LEADERSHIP BLUEGRASS 2000
Agents & Managers
A Group Discussion Led by Art Menius,
Associate Festival Coordinator, MerleFest
Panelist: Randy Pitts, Keith Case & Associates
This session will begin with directed queries to the audience concerning the purpose of representation.
Then we’ll shift to some more traditional seminar aspects:
LBG class member David Skepner will address briefly the classic model of how agents, managers, publicists, and road managers should function in the mainstream music business.
Randy Pitts will then reflect for a moment on how these folks actually function, if at all, in the bluegrass field today.
Class member Vernell Hackett will speak to the realities for publicists in bluegrass today.
With that background in place, the session will evolve into a collective SWOT analysis of representation in bluegrass and how this relates to getting The Song in front of the people and building the future of our industry.
In so doing, we shall attempt to cover the basic building blocks of representation, including:
Building relationships with labels, studios, agencies, presenters, media, and producers
Day to day career management
Long term Career planning
Marketing, especially placement
Negotiating and Contracting
Accounting and financial management
Marketing, advertising, and media relations
Making contacts and follow-ups
Negotiating and contracting
Route and transportation planning
Scheduling, advancing dates
Sound & Lights
a. "Bluegrass Industry/Bluegrass Traditions" by Mark Fenster (South
Atlantic Quarterly, 94:1 (1995): 81-108.
b. Pages 84-94 from This Business of Music, 5th Edition (New York: Billboard Publications, 1985) by Sidney Shemel and M. William Krasilovsky
c. Pages 283-288 from The Musician’s Business & Legal Guide (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996), edited by Mark Halloran, Esq.
d. "Publicity and Promotion Thoughts" by Art Menius
e. visit www.stairway.com
f. visit www.publicity.com
g. visit www.pollstar.com and request a sample copy of Pollstar
h. NAPAMA Guidelines for Ethical Behavior
Mark Halloran, Esq., editor, The Musician’s Business & Legal Guide
(Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996). Amazingly comprehensive, this
fault of this book is that it is written entirely by arts attorneys from
California, the most regulated state for the entertainment industry.
Sidney Shemel and M. William Krasilovsky, This Business of Music, 5th Edition (New York: Billboard Publications, 1985). This is the classic. Books should be dense, eh?
Pollstar – www.pollstar.com, the Bible of touring and presenting. Pollstar offers a web site, magazine, conferences, and vast directories of the industry – agencies, presenters, venues, concert support services, and etc. Each issue of the magazine lists attendance, ticket price, and gross for hundreds of concerts of all genre as well as contact info and upcoming tour dates for hundreds of acts.
NAPAMA, the National Association of Performing Arts Managers and Agents (www.napama.org, 212-799-5308), is the trade association for artist representatives offering publications, web services, advocacy, seminars, and a resource center. NAPAMA maintains official liaisons with many professional associations within the performing arts, including the Folk Alliance, but curiously not with IBMA.
NAPAMA Guidelines for Ethical Behavior
The performing arts represent the highest level of communication. NAPAMA’s purposed is to facilitate that communication in an effective, responsible manner. Therefore, these Guidelines for Ethical Behavior have been formulated by the NAPAMA membership to govern our relationship with artists, presenters and other managers. Each of these areas involves mutual obligations, some contractual in nature and others in the domain of professional courtesy and good business practice. We wish to focus on the essence, which is to be forthright and clear in all dealings with our colleagues.
NAPAMA’s greatest obligation is to foster the development of and access to performing arts of the highest quality. We propose that the cultivation of excellence is the best means of maximizing the public appetite for live performance, which will in turn increase the opportunities available to talented artists. The principles of professional conduct described in these guidelines assume a condition of ample opportunity which may or may not exist at the moment and s standard of ethics which is painless only if it does.
I. Manager-Artists Relations
By virtue of their positions of leadership, managers have responsibilities to all performing artists.
1. Managers and agents are often besieged by artists seeking representation. If their work merits attention, one must ascertain their freedom to enter into a management agreement and be prepared to honor, and to encourage them to honor, any existing obligations to previous management. Managers should not entice artists from other managements’ rosters, especially with unreasonable optimistic predictions about engagement and fees which might be procured for them.
