— by Anna Madorsky
As a songwriter and writer, I’m deeply engrossed in stories: how we’re shaped by them, how we use them as touchstones, how we wrap our psyches around these metaphorical bits so that we can make sense of the complexities of our own lives as we allow imaginary universes to ignite our purpose and fuel our trajectory.
As an artist within the shifting landscape of the music industry, studying and observing its narrative from the 20th century to the present is a lot like watching a giant, lumbering, alien alpha beast attempting to survive on a planet that likely can’t support its infrastructure or feeding habits; at least not for very long and without a whole lot of casualties.
For the past several years, the industry has been dismantling into a new sort of organism: one that’s been brought to its knees by natural evolution and must adapt to survive. Hierarchies are flattening, gatekeepers are becoming increasingly obsolete, and music technology has become unshackled from obscene costs. Both business folks and artists have been scrambling to adapt to new roles, new sorts of relationships, and new self-perceptions. These massive shifts force us to reexamine our purpose and trajectory.
Frankly, I’m glad for the reinvented plot.
The new playing field for artists and musicians is one where we are all required to think mindfully and purposefully about business. In its essence, is it not the same kind of process we go through to create our art? We make decisions as to the kind of ethics (or lack thereof) we are inspired to see reflected in our stories and lyrics, and what kind of value system governs the characters. And in the same way, we have the creative power to spearhead the economics of art with our day-to-day choices, how we treat people, and with whom we build alliances.
When I was about ten, I asked my older brother, “Why are most songs on the radio about romantic love when there are so many other topics to think about, sing about, and discuss?”
His answer was “that’s just what people spend most of their time thinking about.”
But I don’t, I thought, and found myself constantly wondering:
If I exist, aren’t there others like me?
For me, the shift in the music industry is best expressed as the liberation of the Idea. Without radio formats, I can defy genres. With easy access to technology, I can stretch my skills as a producer and arranger. Without strictly controlled channels in a male-dominated industry, I have the option of what kind of woman I want to be. With the disarray of the music business, I can push myself out of my comfort zone to become a better and more passionate entrepreneur.
It serves no one to sever the roles of artist and businessperson, or to think of them as ideological opposites. Rigid definitions of ourselves are something we do when we are threatened, and enlightenment does not happen without painful and uncomfortable growth. Downstream from this expansion, it is the listener who benefits from having access to music and artists as idiosyncratic and unique as they are, and it is the listener who will reward the artist for giving them access to stories and storytellers who have the power to open them up to parts of themselves that they may have forgotten about or didn’t even know existed. Belief systems, familial structures, gender, sexuality, the unspoken ambivalences within relationships, and sociopolitical ideas: these are the stomping grounds of art, not of an archaic business framework too afraid to take risks, too mired in tightly controlled messages, too vested in the dogma of a power structure it does not want to upset.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t ask the difficult and uncomfortable questions that seem to be constantly rolling off my tongue. And although I’ve never really questioned if this ferociously inquisitive streak in me would ever subside, I have frequently doubted that I might ever find a good home for it.
If I exist, are there others like me?
When I first started working with the folks at CJG Innovative, I was a lone wolf, a fiercely independent survivor with battle scars that were in some ways overshadowing my authenticity and my strengths. After years of self-stitching, I had reached a point in my evolution as an artist where I simply could no longer do surgery on myself. To go into the details of all the ways that CJG has fostered my growth would be to double or triple the length of this piece, but I hope it might suffice to say that it takes a special kind of creative team to catapult a growth that arms an artist with the fluidity and skills to navigate the uneven terrain of the new music industry whilst embracing and developing exactly whom the artist is. To hold to the principle that you are viable and vital because of your uniqueness rather than despite it… Now that is something indeed. Every artist has a specific outpouring of essence that can create a magnificently enriching ripple effect to her or his particular audience. An enterprise such as CJG that has its sights set on catalyzing that energy is the natural ally of artists such as myself.
The music industry of old and those who endorse it may be formidably ruthless, but not nearly as formidable as the kinetic energy that is commanded when the creative and fiery spirit of art converges and collaborates with the warmth of mindful, resourceful, and creative business. When ideas are liberated, we are all freed.
CJG INNOVATIVE has a Management Division…
…are YOU ready for Management?
Managers do not build a music career or a business, they manage one.
Many artists and musicians assume that they need a manager to help them build their music career; this is a common misconception.
Some believe that a manager will listen to their music, recognize the talent and potential, and jump at the opportunity to represent them and handle their career “on a commission basis”; in other words, for FREE (since they don’t have a business that generates enough profit to pay a commission!).
Or, that a manager will offer to build the artist’s music career from the ground up – to the point that it is profitable – without making much, if any income along the way.
• Do you know how long that can take?
