able to forward them a link to the respective post.
Work toward growing your viewer/subscriber base on your social media channels. Who do think will impress an agent more—an artist with 10 subscribers or one with 10,000? You might never get to those lofty numbers, but each follower you add is another step toward the promised land. So, post regularly. Include performance updates, commentary, and be sure to reply back to people who post comments. This kind of attention shows your responsiveness to your audience but also your commitment to going the extra mile to market yourself. Talent professionals want to work with eager, enthusiastic performers. It makes you more marketable and their job easier!
Pro tip: Follow agencies and individual talent professionals on their social media channels as well. Don’t just “like” their posts. Comment on them. Stand out through your consistent interaction.
Music Conferences & Events
Networking is key to marketing yourself and an ideal place to find industry professionals is at music-related conferences and events. While technology has revolutionized the music industry, it’s still a people business. One of the most recognized conferences is SXSW held annually in Austin, Texas, but do some research online to find different events closer to home if extensive travel isn’t an option.
Another great way to connect with talent professionals is through organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and the Recording Academy. Again, talent professionals are often members and/or affiliated with these groups. Do some research and find out how you can become more involved, which may provide opportunities to work with these talent professionals directly.
Be advised, however. The virtual world is every bit as competitive as the offline. Every singer, musician, and band that’s in your genre can access your targets as easily as you, so avoid a “one and done” approach. Don’t just register, then sit back and wait for the gigs to come. Treat these resources as one tool in your arsenal without neglecting the others.
Chances are you already are. But are you performing where talent professionals go? Open mic nights provide a great opportunity to meet talent hunters. Another great place is fundraisers—contribute to charitable causes by offering to perform for free. While there’s no guarantee the people you are looking for will be there, industry professionals are often involved in charitable causes and the exposure could be beneficial. Worst case scenario—you help a worthy cause and paying it forward is a good business practice, not to mention personally rewarding.
Word of mouth is still the best and most cost-effective means of marketing yourself. Talk to other performers and find out who is representing them. If it seems like a good fit, ask for referrals. Remember that when someone refers you, they’re putting their own reputation on the line. Always be respective, professional, and gracious.
Note that if you find talent professionals quickly and easily, you either have lottery-winning luck or they may not be as professional as they’re leading on to be. Be aware of scammers, hustlers, and outright con artists. Always vet these people. Find out who their other clients are, ask for referrals, look them up online. Even if you’re introduced to a well-reputed agency—always ask questions to make sure your goals are aligned with the respective industry professional and vice-versa. It doesn’t mean you’ll agree on everything, and in fact you may find yourself defaulting to their experiential wisdom, but you should be on the same page in terms of your overall career objectives.
Talent only goes so far. There’s simply no substitute for hard work, tenacity, and professionalism. Using the suggestions we’ve provided should help facilitate your objectives in connecting and working with industry professionals who can help build your career and amplify your success.