You Need a Manager?
dealing with booking and promotion becomes too much
Most Bands that succeed beyond the local level eventually
do so with the aid of a manager. WHat does this person
do, aside from collect a healthy cut of the money? We
interviewed two NYC managers and one publicist with
different experiences in the local scene to help us
Bands often complain
that good managers are very hard to find. What about
bands? Is it any easier to find a really good band today
JIN (independent manager - www.onthemoonmusic.com):
Good bands are extremely hard to find. The hard part
comes in combing through the myriad of bands to find
the one band you can get along with and believe in 3000%
Perry Serpa (publicist Good Cop – www.goodcoppr.com):
There are great bands and great managers all over NYC.
You have to define “good” though, really.
To some potential managers “good” in is
the marketability of the artist and to the bands, a
good manager ranging from someone who will help book
them to someone who will exclusively get them a deal.
KIP (manager, Magnum PR - www.magnumpr.net): Hell no,
i get a lot of garbage in the mail!!
Perry, what’s the difference
between a manager and a publicist?
P: The publicist essentially does one job, which is
pitching their client for opportunities in the media
and fielding requests from said media. Managers do a
lot more in terms of different tasks. Sometimes their
job entails everything from getting their artists deal
to getting their artists drugs and everything in between.
Both manager and publicist are clinical psychologists.
Is it essential to have a manager? When should
a band start looking for one?
P: No. My feeling is that a band should only seek out
a manager when they get so busy that the business threatens
their ability to actually make music.
J: If you are an amazing band, you will have no trouble
finding someone willing to invest his or her time in
you. That’s just the way it works. Focus on making
How does the process of committing
to work for a band (and signing a contract) happen?
Do bands come to you or vice-versa? Do you work with
P: it goes both ways.
K: If you love the band you are willing to work with
them on spec for a while until you can get them a record
deal. Contracts should arise right before the record
deal. And yes bands come to me all the time, but you
just have to be picky.
Is the process that leads to
the deal painful and expensive – are lawyers involved?
Do bands get cold feet when you guys mention the word
K: Yes it gets expensive but if you have a record deal
lined up it works out in the end! There should be no
need for cold feet at that point.
J: Personally, I don’t really believe in having
a contract – which is the case for most indie
band managers I’ve met. I trust the artists I
work with completely, and both bands I work with are
extremely loyal to me, as I am to them.
Bands normally expect to find
mangers available to work for around 20% of the money
they make through any of their music related activity
(gigs, record sales, merchandise etc); is that a correct
K: Yes that is correct.
P: I think so, although, like publicity, I’ve
heard of a lot of managers lately working for monthly
retainers rather than percentages.
J: It really depends on the band. With Dirty on Purpose,
I am considered a member of the band so we split the
money equally. With Knife Skills, we work out a percentage
ahead of time based on how involved I am in helping
them make money.
Do you still take chances with
less-established artists or do you just work with acts
that obviously can guarantee a certain income?
P: Of course!
K: If you believe in them then it works out in the end.
If something makes you happy then it isn’t a waste
J: If a band is good, there is always the potential
for them to become financially successful. But in music,
you have to expect years of hard work before it pays
Would you sign an incredibly
talented guy you heard playing in the subway station?
K & J: Yes
P: Yes. If I thought there was a good enough story there.
Are image and age something
you need to consider in the music business? Are managers
supposed to tell their artists when an outfit just doesn’t
P: Ha. Well, as a publicist, I think the answer to that
is yes. When the artist is in danger of embarrassing
his/herself, then I think it is your job. I don’t
think in my 16 years of doing this, though- that I’ve
ever really had to say that.
J: I think image and perception are more important than
K: Yes image is so important!! Always advise your clients!!
Im in pr as well
Would you rather work with
a reasonably-talented, reliable, and hard-working musician
or with an out-of-control genius? What category do you
think most of the successful musicians belong to?
K: Out of control anytime!! I don’t know any reasonably
P: Oof- tough questions. I suppose I should say that
I would like to listen to the record of the out of control
genius, but having worked with a few of them and being
the sort of person that has no patience for that crap,
nor being the type of person that believes there are
many true genius (especially in the music biz) actually
exist, I would have to opt for the reliable talent.