2. The terms of a management agreement should be stated clearly, comprehensively and in writing. It is not reasonable to assume, just because mutual obligations and responsibilities are detailed in a contract, that these details, and their consequences are understood and remembered by the artist. He or she should be informed, in particular, and before the contract is signed, of the probable eventual costs of promotional and publicity materials, travel, long-distance phone calls, etc., the mechanisms to be used for reimbursement of these expenses as well as the provisions made for contract renewal or termination.
3. Artists fees should be remitted to the artist within a clearly specified time period, and expenses should be itemized and invoiced periodically. If any misunderstanding occurs concerning expense reimbursements, remedy the situation by improving communication with the artists involved.
4. Momentum can be crucial in the development of an artist’s career. If a manager feels he or she has reached the end of his of her effectiveness for a particular artist, he or she should be frank about this and offer the artist the option of going elsewhere.
5. Artists have corresponding responsibilities toward managers. In particular, they must be clear about their own needs, priorities and expectation, and, having assumed any contractual obligations toward a manager or presenter, they must fulfill them. Failure to do so impairs not only the reputation and effectiveness of the manager but, by extension, the opportunities available to fellow artists on the roster. In addition, failure to honor obligations for reasons not enumerated in Act of God clauses will entail financial obligations of the artists to managers and presenters involved.
II. Manager-Presenter Relations
The manager-presenter relationship is the crux of our profession. Both represent entities beyond themselves—performing artists on the one hand and the concert-going public on the other. As such, it involves mutual trust and a commitment to the perpetuation of the performing arts.
1. Manager are expected to be accurate, efficient and timely sources of information about performing artists. This precludes any willful misrepresentation of the needs, capabilities and availabilities of the artist one is authorized to represent and also any corresponding misrepresentation of artists one is not authorized to represent.
2. During the booking and contracting process, managers should be mindful of their leadership role: every instance of booking activity should be a model of the process for both sides of the bargaining table. This involves being frank and forceful with presenters about the effects on artists’ careers of potential abuses, such as unreasonable holds, premature requests for contracts, and other restrictions, such as exaggerated exclusivity clauses. Conversely, managers, especially when dealing with less experienced presenters, must not abuse any rights or expectations to which the imprecise use of language may seem to entitle them. No enticements, such as gifts of value or monetary kickbacks, may be offered to presenters for booking artists. Not only is this illegal, it is a particularly loathsome violation of our trust.
3. Both managements and presenting organizations are responsible for the actions and commitments of their staffs.
4. Holds. It is recognized, given the committee structure governing many presenting organizations and the complicated and delicate process involved in putting a season together, that the requesting and granting of "holds" may be a necessary step in the booking process. All parties involved must recognize and respect the good faith aspect of holds and not abuse the process. In particular, holds should only be requested and granted with the understanding that a response, positive or negative, must be made within an agreed time-frame, generally less than thirty days.
5. Contracts should only be requested and supplied when all parties can confirm their intention to sign it. It should them be completely, accurately and promptly executed, including any and all riders, except when specific retarding circumstances (government grants, etc.) are clearly defined. All parties, including the artist(s), should be fully aware of all conditions and be ready and willing to fulfill them. Any subsequent impairments should be fully, frankly and promptly communicated to all concerned. All parties should remember that verbal agreements are legally binding.
6. Cancellations. The manager-presenter relationship is a partnership in the service of a larger cause—the bond between artists and audiences. The contract is a crucial link in that chain. If it is broken, far more is lost than what can be entered on a balance sheet. In the event a cancellation threatens, be it willful or not on any part, the important thing is to save the bond. the process will be painful and difficult no matter what. The best preventive medicine is a thoughtfully designed and realistic contract. The only palliative is the frankness and good will of the parties.
Artists must realize that willful cancellation of a commitment can damage a career, impair the reputation of management and damage the credibility of a presenter in the eyes of the public. It is especially reprehensible when the desire to cancel stems from a more lucrative or prestigious engagement elsewhere. This indicates a short-sighted view of what constitutes career advancement. Such cancellations will involve reimbursements to both presenters and management for out-of-pocket expenses, promotional costs and lost commissions.
