[ Ray Charles “Lonely Avenue”]
Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010
So now I’ve looked at some anecdotes of how some bands came to be the proud owners of a manager. I’ll look at it a little differently now.By management I mean a whipping boy, designated asshole, dreamer of crazy schemes, loser that gets to hang around with the stars, parasite that sucks the band dry and the glad handing salesman that a band has to tolerate. Managers, good and bad are all of these things. The description is based solely on whether the band is going up, down or sideways.
Yes, a band can manage itself. It’s rare that it’s done correctly and usually a band managing itself translates to one of the girlfriends doing all the work and getting shit for it.
[Jimi Hendrix”Crosstown Traffic”]
Managers may very well be parasites but they do not kill off their host. Bands that have managers on the whole do better than bands that do not have one. Someone has to do the business and promotions end and a pro, in my opinion, is always the best.
[Thelonious Monk”Ugly Beauty”]
So how does a band get a manager?
1. Look around the SCENE that you are part of, if you’re not part of one then you should correct that error. Look at small time promoters, big fans that are also accountants (that’s how The Pixies met Ken), College station DJs, fanzine writers, bouncers (Zeppelin’s Manager was rumored to be a small time collector of cash for jukebox companies), bartenders etc. Look for two things. A head for business and honesty. That’s it. A Manager doesn’t need much more. Being a hard worker will come automatically or he’ll wash out. The job is always busy, busy, busy. They must also love your band.
I will be outlining manager tricks, techniques and methods in later blogs. The bottom line is that some of the best managers start out as a buddy of the band and then grow into the position. Make sure if you go this route to give the person plenty of time to sort out their job – six months to a year. You got to let him make some mistakes that’s part of learning. After a predetermined time period then look hard at what’s gone down. Has the band moved up? Talk about moving up means nothing. Be brutal. If they can’t cut it fire them. Make sure that you have a contract and it allows the band a way out after six months to a year.
[The Clash “Brand New Caddillac”]
A good trick is to talk two people into being a management team. Sometimes these work beautifully. The usual outcome is one of the two eats the other one alive. This is a good thing. It shows which shark to employ. If you hire an amateur make sure that he agrees that you will be his only act for at least the first year. After that time if he doesn’t pick up someone else then he may not be a good manager. Any manager worth twelve cents is being constantly to manage new bands.
(I’ve had over a dozen requests since I started this blog)
2. If you have any kind of label deal have the label solicit pro managers. This will make more headway than a band trying to contact them directly. Remember all managers ARE NOT LOOKING FOR NEW ARTISTS EVER. Their roster is always full. Yet, miraculously, they will find a slot for your band if you convince them that your rocket is about to leave orbit.
If you speak/write/fax/contact via talking drum a real manager YOU MUST TALK ABOUT HOW POPULAR YOU ARE AND THAT YOU ARE THRILLED WITH THE PROSPECT OF SOMEONE TAKING 15% OF YOUR ASS. A band that is defensive and cagey about money makes a manager very nervous. This is why managers always work out deals where they get paid as the band gets its cash.
Here’s a story to back this up. I saw a band open for the Figgs. They were called Super 400. They sounded like an updated version of the 60’s supergroup Cream. To make it better they were decked out sixties outfits that were way over the top. The bass player was a hot woman with ass length blue black hair that played the bass like James Jamerson. I was hooked.
I started to talk to them about a deal. They immediately got evasive and get bringing up the fact that the drummer’s brother was Lenny Kravitz’s bass player. According to their version of reality he just had to ask for a major label deal and they would have it. I told them to have the brother manage them. Well, of course, he was so busy…. I went round and round. Finally they agreed. Then they started to fight about my cut. I’m a manager and I’m thinking I’m gonna make you a huge pile of cash and you’re gonna weasel me out of my share?!
[The Clash “Hateful”]
In a moment of Adult Onset Stupidity I continued to talk to them. They very cleverly maneuvered me into setting up a showcase for a label before they had actually signed the deal. I very cleverly knew that this is what they were doing and had my own plan. I figured that a showcase cost me nothing other than a few calls and an invite to an A & R guy. They, feeling that their pants had grown awful tight, DEMANDED to have a list of the people were going to attend. I, of course, refused. If they wanted me to prove that I “knew some guy in the music business” I would go through with the charade.
I set the showcase up in a small club in the East Village of New York. They acted as if they wouldn’t play the showcase and in general acted like horse’s asses. It’s interesting to note that it never occurred to them that I had set up a gig in the middle of the afternoon in one of NY’s hotspots. The owner had agreed to open early and BRING IN STAFF. Had they had any smarts they might have wondered how I had arranged with two days notice that a nightclub would open two horus early and would be waiting for the band with waitresses, bartenders, soundman and bouncers. Gee, what did Brad tell the owner of this nightclub?
I had played the band’s demo to the VP OF A & R for Warner’s music. I had told him truthfully that I had come to him first. He loved it. He told me if they didn’t shit themselves on stage we had a deal. He trusted ME to know what was hot. He asked one thing. Give him first shot. Don’t turn it into a bidding war for the band’s contract. He’d pay big but he wanted to avoid some kind of sick payout on a band that had nothing other than a good manager that had a great track record. Of course the band didn’t know this. They didn’t wonder about the club. If they had they might have figured out something was up.
Now I knew that Warners were the band’s dream label. I also didn’t have a signed deal. This gave me one option, A private showcase. I told the band that they would be playing for a few writers and maybe a real A & R guy if we were lucky.
[The Band “The Weight” My current fav]
So I arrive in a chauffeured town car with the VP of A & R for Warners. We walk in the club and the bar is packed with the stoney faces of every A & R scout, wanna be scout, junior A & R rep and indy label A & R guy in New York. The VP of A & R glared at me. Three of the guys sitting at the bar worked for him and were so far down the food chain that they had only met him once or twice.
“What the fuck is this? Some kind of sick joke?” He turned on his heel and stormed out. None of the people left in the room had ever signed a band. None of them had the power to sign a band.
The band, being much smarter than me had told the drummer’s brother about the showcase. The drummer’s brother being much smarter and better connected than me had told the band that they shouldn’t sign with me and that he would get some real A & R guys to see the band. This would result in a deal. He, of course, had never signed a deal for himself or anyone else. The news that I had set up a daytime showcase in a hip club was enough to set the jungle drums throbbing.
I’m not sure if the VP of A & R has ever forgiven me. He has continued to answer my calls. Much more slowly than in the past. Since Adult Onset Stupidity is incurable I went on to sign the band to a management contract. I managed them for one calendar year. The whole time I represented them they continued to argue with me that the drummer’s brother’s advise was much better and he wouldn’t rip them off. In the first three months of my contract I produced a record for them and then signed them to Island Records. After a year of constant battles and efforts by the band to keep me from earning any money from them I dropped them. They were mystified by my actions.
[The Feelies “The Last Roundup”]
They hired the almost famous brother to manage and produce for them. A short 7 years later they released a self released EP. They still sell out a little nightclub in Troy NY. They are the only band in the area that has ever been signed to a major label deal.
Ok more on techniques to attract and keep managers in the next section. I hope to have that online by Wednesday evening……stay tuned………….