Lesson #10 How To Find a Manager (or how to be one) (pt 3)

So far I’ve covered some scenarios where bands have ended up with a manager and talked about personality traits that are good in a manager. In most cases the possibility of a manager is one of the first serious issues that a band has to deal with outside of the band. This is often the first contract that a band will have to consider. It’s often the first of many relationships that can make or break a band. Is there a surefire way to have someone interested in managing the band. The answer is YES.

All you need to do is become a major national touring act and it’s certain that someone will step up and offer to take a cut of the money. Nice joke huh? Well in it’s essence it’s the key to all of the things I will be talking about in this blog. You have to work all of the different facets of being in a band to make the band grow. By grow I mean become more popular and increase the band’s ability to get a response from fans.

It is a band’s draw and popularity that will attract attention from a manager. In short your band must have a big buzz. For years I ran an indy record label and managed bands. I listened to thousands of demos. Let me correct that I listened to tens of thousands of demos. I found a few bands for my label through demos, I found more bands to produce and I found no bands to manage. All of the bands that
I decided to manage I first heard of through other people. It is very rare for an established manager to sign a deal with a band that is unknown.

I’ve had many bands ask me if they should send demos to management companies. They generally are talking about management companies that have large rosters of well known artists. These are the only management companies that are public enough to end up on industry lists of contacts. Smaller companies of one or two managers are never widely known outside of the record labels. So, think about it for a second. You send a tape to an agency that has 14 managers covering 60 bands. The tape may get listened to but what motivation does the large agency have to pursue this artist that is completely unknown? The answer is none. A large agency’s time is always better spent making more money for their client list or signing the hot new thing. So they may listen but they won’t sign you. That leaves smaller on or two person operations. They may very well be interested in developing a band or two. The problem here is that you will never find these companies without extensive contacts in the music business. (oops there’s that pesky who you know thing again) But there is one opening for bands – you may not be able to find them but they certainly can find you.

Through the years as I got more and more experience managing I looked further and further for acts I was interested in. That’s how I met Shelleyan Orphan an English band. How did I find bands? I listened to what bands fans were talking about. I listened to the buzz.

What is buzz? It’s the band’s story. The better and bigger the story the more substantial the buzz. OK let’s take a high school band as an example. What is this fictional high school band, The Turd Chompers, story.

Well, let’s see…. Oh yeah they played Jimmy McDonald’s keg party and the singer poured a pitcher of beer over one of the prettiest cheerleader’s head. Didn’t they make some tapes with that A/V dick that claims he has a studio in his dad’s basement? I also heard that they are playing at the school spring dance and the school paper is supposed to write about it……………

Now let’s try a brand spanking new Alternative band Big Toxic Blast… Hmmm this is a little easier…I saw they played the local venue opening for Chu Chu Rodriguez and that show was packed, how’d they get on that bill? I heard the drummer humps beer behind the bar on Tuesdays. Don’t they hang out at the Faghanistan Cafe with all the other artsy assholes? Someone told me that they are doing demos with that kid that’s starting a label… I see their posters all over. I heard that the Rum Swagglers are pissed ’cause their drummer split to jion that band. Isn’t the main guy some sort of druggy? It sucks that the paper keeps mentioning them . The review of the Chu Chu show said the opening set was rocking. That guy that writes all those reviews is an idiot he hated our latest CD…..

The buzz on a band that’s just about to move up to regional tours and, perhaps, the big time is a larger version of the same thing….We’ll call this touring machine Battleflag Pickup….Shit man did you see battle flag pickup is opening on both the Cornpone Festival and the first slot for Jeepers Creepers at the Marlybone Theater. They suck. There is no way that they can draw that much. I think it’s cause The Art Fart magazine got all excited over their newest release when it was featured for a day on I Tunes. What the hell man, it was only one week. Sanchez says he heard from George’s girlfriend that it was actually a mistake and that’s why it was only one week. And he said that their guitarist was acting big at the Guitar Graveyard, he bought both the sunburst 61 Paul and the Blue flame strat. That sucks because I put $50 down on that strat. It doesn’t matter since Rolph from Gnome army is probably gonna kick the stuffing out a him for stealing his girlfriend…….

Buzz is Buzz. It doesn’t matter if it’s high school or hollywood in many respects it’s the same. The main thing to notice is that someone is talking about the band. They are talking about the bands STORY. This is what promotional consultants do, they generate and define a band’s story. They then package it in a way that the press, radio, TV and the internet can repeat easily. What a band does onstage is part of creating this story. If you are unfamiliar with the early history of the band then here’s a link. Genesis They were led by Peter Gabriel who is a master showman. They combined theater with rock and were one of the early great bands that put on a show that was something that people talked about.