Presenters must realize how much is a t stake when they request a hold or a contract. Based on these commitments, itineraries and budgets are set. Failure to honor a commitment can adversely affect the viability of an entire tour, with consequences not only for management and artists but also for other presenters. It is especially reprehensible when the desire to cancel stems form problematic ticket sales. The solution is to devote more energy to promotion. Presenters will find managements and artists willing to assist in marketing efforts. Such cancellations will involve reimbursements to management and artists. NAPAMA members are advised not to sign contracts which contain cancellation at will clauses.
If, despite all efforts to prevent it, a cancellation dose occur, all sides must use their best efforts to either find a suitable replacement artists or to reschedule the date.
III. Manager-Manager Relations
Relations among managers are the only ones addressed in these guidelines which are not the object of contractual agreements and are perhaps the least public bonds in the complex web of our professional interactions with others. Yet, the way we deal with each other is emblematic of the way we can be expected to deal with our artists and presenters.
1. Managers should respect the integrity of one another’s rosters. This precludes claiming to represent an artist one is not authorized to represent.
2. Managers should be circumspect, judicious, fair-minded and diplomatic when tempted to discuss a colleague’s putative shortcomings with artists, presenters or other managers. Confusing the good of the field with one’s personal or professional advantage is as reprehensible a shortcoming as any other.
3. No guidelines can deal adequately with the problem of artists and managers shopping for each other while allied elsewhere. The men and women of our profession should obey the ancient laws of chivalry; and act like "gentlemen" at all times. A manager should not approach an artist on another management’s roster. If approached by an artist, a manager should discuss the current situation fairly and then proceed from there with tact.
IV. Manager-Employee Relations
Given the unique nature of the performing arts management industry—lack of recognized training programs, small offices, entrepreneurial focus co-exisitng with not-for-profit structures—a fair degree of "musical chairs" is to e expected. This can lead to delicate situations regarding both the engagement and separation of personnel.
1. One facet of managers’ professionalism is that we are educators, and should expect to instruct employees in both the nuts and bolts aspects of our business and its wider, perhaps philosophical aspects. Some of our best "students" will inevitably go off on their own, either to work with competitors or to start their own organizations. This fact should not, in and of itself, be a cause for recrimination.
2. The conditions of employment should be clearly stated in writing. It is particularly important to be clear about the disposition of monies which may be payable after the employee in questions has left the organization. Any severance conditions, such as provisions which preclude working with artists on the roster for a specified time period, should be made explicit, in writing, form the beginning.
3. Employees are expected to respect the confidentiality of the internal communications, procedures, pricing structures and contacts of their current and former employers.
Crowded convention schedules and problematic management-presenter ratios create a condition of scarcity as far as contacts with presenters are concerned, a situation which offers possibilities for abuse and offense. The best method of avoiding these is for all concerned to observe the basic rules of politeness and decency which pertain everywhere in civilized life, and in particular, to respect a notion of territoriality in the exhibit hall. Manager colleagues have purchased exhibit space and, with it, a zone of influence which should extend only as far as necessary for two or three people to stand and converse comfortable.
1. Exhibits should not impinge on neighboring spaces nor should they block or obstruct the view of another booth.
2. Audio-visual equipment should be oriented so as to be viewed from within the exhibit space, not from outside.
3. The aisles should be considered a neutral space in which presenters may circulate freely without being accosted.
4. Presenters should never be approached in front of another manager’s space.
5. Conversations among presenters or presenters and other managers should not be interrupted.
6. At educational session, showcases and hospitality events, presenters should not be importuned with sales-oriented conversations which distract from the business at hand.
Infractions of these guidelines make the exhibit hall a distasteful experience for many presenters. Adherence to them helps assure that all concerned will be better able to profit from what is an expensive investment in our artists’ careers.
VI. Complaints Procedures
Honest differences of opinion will develop concerning the applicability and interpretation of these Guidelines. In the interest of facilitating the resolution of conflicts which may occur among the parties involved, NAPAMA has instituted an Ethics Advisory Committee. Any party to a dispute involving a manager who is a member of NAPAMA may call on the committee as follows: An informal call may be made to one of the designated Committee members, who will attempt to clarify the dispute without involving the committee as a whole or any other parties.