• Do you know how much work goes into it?
• Do you know how much “legitimate” expense your manager could incur during this period?
• Can you repay those business expenses, since you are the owner of the business?
Building up someone’s business to the point where it is profitable enough to generate a reasonable commission can involve a tremendous amount of work and time.
Experienced Music Managers usually choose to work with artists that already have a lot going on…i.e., a “Business”! I know, seems like a “Catch 22”…you need a business to get a manager, but how do you get a business without one? Read on…
Here are some things YOU can do to move your music career forward; BEFORE you seek “full-blown” management:
- Record high quality and professional music
- Set up, maintain, and draw traffic to your social media and online videos.
- Book and play your own shows.
- Build a fan base and engage them.
- Create a brand.
- Market your music through various outlets like social media, press, PR, and publicity.
- Develop relationships with other bands and artists.
- Get radio play, including internet radio, and online streaming/subscription sites.
- Create a street team.
- Distribute and release your music. You do NOT need a Major record label to distribute your music. You can, and should be doing it on your own. Serious labels are not likely to sign artists that have not released music on their own and shown some profit from it.
- Look for new ways to generate revenue and increase brand equity (licensing, endorsements, non-profit organization affiliation, ringtones, joint ventures, etc.).
You should develop your career in these areas prior to seeking management, but you don’t have to do it alone. We can work with you; that’s what our Pre-Management Division is all about.
CJG INNOVATIVE PRE-MANAGEMENT — We offer a unique, fee-based Pre-Management service that is individually tailored to each artist’s struggles and goals. We work with artists, helping them prepare for full management; we help them generate revenue from their music; and we help them get their music and their business to a level where labels and agents may be interested in working with them.
Since the economics of the music industry have shifted – due to the advent of technology, online distribution, and lack of album sales — labels, managers, and agents are not in the career development business anymore. They don’t take on artists who aren’t already making money; it’s too risky.
The role of an artist today is not only limited to creating great music; it includes wearing a business hat, becoming an entrepreneur. Not only understanding how the Music Business works, but most importantly having a practical knowledge of it. In today’s music business, various companies — some similar to CJG INNOVATIVE — offer services that facilitate development in areas that many artists struggle with; areas that used to fall under the umbrella of “Artist Development” at record labels and management companies.
By seeking out professional and experienced guidance, you’ll have a better shot at standing out and creating a viable business in today’s ultra-competitive music industry.
Treat your music career like you would treat any other business: find and hire the best, most experienced people possible for the areas where you need the most help, guidance, and expertise. For example, this could include a great producer or mixer for your music…or, an effective branding specialist to help you dial-in your brand and reach desired demographics.
Still think you’re ready for Management?
Here’s what we’re interested in:
- What is your business? Do you play several/many paying shows each month? To be considered for management, your Business must be in place. This includes a solid and engaged fan base, consistent paying gigs, and a real demand for your music.
- Are you making money? Here’s a dose of reality: if you’re not clearing a minimum of $4000 — $5000 a month after expenses, then you’re probably not at a level to attract top-level management. In today’s music industry, qualified and experienced music managers will require app. 15-20% commission, plus a minimum monthly retainer ($1000 – 2000, or more).
- Do you sell-out shows? Do you struggle to book gigs and and get people in the door? Managers do NOT book shows. In fact, in some states — including the state of California — it is illegal for a Manager to book shows/gigs. You need a talent or booking agent to do that.
- Are you on numerous social media sites? A stellar EPK, and a strong presence on relevant social media sites is required; recent, ongoing, consistent and engaging activity with your fans is essential.
- Do you have recorded music? A manager is NOT a producer. Yes, they might require you to re-record your music with a new production team. You not only need a business for them to manage; a strong product is required to have a successful business (a YouTube video of you singing a song acapella is likely not enough).
- Do you have a budget to work with? Marketing teams, branding specialists, street teams, etc. Pro-level managers do not typically perform these duties; they hire and manage people who specialize in these areas. Your budget should also include money to cover monthly expenses that your manager may incur (including travel, lodging, business meals).
Food For Thought:
Colonel Tom Parker managed Elvis Presley for the majority of his career. By the time “The Colonel” – as he was widely known – began managing Elvis , “The King” had already generated quite a buzz by selling out numerous shows – attended by 1000’s of screaming teenage girls and women – and recording some of his most influential records.
Brian Epstein was hired to manage the Beatles after they became one of the biggest and most successful unsigned music acts in Europe. All those legendary shows at the Hamburg Club where the “lads” performed happened prior to them hiring their
legendary manager. Brian decided to manage them when there became a high demand for their records in the music store he owned.
Neither of these legendary music acts were “discovered” when they were virtual unknowns: they’d already worked hard on their own to build a presence and a viable business worth managing.