Building Your Artist Development Team

1Choosing which people you want on your team to help you make it the music industry is one of the most important decisions an artist can make, and choosing incorrectly can not only slow you progress, but seriously derail an otherwise promising career.


Guest post by Camille Barbone of the Symphonic Blog

Part 1 of our Artist Development Series.

There are many decisions to make when deciding on the people that will help you make your mark in the Music Industry. You may think it’s premature, but it is wise to know what to look for in the people you choose. It takes a team to make it happen and the choices you make can add to your success or cause serious problems.

Many established artists have given power and authority to people that have literally and figuratively robbed them blind. Recently, news broke that Deep Purple’s accountant robbed this well-established and professional band of over $3 million dollars. If it can happen to knowledgeable and professional icons, it can definitely happen to you.

Here are some important things to think about when selecting members of your artist development team.

The Members of the Artist Development Team

The anchor of the team is a manager. Your manager can help you do research and check on the credentials and skill-sets of all potential team members. Other participants include: an entertainment attorney, record label or distributor, music publisher, booking agent, accountant or business manager, producer, image consultant, publicity professional, road manager and crew, lighting tech and instrument techs.

When to Form Your Team

It depends on where you are in your career trajectory. If you are gigging regularly, have a respectable number of followers on social media, music on streaming sites and you’re getting publicity, it’s time. It’s time when the amount of activities is too much or when there is no time to breathe or eat. It’s time when the moving parts are unyielding; constant accounting and legal questions, wardrobe and image requirements, press and personal appearance schedules, when the moving parts have multiplied exponentially. If you are missing opportunities, it’s time. Start your team by selecting a manager to help you accelerate your progress. A manager can help with the day to day and advise you on when it is time to add new members. A manager is the most important part of your team, besides you, the artist.

The Manager -The Type of Person You Need

Stay away from individuals that don’t have the experience and skill-set for the role you need them to play. It sounds pretty obvious, but there are people out there that will compliment you and make you feel attractive, important, talented and powerful just to get you to sign a contract. They have a psychological label and are known as sycophants. There is a touch of sycophant in all managers who work with talent (that is, anyone acting as the “go to” person for creative types). They wield power through proximity. The closer someone is to power, the greater the opportunity to leverage that power for control and the greater the temptation to cross ethical, moral and legal lines.

They are usually industry professionals, but can also be parents, spouses, family or friends. The degree of sycophantic behavior they use often correlates to their effectiveness. It makes the difference between a functional working and successful relationship and one that can, at the most extreme, strip the rich and famous of everything; money, health, and power.

What to Look for in a Manager

4Client/manager relationships are supposed to be fiduciary in nature, meaning that they are predicated on trust; It must be unadulterated, transparent and seamless, but it seems that not even professional experience, blood relationships or long-term friendships provide guarantees when it comes to trustworthiness. When a manager crosses moral, ethical and legal lines, the usual motivation is just plain old greed but there may be other, more insidious issues at play; a pathological need to live vicariously through the fame and power of the artist.

Good managers must possess an unshakable moral compass and the intestinal fortitude to speak truth to power, no matter the topic. Unfortunately and frequently, many fail miserably at it. How do you tell someone that signs your paycheck that their wildly expensive wardrobe item is hideous or the guy they are dating is stealing from them, or that their performance sucks or that they cannot go out in public high as a kite? They must care more about you than themselves.

No matter the impetus, when a manager goes rogue the situation usually ends in disaster; aka the poor house or the grave for the client and the jail house for the manager.

Managers have access to all sorts of super charged and “privileged information”; bank accounts, family secrets and assets. They run the show and can easily ruin the show if left unsupervised. It’s never too early for an individual with their sights set on fame to think about the kind of person that they want working for and with them.

Managers must believe in their ability to manage things as much as they believe in you and your talent. They should support you in your belief of yourself. They should be fearless in their pursuit of what is best for you without compromise. You must be strong enough to take criticism. Don’t put yourself up on a pedestal only to dare people to knock you off it.

How to work with A Manager

To be a manager is to be a filter, someone to get through to reach the person of power or fame. But sometimes filters block vital information along with the useless kind. Good judgment must prevail. You need to know what is going on, have all the facts and you should not be spared a moment of necessary discomfort. It’s OK to be uncomfortable. We assure you, it’s only temporary. It will pass and you’ll learn from it. What doesn’t kill you will indeed make you stronger, says Nietzsche. There can be no hidden agendas, only ones that you set and control for yourself. Managers should insolate, not isolate or cause you to become detached from the real world or ill equipped to handle your own affairs and live independently.

Learn and absorb; take the time to understand all you can about the business and your role in it. Figure out how you want to conduct your life and career so that you can guide your manager. Then, hire a manager that you have investigated, researched and referenced. Don’t be lazy. Do the business yourself and learn how it’s done before you turn it over to someone else to do for you. Wait until it is absolutely necessary, no matter the outside pressure, the countless recommendations, and the “connected” people courting you. When the time is right, choose wisely.

Your choice could change your entire career.

Follow this Series to learn more about the other members of the artist development team and how to get the most out of them.

Camille Barbone is an entertainment industry professional with over 25 years of experience. She has worked for major companies including Sony and Universal, Warner Chappell and other major publishers. She has owned two state of the art recording studios, developed and managed high-profile artists such as Madonna, produced major concerts and provided music for major motion pictures producers such as Wes Craven, Steven Spielberg Productions and Cinepix Films. She has conducted numerous seminars, panels and workshops at SXSW, the New Music Seminar and other entertainment conferences. She has been featured in many books and has appeared on many news and talk shows. She holds a degree in Psychology and an MBA specializing in Marketing. Camille coaches and consults via her company, Camille Barbone Coaching and Consulting, a business that provides guidance and structure to individuals and companies aspiring to success in the Entertainment Industry. She guides people through viable planning and constant progress. Please contact Camille at office@camillebarbone.com

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1 Comment

  1. Good post on qualities of a manager. Managers should make progress toward creating a work environment in which employees choose to be positive, enthusiastic, and motivated for better performance of the organization.

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