J: If I’m not having fun and 100% believe in it,
then I won’t want to do it. I believe artists
have to work on making great, original music –
building their own sound and discovering themselves
as songwriters and composers. Everything else will fall
into place after that. Think long-term, not short-term.
What are you looking for in
J: I’m looking for nice, decent human beings.
If I can’t respect you as a person, I cannot work
with you, no matter how good your music is. Secondly,
I have to love your music. Third, I have to believe
you are committed to doing this as a living, that it’s
P: Good art and a good story.
K: Cool vibe something different from the rest.
The artist manager’s
duties seem a little bit blurred, in particular when
we are talking about emerging artists that don’t
have booking agents, record labels or radio promotion.
What should a band in this situation expect from a manager?
K: Artist should expect it all from their manager, i
book them, do their pr and find them a label. No radio
J: the manager is whatever the band needs the manager
Is the manager directly involved in negotiations
with interested record labels?
P,K and J: yes, always.
As you guys obviously deal
with national music magazines… is it any easier
to get an interview/feature from a magazines where your
artist’s record was advertised? If yes, do you
think that’s normal or wrong?
K: Yes always easier!! It happens all the time with
record labels and magazines. I could name names but…
J: Unfortunately, that’s how magazines work. It’s
not always the case.
P: It’s not “wrong” unless it is something
that is forced upon the publication or the artist/record
label. I think that sometimes the endeavor to purchase
an ad calls attention to the artist within the publication.
Kinda like, “Oh, who is that band? They just committed
to an ad.” I think that when it’s not forced
or even implied on any particular party, it’s
just kind of about the publication and the artist being
supportive of one another.
Artists are fed by confidence in their talent.
How important and how dangerous is it to boost their
egos? Is there a “post-success” syndrome?
If so, how do you deal with it?
K: Its always important too boost their egos, they are
always nervous about press and public image. But post
success its your job to “keep up to the good work
and make sure they keep putting out the same level of
P: Depends on the artist. Some do go overboard. But
I generally think that as a manager or publicist, you
need to stay out of their personal lives as much as
possible. It’s good to make them aware of the
fact that you love and support their art, but when they
need to be stroked too much, that seems to be a matter
of going over the line. That’s when they should
turn to their girlfriends or boyfriends, wives, husbands
or mommies. Not their manager.
J: There always needs to be a balance. I am just always
honest with my bands. If they sucked, I tell them they
sucked and I’m very specific about how they sucked.
If they were great, I tell them they were great and
I let them know why I thought it was great. Honesty
is always the best policy, and it often keeps any inflating
heads in check.
Buzz is a manager’s favorite word. But
if it’s not supported by substance, don’t
you think it might become counter-r-productive?
J: Buzz is a fun word to throw around, but in this day
and age it doesn’t mean much. Everyone is a buzz
band these days, and the word has become diluted. You’re
a buzz band? Big deal. So is every other band that comes
out of New York. Try becoming a long-term steady and
successful band. That’s a great deal harder and
way more respectable in my eyes.
P: Hype without the goods is always shitty, in any situation
with any bit of commerce or art. And there’s just
so much of it, it’s hard to tell what’s
really great and what sucks. It’s like what I
said before about the word “genius”. I hear
it all the time. I never believe it. Then I hear it.
And I knew I was right.
What advice would you give
to an aspiring music manager?
K: Don’t become one.
J: All the managers I know started managing a band with
little to no prior experience. They just decided to
do it one day, and it’s a total DIY experience.
You learn something new every day. You make some mistakes,
but make sure you learn from those mistakes.
P: If you’re doing it for the money, you might
as well go work on Wall Street cuz there’s no
glamour in it and no cash unless you happen to be 1
in, perhaps, 7,000 who become successful enough to support
their families. Also, be cautious of labels. Especially,
the big ones, but some of the small ones, too. Everybody’s
struggling right now and the music industry is a vast
culture of desperation and unpaid invoices.