Indie Business Power interview with Ralph Jaccodine
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Q1. I would describe my business as:
A1: Ralph Jaccodine Management is an artist management company with an associated record label, Black Wolf Records. The company was established in 1992.
Q2: How would you describe “entrepreneurship”?
A2: I ask my Berklee students to define this and I get so many unique answers, most having elements I believe are to be true. Risky, tenacious, artistic, creative, self-motivated, self-starter, passionate, focused, driven, impatient - all adjectives I wrap together into the term ‘entrepreneurship’.
Q3: In general, which do you consider to be the absolute minimum requirements for successful entrepreneurship in terms of skills and personality traits?
A3: Absolute minimum requirements for successful entrepreneurship for skills and personality traits: successful entrepreneurship requires an ‘all in’ way of executing. Success comes to those who work harder, have the talent, vision, focus to execute a plan, and wrap that in a blanket of Karma/luck. charismatic people skills, communicator, motivator, visionary.
Q4: Did you write a business plan when you started your company?
A4: When I left the commercial real estate business I was in for a dozen years, I sat down with my friend and mentor, Mike Dreese, a successful entrepreneur who started the retail music chain Newbury Comics. Mike and I wrote ‘no assholes’ on a napkin and decided whenever possible, not to deal with assholes as we start our business. We then wrote up a simple recording contract for our first artist, Ellis Paul. It was a 50-50 deal, investment, profits and expenses are all shared equally, a simple concept. This relationship and the spirit of this contract are at the basis of a 20+ year relationship with Ellis which stands today as the keystone of my professional career.
Q5: How did you finance the startup phase of your business?
A5: I had an actual dream about starting a record label back in the early 1990’s when I was a commercial real estate broker. Later on that day I was showing Mike Dreese, CEO of Newbury Comics some retail space and told him about the dream and blurted out ” I want to start a record label and put out Ellis Paul’s first CD”. I had no experience, no right to be so bold to announce this, but I did. Mike wanted to hear Ellis’ music so I played a demo cassette of some songs and he liked the songs. Next he said, ‘I’ll be your partner, I had a label before.” Then about a week later, I got a message from a someone at a church in Lawrence, Ma. I called the number and found out that I won their church raffle of $1000. I barely remembered buying a ticket from a friend’s son, and glad I did. I got this check and put in in the bank under a “Black Wolf Records” name. I was off and running from there. Then Ellis, Mike and I put a pile of money into something called a ‘recording budget’, got a folk legend to produce Ellis’ debut CD got it played on some big radio stations, and build our company from there.
The investment of time, passion, sweat and money are equally important. Figuring out how to finance a new venture is vitally important. I was an economics major in college so I loved to study the economics of things. To understand the music business, I learned how to follow the money. How is comes in, how it goes out and how to attract attention/capital. Church raffles, partners, parents, crowdfunding are all legitimate ways to finance a start up. Having skin in the game, ie. my own money at risk, motivated me to make this career move a success.
Q6: What were some initial, unexpected challenges, problems, and development issues you had to face?
A6: Unexpected challenges were everywhere but I took everything in stride. I didn’t know any better. I believed in the power of music… nothing was going to stop me from carving out a place at the table for me and eventually my artists. The year I signed my first management client was the year I left real estate, got married and had my first (or two) kids.
Everything was new to me. The lingo, the economics, the culture. I was a quick learner because I had to be. I listened to my heart, in retrospect it was a bold, crazy career shift with risky timing. What mitigated the risk is that I had good business partners in Ellis Paul and Mike Dreese. And strong mentors like Tim Collins who was the long term manager of Aerosmith.
Q7: Are there any overall guidelines you follow to help you manage your business?
A7: Overall guidelines I follow to help manage the business: I started with the credo that music is the most important force I know. It can change lives, move mountains, motivate, heal and inspire this world of ours. Music and it’s creators are precious to me and this respect of the power and majesty of music is behind my motivation to work with artists that bring light, healing and inspiration to this planet of ours. I thought this as a kid, I believe in this more today than ever. When I stop believing in the power of music, i’ll go to law school or become a dentist.
Q8: What trends (changes on the horizon) do you see unfolding in your line of business over the next five to ten years?
A8: Changes/ trends in the next 5-10 years. The more things change with music monetization and delivery of music, the more things stay the same. The importance of a good song, finding an audience, blowing away a live audience and monetizing it all is the backbone of the artist management business. Facilitating an artist with co-creating a vision for them is exciting. Being on top of the changes to technology, legal issues, cultural shifts and all part of the realization that being plugged into the goings on of this planet is a must. Not just with popular culture and the music business but the bigger picture is always important to understand and monitor.
