Since we founded HELLO STAGE all musicians asked us how they could find a manager. Young musicians hoped that managers could bring them engagements. Established musicians wished for a new manager to boost their careers. Musicians pin their career hopes on management.
First of all, let us get back to reality. As we have written in our book, Be Your Own Manager, only 1% or less of professional musicians actually have a manager or agent. This means that you will most probably be on your own managing your career. Even if you are not happy about it, face the fact.
Secondly, unfortunately, too many teachers leave their gifted students in the belief that a manager will take care of the business side of their careers. Again, the facts speak for themselves.
This strong desire to find a manager or agent is widely known. It, therefore, should not come as a surprise that some people see this as a business opportunity. Selling hope is still one of the best sales arguments. Just think of the flourishing business of miracle doctors. VAN Magazine wrote about one such person in one of its latest articles. The journalists researched in detail the business practices of Xenia Evangelista. The article should be required reading material for any musician.
Unfortunately, Xenia Evangelista is not the only one. We know of several so-called “managers” and “agents” who employ similar business practices. As appalling and unethical these practices might be, they are mostly not illegal. As a musician, you enter voluntarily into a contract with another person. As long as both sides keep to the agreement it is a valid contract.
What should you therefore do?
- When approached by someone calling themselves agent or manager, do your due diligence. Are they real managers or not? Check the Classical Music Artists database if the person approaching you is listed or not.
- Not all agents or managers are listed there but the majors are. If they are not listed speak to people on their roster to see if they are happy with their representation or not.
- When you receive a contract from the manager, read it and use common sense. If you are not sure, ask a business person, or better a lawyer. You also might find the Code of Practice of the International Artist Managers’ Association (IAMA) helpful.
- If you are asked to pay a monthly fee make sure it is clearly stated what you pay the fee for.
There are good and legitimate managers who might ask you for a monthly retainer. The question is what it is for and if it makes business sense for both.
You can also do a simple calculation. Take the example of Xenia Evangelista as written in the VAN article. According to the article she had 37 artists listed on her website. Let us assume that all of them paid the same retainer of EUR 350 as at least some had to pay. That would provide the company with a monthly income of EUR 12,950 from that income stream. That sounds a lot.
But wait, if the company has ten employees and an office, it is actually not much. It would not even cover the monthly operating cost.
In any case you should agree on clear goals and define milestones. These goals should e.g. include a minimum number of engagements in the next 12 months and/or a minimum total fee income for you within 12 months. Be realistic when setting such goals. Building up a career takes time. And good managers are not magicians but hard workers. Still having these goals, revisiting them, changing them when necessary, and even stopping the collaboration is good business practice.
The black sheep out there should not divert from hardworking and successful managers who work in close collaboration with their artists. But it should make every young artist aware that there are enough people out there trying to sell them hope. Be careful, do your research, and stay professional.
All comments and thoughts to this as to any posts on HELLO STAGE are the private opinion of the respective author of the comment or thought.