The National Association of Performing Managers and Agents (NAPAMA) is a national trade association dedicated to promoting the professionalism of its members and the vitality of the performing arts.
Return to NAPAMA.org
LEADERSHIP BLUEGRASS 2000
Publicity and Promotion Thoughts
By Art Menius
A. Databases are our friends
Keep your print, web, and broadcast media databases separate and use them differently as fits the particular medium and your needs from it. One can not approach the various media with a one size fits all effort.
Build databases aggressively. Collect addresses, buy and trade. Trade associations can provide international media databases, but you need to maintain them. Plus, you have to work yourself for specific area media. Lots of resources exist in print and electronic form, but you still have to do your own leg work. If you’re a performer, collect local media data from presenters who hire you.
Keep records in your database of each call and response and result.
Make sure you’re reaching the right people. Often several writers at one publication are in a position to assist you. You must reach all of them directly. Never expect an editor to pass on information or recordings to the appropriate party; all you’ll achieve is bruised egos.
B. Know when and how most effectively to reach people
Learn which medium people prefer, and use it. It’s your responsibility to access the necessary medium.
If you need to use the phone, call when the person you’re calling prefers, not when you prefer. Assume people prefer being called during the day unless you know otherwise. Avoid Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, when everyone else is calling.
Timing is everything. Know the applicable deadlines and learn how the writers and editors relate to those deadlines. Too far ahead of time can prove just as ineffective as too late. The situation varies greatly from national publications to local newspapers and from print to electronic media.
Develop relationships over time with the media. Make media people want to help you out. Be eternally vigilant regarding the politics of the relationship. You ask the media to help you, so act accordingly. Asking advise of media folks usually goes a long way. Nothing makes folks in the media less happy than to learn about something from other media. Offers of tickets are greatly appreciated and conspicuous in their absence, but be gracious if the invitation is declined.
C. Develop the best media materials that you can afford
Tasteful and simple is never a mistake, but be aware of hidden messages. Never permit the undercurrent that you’re an amateur, not fully committed to the project, or to unsure of your prospects to allocate sufficient funds.
In general, the only real impact of fancy media materials comes from its demonstration that the artist or event believes so much in what they’re doing that money is no object. Sure, the CD-ROM press kit and EPK mark major steps forward as a media, but wait until you can afford exceptional ones.
Whichever the medium, nothing comes across worse than a poor job of looking fancy.
Something clever, such as Rebel’s "summons" for Blue Highway, does not have to prove expensive.
D. Common Sense
Make sure that your name and phone number appears on any prints or slides, printed and electronic info.
While black and white prints remain common, the color slide is the present, and the digital image the immediate future of promo photos for bands and will prove even more important for festivals that want a big feature spread.
For artists, media kits consist of, at barest minimum, at least one image, a bio sheet, copies of articles and reviews about the band and its recordings, contact information for bookings, interviews, & recordings, and a copy of the artist’s most recent recording.
For festivals, media kits consist of a press release about the festival, photos or slides of past editions of the event, copies of any articles about the event, the bios sheets and photos of major acts appearing, and contact information for both the event and the artists.
For concerts, include a press release and full media kits for the act(s) appearing.
Some folks get specially imprinted folders fabricated. Other use simple manila file folders – with contact information attached via a gummed label – or folded posters. A clever idea is to use old LP jackets as media kit vessels for artists or concerts.
Contact first, then send materials. Most media get far too much unsolicited material through which to sort.
E. The Internet: Use It.
On balance, the Internet provides the least expensive mass communications medium ever.
You can get your message across exactly as you want it.
You can get dozens of indices to list your site at no cost.
You can develop a bank of email addresses of those who have requested to be on your list for mass emailing for rapid, inexpensive publicity.
An increasing number of publications exist only on the Web, especially for the roots music world.
1. Public Relations Society of America (www.prsa.org; 212-995-2376) is a professional association offerings web links and directories of its members.