Q9: Do you ever barter your products, services, or assets with other companies in exchange for their products, services, or assets?
A9. There are direct and indirect ways of bartering what I do. I have ‘consulted’ with artists for years. Meeting them for a meal which I would buy, helping them, hearing their stories and them, having them fill their notebooks with ideas, plans and proposals I see fit for them. It is why I got into this business to help artists. Then when my experience grew, I was getting the meals paid for me and money exchanged. I have participated in cruises, seminars, conventions, fundraising, non-profits all using my experience and connections to help others. When I realized I have skills that can help others I realize how much of a joy it is to do so. What I get in return is satisfaction that I am helping others. This is a deep satisfaction.
Q11: Which web tools & strategies do you use regularly for improving your internet marketing? (e.g., Google Analytics, Search Engine Optimization, Twitter and other social networking tools, blogging, etc.)
A11. Internet marketing: I took a Entrepreneurial MBA course and learned that most business owners are great at working AT their business, but need to work ON their business as well.
I am constantly seeking out younger, less experienced ‘beginners’ to bring a ‘beginners mind’ to what I do. An expert has limited possibilities, when you are a beginner, there seems to be infinite possibilities. There are no rules because they don’t ‘know any better’. I like that side of the coin.
I have 2-3 college interns working for me at all times and a network of managers, students who I learn from. I read 5-10 blogs daily to seek out trends, lessons and more experience at all things internet marketing. I use social media experiments and technology in a rotating series of tests to grow the reach of my artists.
Q12: As you look back, what do you feel are the most critical concepts, skills, attitudes, and know-how you needed to get your company started and grow to where it is today?
What skills, etc. will be needed in the next five years?
A12. I am constantly learning. I gobble up information from business, sports, music, culture, education, spirituality, design blogs. I read 2-3 newspapers a day and make sure there is a flow of ‘experts’ I am learning from and being inspired by. I have always been a student successful people and I study success patterns and habits . I keep on thinking of the risk I took in thinking I could carve out a career as an artist manager. I got lucky, I was tenacious, humble and bold all at the same time. I learned how to ask for help, aggregate mentors, role models and teachers. Taking care of my mind, body and spirit will lead me to future adventures. Having the faith that I am on the right path, for the right reasons has kept me going and supports this holy crusade I am on.
Q13: Which subjects that you studied in or out of school have you found to be most helpful to you as an entrepreneur? Why?
A13. I have taken an general Entrepreneurial course at BU after graduation from college, as well as two courses at the Harvard School of Design that had to do with financing, particularly real estate financing. I have have taken independent courses in: negotiation, spirituality and writing as well. Probably the best course I have taken post-undergrad was an Entrepreneurial MBA program, designed for small business owners with experience at running their own business. I was in a class of small business owners running design company, bakers, insurance brokers, and there I was with a musician management company, way out in left field, but with similar needs and desires to work ON my company with like minded business people.
Q14: If you had to characterize your entrepreneurial life in one image, what would it be and why?
A14. Entrepreneurial life… a snapshot of my preparing dinner for two young, hungry kids, trying to be present while the phone is ringing off the hook. Saying no to the phone, feeling like I could do more for my kids, and my clients, yet letting all of this go and realize this is part of the balancing act of running my own business.
Q15: Any thoughts on how you manage to keep a balance between your personal and business lives?
A15. Balance is difficult, but essential. I carve out time for my children, for exercise, friends, family, and remain super efficient with my time. I have systems in place from hiring reliable staff to back me up, and make sure things don’t slip through the cracks. I read once that ‘if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person for they know how to get things done’. I have always had a lot on my plate professionally with managing artists, teaching at Berklee College of Music, serving on 3 Boards of Directors and being a father to two amazing kids. Time is precious. I Don’t waste time, I value my time and know every day is important, and we are not promised another day. If we get another day, I try to honor it by using the time wisely.
Q16: What would you do differently – if you could turn back the clock?
A16. Turn back the clock. I really don’t think I would do anything differently. I needed the failure, the struggle, the stress, the rejections. I needed to make mistakes and I try to always make new mistakes, not the same one repeatedly. I live my life as much as I can in the present moment, with an eye towards future adventures. I can’t turn back the clock so I don’t bother myself with this exercise. What I can change is in the now, and it will be in the future really soon.
Q17: What recommendations would you offer someone considering starting their own business?