All of this brings me back to a manager. In order to get a manager you either have to recruit one from the circle of people you know and work with him to get him up to speed or attract one. If you want to go the route of luring one in then you need to do lots of the things that a manager would do for you, get press, get talked about on the radio, get gigs, get arrested…. As the band raises its visibility the chances are that someone will come out of the shadows to scout your band. Most bands that get signed are seen by industry people long before they realize it. Labels hire scouts and a good manager will always be asking around to find out which band is worth seeing.

Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

2 thoughts on “Lesson #10 How To Find a Manager (or how to be one) (pt 3)

  1. Brad thank you for the insight. The honesty in your video…top notch. I am not a manager…well I am one. I also am the Continuity and Production Director at cyberstationusa.com. I worked in major market radio for 15yrs. In this new realm I am developing my own track record. The band I manage (because I believe in them) well, the music is worthy of attention. There is also a filmaker making a documentary about the singer. This band is unique…futuristic. What do I mean? A singer and DJ. They dont want to be in same location all the time. In this new realm of screens and ipods etc., the rock star is a dying breed and needs new life. I have great music ,a movie being made IE: the rise of a rock star. My question to you….Actually I have two.
    1 Do you want to un-retire and help discover another act?
    2 How do I get past the intern? My job gets me thru but not (because I have no record with bands) the serious “listen”.

    • Hello Joseph,
      No, I have no interest in un-retiring. No I do not want to discover another band. I have done a great deal of that kind of thing and one thing I have learned is that discovering the band means all of the hard work is in front of you. I have turned down managing HUGE acts with few regrets so I have no hesitation to say to EVERYONE “thanks but no thanks”. This reminds me of a short story. About three years ago I was feeling kinda low so, in a moment of weakness, I decided to go out and discover a band. I started listening and poking around and by following some Buzz I stumbled on a NY GLam band that looked interesting. I went to see them play live, twice. Then I went a third time and wandered back stage. I introduced myself and told them I wanted to produce them. They did the “not interested” act. A few days later the bass player, who managed them, of course, it’s always the damn bass player, did some homework and called me. He started to feel me out. I invited the band to have dinner with me at my home. They showed up 7 hours late, acted like complete assholes. I figured they were nervous and when I got them in the studio I could terrorize them a little and maybe make a suitable recording. So I booked three days. I told them the deal which was quite fair. They acted “not so interested but agreed”. So the weekend in question comes and they decide they can’t bother to show up. So I wrote them off. Then the band decides they fucked up and start calling me and writing me daily for almost a year.

      A lifetime of idiocy like that has caused me to finally decide I will no longer “develop” bands.

      Your second question is more interesting. How DO you get through the interns and the junior A & R idiots? Good question. The answer is that you don’t. You go around them both figuratively and literally. Your question betrays an inner understanding of what it will take to get the band signed at a major. The way to get signed at a major is to have the President or head of A & R interested in your band. If you enter by any other route your chances of success are very small. Any other person at the label does not have the power to sign a band and more to the point does not have the power to stick with the band and decide to spend tons of money on them.

      Try to only deal with business people in the music business that are near to the top of whatever organization they are in. At a small indy label you are often dealing with the owner. This is much better than calling some turd in level 9 of megaplex records. The way to get signed to a major is to build your band up so they approach you. Stick with the people at the top of small labels and agencies. Talk to lawyers. Work all of them against each other to build buzz. Build it up in Podunk and then use that buzz as an intro to little city. Build it up in a few small cities and try to transfer that to a buzz in New York, or LA or Minneapolis. Take a buzz in New York and try to make it work for you in London. Use small unknown labels to build interest in small established labels. Be nice to all the underlings but only deal with the bosses and second in command. Keep in contact with everyone you meet. Always have a reason, a real reason to call and when you call always frame your conversation as “I thought I could help you/offer you this info/give you the advantage etc.”.

      One interesting techinique I used to build inside contacts was to play spy for labels that were on the move. I would find out who was being scouted and what labels were involved. I would work really hard to make sure I had the best solid info and then I would call up my “target” label cheif under another valid pretence. I would then dump all of the info he might be interested in his lap. Do that twice and he will always take your call. Always remember to a be a little cagey and withhold a few key things and tell them you are holding out since “I can’t break confidence with my source” or some such drivel. Business people can’t resist inside info on competition. If you play this game you must be careful. NEVER GIVE AWAY INFO ON THE PEOPLE YOU REPRESENT!!! EVER! When it comes to your act be silent as the tomb and only say what is absolutely necessary to get where you need to go. I will think further on your excellent question and I may ramble some more on it at a later date……………….

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