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How To Manage A Band - Music Management Part 2
Managing A Band
So you've started doing bigger tours, probably as a support to signed bands. You've got more friends on MySpace and the word is spreading, how do you manage the band next? Providing that the little buggers haven't driven you insane and you're still in full control of your mental health, the next step is marketing overdrive.
Though some bands do choose to go it alone, it's still best to be signed by a label unless you have a decent amount of money to work with. So the next stage is getting noticed. As I said in the previous how to manage a band hub, you have the internet at your disposal, so use it!
The thing to remember is that labels are like sheep, they follow each other. Look at the amount of Grunge bands who got signed off the back of Nirvana's success, labels want what's already doing well, they don't want to take the risks with a band that doesn't have a defined sound. Labels like labels, so if you don't have one, you better get one quick. Who does the band sound most like? If it's someone already doing well then you have a good chance of getting noticed, if you publicise that fact.
If you don't want the band to be labelled then you're in the wrong job. This is where the band / management relationship gets tricky. Band members are precious about their music, they don't like to be led by management in the creative area. It's understandable that as creative beings, they don't want their sound tweaked to fit a certain mould, but most of the time in the music industry, you have to be adaptable to get on.
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If you've created enough buzz, the record labels will be aware of you. Next step is signing the deal. You would think that once signed you can breath a huge sigh of relief and wait for the cash to roll in. Wrong! Signing to the right label is an absolute must for any band, and though there may only be one offer on the table, if it's a reggae label and you're a rock band, then it's a total no no, and vice versa. No matter how desperate you are to be signed, you have got to hold out for the right label, because if you don't, you will find yourself working for nothing.
The A&R department of a label is key to doing well or failing miserably. You're going to be working very closely with your A&R department, so if you go into a meeting and the A&R person is not someone you would want to work with, don't sign with that label. A&R people can and do ruin careers, and it can be personal.
Assuming that you have found a label who wants to sign your band, and who you feel happy signing with, the next stage is making an album. It's likely that the band already have enough material for an album, but if they don't then they need to write. Getting a band to write to order is an interesting concept, but one that labels require.
So you have the material, it's recorded, now your A&R person is going to decide what goes on the album and what's going to be the first single. Cue band members not agreeing with the A&R person's choices and you as the manager having to go and tell the A&R person this fact.
Now the A&R person is pissed at you because their judgement has been questioned. You then have to go back to the band and tell them this fact. A musical game of ping pong is now underway.
Next the B-sides for the single have to be established, these will probably be tracks that didn't make it onto the album, but if those aren't good enough, new songs will have to be written. You have to ask the band to write to order again. Fun! Does the A&R person think they're quality B-sides though? If not you're going to have a very annoyed band who you'll have to ask to write to order. Again!
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Releasing The Single
Once the ping pong is over (for the time being), the single is going to be released. The release date would have been chosen well in advance so that the press, radio and marketing departments can gain momentum in plugging the song.
If you're with a good label then the print interviews should start rolling in. If you're with a great label you can hope to get some radio and tv slots as well. This is where management gets really tricky. Are you managing a band that you can actually have an intelligent conversation with, or are your band leaning more towards neanderthals? If it's the former, you may think that all is going to go well in the area of promotion, but think again. Some of the more intelligent musicians are the most dull in interviews, some can come across pedantic. You don't want to be getting on the wrong side of the people who are essentially selling your product for you, and trust me when I say that music journalists don't forget that you've pissed them off, they'll prove it by giving you shit reviews for the lifespan of the band.
As a manager, you have to network, you have to get on the right side of people you'll dislike. These are the people who will make or break your band. Music journalists, radio DJ's, TV bookers, these are the people that you want on your side. If you're best mates with the people who can get your band featured on TV and radio, then you have a massive advantage. Though of couse, you have to be decent at acting sometimes. Networking is key to good management.
So the single is out, hopefully it's had loads of exposure and you get a place in the top 40. In reality, it may be a case of two interviews with local papers and a week spent visiting as many record stores and buying copies of your own single as possible. The trick to buying your own single is to be discreet, you do not want to be causing a weird trend in sales which will get picked up on. That's why you don't download your own song in bulk, by all means get friends and family to do it from different IP addresses but bulk sales from a few sources will be a sure giveaway that something is not right.
It isn't unusual for hardcore fans to buy a single in all its formats, it's a collector thing. Tip for buying your own single is to get the band out doing it too, acting as harcore fans and buying all formats. The trouble with doing this today is that there aren't as many formats being released due to downloads, but still, it may make the difference between chart positions.
If you're with a good label and all departments are working together, then you should be able to sit back after release and watch the sales rise by themselves, but sometimes things don't go right within a label, and as a manger you may have to use a few tactics to get your band established yourself.
Every bit of work that has been done to date will have been leading up to this crucial moment; the album release. If the single did well, then you're looking at repeating that success with the album. But what if the single didn't do well, what if it only made the top 100, or worse?
It's not all doom and gloom. You have a professionally recorded album and if the label aren't working their arses off for you then you have to take matters into your own hands. Sure you're still signed to a label that isn't performing as well as you had hoped, but you carry on regardless, if you're still passionate enough.
If things start taking off due to your hard work, the label will sit up and take notice. They'll also take credit for it but hey, this is the music industry right?
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- Be positive in front of the band, a manager who's a doom merchant is not a good one.
- Use the internet. Be noticable on social networking sites, get as many friends as possible as talk to them, fans love personal interaction with bands.
- Collect email addresses on tour, some people may not be into social networking but they may be into your band and you want to be able to give them information. Regular mailouts are very useful for keeping these people in the loop.
- Get your fans to work for you, get them to spread the word about the band and the music. Give them an incentive, guestlists, freebies, access to the band. Make them feel part of the 'family' and you'll be creating very loyal fans.
- Make friends with other managers, not only could you learn a lot from their experiences, but you'll be making very useful leads for potential touring partners.
You'll Laugh About It One Day
One thing that is consistent with all managers, is the ridiculous "you made that up" stories that we all share. Though at the time of the incidents it seem as though the world is falling apart around you, you can laugh about it. Eventually.
As a band manager you are likely to lose a few band members along the way, they get drunk, they take drugs, then they end up lost and you have to find them. This can be a regular occurrence on tour.
Don't be fooled. Band members DO occasionally trash hotel rooms and throw TV's out of hotel windows, they aren't just rock n' roll stories from days gone by. Be prepared to deal with the police on this one.
Heard of the Yoko effect? Those girlfriends/wives sure know how to manage a band better than anyone!
The band are in Scotland, but all the gear is in London. Well, you can't expect them to do anything without you, best have the number of a cheap courier company to hand.
Has a band member sent something unsavoury in the post to a music journo who gave a bad review? Plea madness on their behalf and apologise. Over and over again, for years to come.
Groupie wants a DNA test? Be nice to Yoko, or she may kill you as well as your band member.
If you want variety and can juggle like a pro them maybe music management is for you! Keep a good self help book to hand though, unless you've struck gold with the most pliable artist ever, you'll be needing it!