A17. Suggestions in starting your own business. Have burning passion for what you are doing. Your reason for starting the business should have something to do with bringing light, making the world a better place to some capacity. Figure out the money side of things. How to attract money, how to use it, budget, negotiation skills, saying ‘NO’ and people skills all help.
If security is valued, you will have a tough time. If you have tenacity for what you are creating, if you are on a mission, a holy crusade, you are on your way.
Q18: Are there any overall guidelines you follow to help you manage your business?
A18. Guidelines for managing the business. I work as hard as I can for my artists… while keeping perspective and a sense of humor. I surround myself with like minded people who inspire and entertain me. Daily I realize my artists I represent are relying on me for their livelihood, their economic wherewithal. It is an immense responsibility to partner up with an artist for a co-created adventure. I always realize that it is a privilege to have a job/career in the music world. I honor this by my work.
Q19: If you could say one thing about financial management to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be and why?
A19. financial management. It is essential to know how money works.
Summa Cum Laude: Ralph Jaccodine
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
While at the world-famous school of music, artists meet other like-minded people with a driving passion to express themselves through song. They also learn how to turn that passion into a career.
Among the leaders of the artist management muster at Berklee is Ralph Jaccodine.
Having started his own career as a performer, Jaccodine knows well the trials and tribulations (as well as the glory and the fun) involved in a musical life. As he understood the difficulties involved in making it as a performing musician, Jaccodine diversified his passions while in high school in Allentown, PA, promoting shows by the likes of Hall and Oates, Kiss, Rush, and Styx as a member of the city’s high school student government. He then went on to promote shows at the University of Notre Dame, including a concert by Bruce Springsteen.
“That experience brought me a complete fascination with the business of music ,” Jaccodine explains. “I was in a small town and suddenly these huge, shiny busses pull in and everybody in town comes out.”
And while the bands would “blow everybody away and then move on to the next town,” something stuck with Jaccodine that shaped his career and his life.
“To be able to meet the artists and see it all, I really caught the bug and found that I really had a lot of passion for the whole circus act,” he smiles.
In 1994, Jaccodine co-created Black Wolf Records with friend and fellow industry expert Mike Dreese, who had created the popular and enduring Newbury Comics record store. Ralph Jaccodine Management (www.ralphjaccodine.com) was born soon after as a company that, Jaccodine says, was “built on integrity and tenacity.” These dual qualities have helped Jaccodine steer his curated family of clients amidst the tidal waves of a tumultuous industry.
“The philosophy is indie and fiercely independent with global reach in mind for our artists,” explains Jaccodine, noting that his company also founded Black Wolf records with award-winning singer/songwriter Ellis Paul. “The goal is…building lasting careers, focusing on working hard and doing things the right way for the right reasons.”
As he was in Boston and working with many nationally-touring artists, Jaccodine was often invited to speak and present at Berklee.
“I was pretty familiar with the folks in the faculty and Berklee’s status in the music world,” Jaccodine explains. “I also really like talking to student(s) because I feel I have a lot to offer them because I have 25 years of hard-earned experience as a manager.”
The more Jaccodine got to know the school and its faculty and students, the more he wanted to be a part of it.
“Years ago, I asked my management client Livingston Taylor why he was so excited to be teaching at Berklee,” Jaccodine recalls. “He said it was because he was among the best, most talented faculty and students in the country. That stuck with me! “
And while he admits that he was initially reticent to share his wisdoms with the students, Jaccodine says the he now relishes the opportunity.
“When I first started to talk to students, I was very nervous because I did not feel I was an authority figure on the business of music,” he recalls. “But now that I have been managing artists for so long, I feel confident that I am the expert on one thing, my career and my years of experience and the lessons I have learned from the trenches of the music industry.”
As he lives what he teaches, Jaccodine has been able to bring a rare, real world perspective to his classes and his students. “Because it is my day job, I have to be up to date and so I can bring that updated information and perspective to the students,” he reasons. “It is a really good feeling to be able to help them!”
At Berklee (where he won the Dean’s Award for Innovation and Service in 2015 ), Jaccodine also wears multiple hats, serving as an Assistant Professor in the department of Music Business/Management, co-managing the Berklee Music Law & Management Club, and also developing a series of professional development seminars with the Boston Managers Group, which he started 20 years ago with ex-Aerosmith manager Tim Collins.
“The club brings speakers in for the students and the community-at-large,” Jaccodine explains, listing such other austere speakers as Don Law of Live Nation, Panos Panay of SonicBids, Derek Sivers of CD Baby, and Berklee President Roger Brown and also mentioning a recent seminar with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Oates. “I am trying to bring a lot of energy and great talent to Berklee.”
