By David Lowry
Many times when we read about money in the entertainment business, it’s from the perspective of what the artist makes. Most articles center on how artists are taken advantage of and that the “business” people are just greedy jack asses who do nothing for their money. Well for this blog we are flipping this point of view to that of the business that is putting everything on the line for the small artists that have no money, no fan base, have been gone so long that you have to basically start over or not enough tour dates to pay anyone for their time.
When an artist brings on a team member such as a manager, booking agent or PR consultant the artists considers it “hiring” this particular team member or members. Well if you aren’t paying the team member what his or her hourly fee or retainer is and your average show guarantee is say less that $2,500 per, then you haven’t “hired” anyone. What has happened, is the team member believes that artist is worth the extra work and lesser amount of pay at least for a short while unless the artist isn’t building up their business. If the artist isn’t building their business, then the team member will look elsewhere for it’s cash flow so it can stay in business. Making a small percentage of a tiny door deal where the artist can’t get 30 people into a room let alone sell it out is not enough money for anyone to survive on. Now most of the time, an artist like this doesn’t need any team members, but let’s say that an artist was lucky enough to find someone to help them in spite of the lack of fan base, gigs or cash flow behind them.
First off, if the artist is tiny and not established, then the artist needs to be realistic and know they are not going to get the bulk of the team member’s time. If the team member is working as hard as they can with what they have, then they expect the artist to do the same. That means everyone who gets on that stage and plays is responsible to work as hard as they can. Not just one of the band members. I know with my business, we make it abundantly clear before anything is signed, that if the artist doesn’t work as hard as we do then we will let them go. There are no guarantees in this business and we don’t want to waste time with artists that don’t work every inch of their career to the max.
What does this mean for the artist? It means that the artist needs to promote every show as much as possible in every form of media possible as much as they can. It means that they need to make sure that they sell as many tickets as possible so that everyone is making more money for the amount of work the artist isn’t already paying them. That means texting if no shows up, it means emailing last minute, it means having a superior social media campaign etc… this especially important for your booking agent to make money but also to be more effective in getting you better gigs. It means making sure you sell more merchandise at every show by being proactive and manning your merch booth, walking the venue with your product to sell. Engaging the crowd the whole time you are there. It means that understanding your job isn’t done until the bar is closing down. Once you get off the stage, you don’t head to the bar and drink. You work the crowd the whole night. These are your working hours. This is your opportunity to make the money you are complaining about that you don’t make. Your team can’t do this for you but it is why they work so hard to get you in this position. This is your time to shine.
This also means making sure your merch is in good shape. No crappy stickers, no broken plexi-glass holders, no pens that don’t work. Your merch area should be professional, clean and able to showcase your products and band to it’s utmost. It means always having a cash box with cash for your shows after we have told you a million times. It means having a checklist for your shows so you don’t forget anything after we have told you a million times. This is common sense stuff that for some reason has to be repeated over and over again. Eventually, we just quit telling those artists that just don’t care enough to make it happen.
I can’t tell you how many times an artist hasn’t paid our commission or fees to us but still expect us to work on their career. Has asked us to take less then our fee so they could make more. Has complained that because they knew someone at the venue they shouldn’t have to pay us what the contract states even though we booked the gig and the artist had nothing to do with it. Have made us push dates back time after time so we work three times as hard to just get paid way down the road. Has demanded we pay them the day of the gig but is always late paying us. If you aren’t paying us what the contract states, if you haven’t busted your ass for every second trying to get as many tickets sold or sell as much merch as you can, then you we don’t work for you. You haven’t hired us, you lied to us about how hard you were going to work and that you were going to do whatever it takes. Do you go to your day job and let them tell you they don’t want to pay you as much because they can’t afford it? Do you go to work everyday expecting to not receive a check? Do you go to work every day to work for free? Don’t you go to work every day expecting the company that “hired” you to be able to grow their revenue to pay you your salary? Well guess what, we expect the same from you.
We aren’t going to babysit artists anymore that can’t get their business together. This isn’t the old days when contracts were huge and everyone had money to throw at an artist so the team actually made good money. It’s a new day, a new age in the music business and it’s harder than ever for your team members to make things happen for you. They aren’t going to do it for free, they aren’t going to “just believe in you,” especially since we see how most artists don’t have the work ethic needed to make this happen today we aren’t going to do it for a discount and we aren’t going to spend vast amounts of time on an artist that can’t sell 10 tickets on average per show.
You see, businesses like ours project how much income they see coming based on what the artists have coming in from bookings, deals, retainers and the like. If the artist arbitrarily decides it doesn’t want to pay, wants to pay less (which happens all the time) or constantly cancels dates or pushes them back, then it puts the team members in a very bad position and they aren’t going to work as hard on you and it makes you unprofessional. You are now an untrustworthy client on which you can’t be relied on and so your team members will find clients that can. You are messing with peoples livelihoods.
If the artist can’t commit to bring the absolute best work ethic, product and show to the table to make sure they are making as much money for their team as possible, they should never expect it from the team that is getting paid nothing to almost nothing. If you don’t want it bad enough to work your ass off, pay the people you “hire” and make sure you have a fighting chance at making this career, then don’t ever “hire” a team member. You can’t afford it and you shouldn’t ever treat your team like that. They are expecting you to bring it every show so they can make as much money as possible just like you are trying to do for your career. Remember, this is a team. A team works together to make it happen, not just the team members making the artist more money. If you want your team to make you as much money as possible, you should be doing the same for them as well especially in your beginning stages.
I hope this helps you see it from our perspective a bit. It’s not meant to be an harsh blog, it’s meant to point out that this is a business and we all have bills to pay and we can’t work with people who won’t do everything possible to make the team they “hired” as much money as possible to survive just like they expect the team to do for them.
Best of luck!