Last post on Bondi Wave Music Conference

This is the last post I’ll do about the Bondi Wave Music Conference. There were a couple more speakers but I had to leave before they spoke, but I managed to catch the major part of John Watson’s talk, who heads one of the top artist management companies in Australia (Eleven Music: http://www.elevenmusic.com/).

Some pearls of wisdom include: “The manager makes a good artist look great. But he can’t do anything for a bad artist”. Meaning, a manager has to look for a really good act. He can be the best manager in the world, but if the act is average they won’t get anywhere.

On success: it has a “snowball effect” but it just needs the first push from inertia to get things going. For example, a band sells out a gig, the local music mag hears about it and writes an article, then there’s interest when they do an EP, then they get invited to do a festival and on it goes. But I guess conversely if you don’t get that initial push, you stay in inertia (i.e. same small gigs trying to get family and friends along etc…)

Further in to the talk John got a little more ‘zen-like’ and drew a diagram of the Yin and Yang symbol, with the artist in half and the manager in the other. The point of this was that no artist-manager relationship is the same, the manager basically needs to meet the needs where the artist is lacking -maybe the artist understands the business side well and only needs the manager for details and contracts, or maybe he needs the manage all the parts of business, or maybe the manager needs to provide moral support or babysit at times etc…

Then building on the diagram, he drew spokes coming out from the circle with a title at the end of each spoke: publicist, video director, music publisher, tour manager etc… All these people on the spokes surrounding the circle represent the whole team, that makes the whole act ‘spin’ like a wheel. If one of them is out of wack, then the wheel can grind to a halt. Pretty deep.

But the main point is the artist and manager are at the centre, and ultimately the artist is responsible for each spoke. Further advice was for artists to appreciate each spoke and not take them for granted. Thank the tour manager after getting a good gig etc…

Getting back to the points on success: Perception of success is important. The snowball effect happens in part because people around perceive the act is potential successful and going places, so they want to get on board. Other examples of the push from inertia -a million hits on the website or song gets in a film… It has to be something that differentiates you from the pack. The act has to be ‘remarkable’, meaning it’s worth people remarking about.

Now the big question that was asked: “When is the best time for an artist/band to look for a manager?” Ideally just at the beginning of the snowball effect, at the start of the exponential curve. In fact that’s the time to start adding all the spokes.

If you can’t get this spark happening, then there’s probably no point trying to get a manager. Can you expect them to work for 20% of your income if you have no income?

Tips for aspiring managers: start small and local and “bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell”.


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