Jaccodine has also been able to gain a great deal from his time at the school as well. Among his Berklee-bred clients are Shun Ng and Rebecca Loebe (see January, 2015 issue), and long-time friend Taylor. “I also mentor many of my students and others at the school,” Jaccodine says.
In his role at Berklee, Jaccodine is able to support and influence many young artists and future managers. When asked who influenced and inspired him, Jaccodine again mentions Collins and Dreese.
“In 1992, I came to Mike ranting and raving about Ellis Paul, and how great this guy’s music was. He quickly brought me down to earth saying those two words that have haunted me ever since- ‘Nobody Cares!’”
While Dreese’s response drove home the hard reality that, for the most part, music is seen as disposable, it also encouraged Jaccodine to work even harder to make people care about the songs and songwriters who mattered to him.
“Mike’s challenge to me back…was ‘How do I make people care about the music I care about?’” Jaccodine explains. “I have made a career out of spreading…the music of other people I care about.”
In fact, Jaccodine takes Dreese’s words so to hear that he continues to see his role not just as manager, but also as proselytizer.
“Personal management has to be a holy crusade or nothing at all,” Jaccodine observes. “You have to have confidence that people will care. Spreading my artist’s music is how I feed my family, but just as important… it is how I feed my soul.”
In an effort to repay his mentors and to help them support each other and other colleagues, Jaccodine has also organized a manager’s roundtable, of which Collins and Dreese are integral parts. In fact, Jaccodine recalls, Collins was there from the beginning.
“I had a few months of calling myself a manager under my belt when I called Tim,” Jaccodine recalls. “Tim was on top of the food chain for managers and I just wanted to meet him, touch his garment and hope that something would rub off on me.”
After what turned out to be an extensive conversation, in which Jaccodine was able to share his knowledge of the MA music scene with the eminent manager, Collins offered to reciprocate.
“I asked him to help me form a ‘bunch of managers’ so we can help each other out,” Jaccodine explains.
Thus was the Boston Manager’s Group born!
“As a manager,” Jaccodine suggests, “I am supposed to know how to guide a career without question, the artist places their trust in my guidance. I need to be an expert.”
While Jaccodine says that the Group helps him and other managers find the answers and garner the support they need to help their clients and to hopefully help strengthen and grow the music scene and the industry at large, he still feels that his main role is as an educator.
“I feel like I have found my calling in teaching,” Jaccodine says."
Music Manager's Forum Spotlight
Monday, November 23, 2015
In 1994 he started Ralph Jaccodine Management guiding the career of songwriter Ellis Paul, and then expanded the business working with several additional artists including: Martin Sexton (Singer-songwriter), The Push Stars (Rock), Flynn(Singer Songwriter) , Antje Duvekot (Singer-songwriter), The Adam Ezra Group, Johnny A(guitarist, rocker), Works Progress Administration (Glen Phillips, Sean Watkins & Luke Bulla), Vinx (World Music/Sting's percussionist), Averi (pop-rock), and Bang Camaro (rock).
What inspired you to want to be a manager?
I started out as a pretty bad musician but I could market and promote the music with passion. I wanted to sell something I really believe in and music was it for music is tied into deep places in my life. At the time I met my first client, Ellis Paul, in 1994, I was running my commercial real estate company for 12 years in downtown Boston. This job was my crash course in negotiating, figuring out how money flows and how to build a company, I decided to commit myself to helping Ellis get his music 'out there', whatever that meant, so I gave up the suits and ties and built a record label and management company.
What was your first industry job and how did you get it?
In high school I was president of the Allentown (Pa.) Council of Youth which promoted concerts and then I was the concert director at the University of Notre Dame getting me my first taste of the music industry. I worked with promoting acts such as: Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Rush, Styx, Heart, Dolly Parton, Van Halen, Hall and Oats, Bill Cosby and others.
What determines your desire to work with an artist?
An artist's talent and work ethic is ultimately one of the top determiners if the relationship can have a chance of working so this is also very high on my list. I need to believe the artist's music can change the world AND I need to know if they are good people
In your opinion, what makes a great artist “great”?
I need to know: Does the artist's music touch people in a profound way, whether it be their heart, head or groin? The music has to stick and create a powerful force in the listener's life or the artist is wasting their time. We don't need more musicians or new songs in this world... we have enough. You have to be great first, then get paid.
What is your greatest professional challenge today?
