Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at www.mosesavalon.com.
Many “how-to” music biz books like to discuss the concept of the “artist’s team.” This refers to the business machinery behind the creative product. Typically the team members are: the lawyer, manager, publicist, and business manager. Each still play very significant roles in the process after the artist grows out of his garage and is headed for stardom. But how about before all that, while the artist is still developing? No one seems to want to talk about what personnel the artist needs to get to that higher plateau.
Since the Internet has become essential to an artist’s development, the artist requires a somewhat re-tooled team of professionals. The new team may not even have any of the old players in it, yet, years before you’ll be retaining a lawyer to get you a deal on a major or a direct deal with someone like Wal-Mart or Starbucks, you’ll be working with these cats.
Here’s a brief breakdown.
Consultants Instead of Managers or Lawyers
Up until a few years ago, there were very few [consultants] and their fees were staggering. As an artist, you would never need to speak to one. Your lawyer or manager was your consultant. Much has changed.
Label consolidation and a bad economy have produced a surplus of unemployed label execs. Many have hung out shingles as “consultants.” The growth of this area brings with it new elements both good and bad. On the good side, most consultants will offer services that many a lawyer is hired to do for a fraction of the lawyer’s price (with the caveat that most of what a music lawyer is hired to do has little to do with the practice of law).
Whereas managers will help develop an act from the ground up on spec, consultants are more like sprinters than long-distance runners. They get in, do a job, and get out. Cash up front and no long-term commitments. Some artists find this attitude disingenuous. But this is mostly their egos talking (and often their pocketbooks).
FACT: Managers and lawyers can be just as mercenary, signing acts to long-term and binding agreements and then becoming too busy to deal with their client’s petty needs. With consultants, you can usually fire them at will if they get too uppity.
On the downside, like any growth field, you get a lot of people whose skills are better at marketing themselves than their actual industry expertise.
Eventually you’ll need both a manager and lawyer and your consultant might start to seem superfluous then. But when is that point?
Designers are an eccentric group. Since websites have become essential digital store fronts, designers have become the new “rock stars.” They return your calls if they feel like it and finish your job on time if they’re not too busy. Lord knows what they do all day besides write code, but whatever it is, it does not involve communicating with people. Speaking to ordinary, non-tech oriented folk is something they loath more than designing a frameless shopping cart system to be Windows 98 compatible — if you know what I mean.
Why should a designer be part of your team and not just someone you hire once? While one might think that this is certainly a DIY function, there are many subtleties to putting together a site optimized for music marketing. MySpace, Facebook and other social networks offer a quasi-DIY approach to having a web presence, but there is nothing like your own footprint in the sand.
And because you’re going to need more than one website and more than one landing page for each site over time, a designer should be an ongoing part of your team.
After you have a website, you’ll need someone to manage it for you — thus, the webmaster or administrator. They fix links, keep the code working, and add the ad-ones you’ll want over time. It might seem obvious that you could just ask your designer to maintain your site, but they tend to not want that job. If you find one that does both, that’s a bargain, but be warned, many webmasters fancy themselves designers. But, like some musicians who claim they can play any style, tech people also have specialties. Great designers usually will not do maintenance. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. Find one if you can.
Operating silently in the background of your website is a person whose job it is to drive traffic to you. Once, we hired a public relations person for attracting attention. They didn’t work stealthily. On the contrary, they were (and are) quite forward about getting someone noticed via Page Six articles, big ads, and feature stories on “news shows.”
The Web has an entirely different acumen. Obvious PR translates into insincerity. Why? Who knows? The Web functions on a sort of hippy mentality; the need for advertising is for losers and con men; your product should organically attract traffic because it’s cool. Nice sentiment. Too bad it does not reflect reality.
So, here come the viral marketers and SEO people (Search Engine Optimization). They have cool Web bots and toys that get into social networks and chat rooms. They drive traffic to your site in a way that doesn’t look (too) obvious. Those in the biz can spot them a mile away, but the average person has not caught on yet.