Being a manger is also being an expert on marketing, technology, promotion, PR and psychology. The rules seem to be changing overnight so keeping up with all of the turbulance and not losing my core values and sanity is a must... and a challenge.
How did your business transform over the last several years?
I used to have label partners with all sorts of money and specialists they would bring to the table, now it is all coming from the team I put together, often with little or no budget.
Where do you see this business 5-10 years from now?
I see the Artist- Manager relationship growing to be an even more important, powerful force in the business and the fans will take more of an investor- ownership role to keep their favorite artists in business
What is the best advice you have received over the years as a manager?
The long time manager of Aerosmith, Tim Collins, became a mentor of mine and he introduced me to the 'beginners mind' where you don't get stuck with just one way of looking at things. You should respond to situations with the wonder, interest and humility of a beginner instead of thinking you are an 'expert' at everything... in summary, I learned to always make new mistakes.
What would you tell a new manager coming into the business today?
Remember job of a manager is someone who has to throw their body between the artist's foot and their gun.
Letter to a 15 year old Songwriter
Monday, March 11, 2013
Good to see you and your family this weekend.
15 is a great age.... you are on your way to finding what 'your voice' is all about.
This is the perfect time to work really hard at the craft of song writing.
Here are some of my suggestions:
First you need to study the great songwriters.
Go to your parents record collection...Listen to some of my favorites: Leonard Cohen, Ellis Paul, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Cat Stevens, James Taylor...
Study their songs, the choice of words, phrasing, production...get these songs into your bloodstream, into your musical DNA.
Check out Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Prince, Adele, Rob Thomas, Jay Z, Eminem and do the same with them.
Figure out why a song moves you.
Really study how the great songwriters write, compose and perform their music.
The writer Hunter S. Thompson when he was starting out used to type out all of Hemingway's novels.
By typing out every word out himself he worked his way into Hemingway's head, which informed him as a young writer.
Learn how to play some of the great songs, cover them, yet make them your own.
And then after this you have to write EVERY day...
and READ every day.
Read the great writers
Write a journal, write stories, poems, letters, write letters that will never be sent...
Then write songs..
Every week you should have another NEW song written and completed....
Starting now, you should have 52 new songs by this time next year....
It is hard work... if you focus on this NOW you will be working harder than most your age.
If you want to be a songwriter/musician professionally you have to want to change the world with your music.
It has to be a holy crusade.... or nothing at all.
If you want to change the world with your music, you have to 'serve the song' ... become the best songwriter possible.
Keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing.
Check out www.RalphJaccodine.com and the ['Ask a Manager'] blog I write from time to time, this might help.
And, finally enjoy the process.
ReThink Music & The Future of Artist Management
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The process was a bit torturous... each and every manager were folks I knew though their work with some of the music industry's biggest acts....U2 manager Paul McGuinniss, John Mayer's Michael McDonald, MGMT's Mark Kates, The Dixie Chicks' Simon Renshaw, Mike Mills bass player of REM and his manager Bertis Downs, Metric's band leaders Jimmy and Emily with their manager Mathieu Drouin.
An all-star, fairly intimidating, extremely well traveled line-up for this moderator.
It was a packed stage, and between old school/cutting edge management philosophies, big personalities, lots of brilliance.... and a unique personality or two -- the panel went really well.
The following was an interview I did for the conference... enjoy.
Get Informed... It's part of the Secret
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Don Gorder, the chair of the Music Business department, asked me to speak about my take of this business of music through my lens of 20+ years of managing artists.
The participants came from all over the globe, hungry, eager and smart. They all had questions, and after the sessions they needed and wanted more information, and we were always running out of time... but isn't that the case.
A big part of my job as a manager and business owner is staying informed - this is hard because there is so much material to sift through. Every day, 24/7 there is news, stories, blogs and clutter that needs to be sifted through. After years of doing the sifting, I think part of teaching the business to others is to relate how important it is to stay informed.. daily.
What I did promise my students was a follow up with a listing of some of the main sources I rely on for music/entertainment/media news.
I rely on the following daily news feeds, blogs:
Bob Lefsetz Lefsetz.com
Seth Godin SethGodin.com
Jason Hirschhorn's Media ReDEFined Paper.li
Digital Music News DigitalMusicNews.com
SXSW Daily News SxSW.com
In addition, I also rely on these daily newspapers... old school:
NY Times, Wall St Journal & Boston Globe
(Get informed, it is part of the secret....)
5 - No... 6 Mistakes a New Act Should Avoid (by Bob Lefsetz and Ralph Jaccodine)
Thursday, February 9, 2012
It's spot on.
I would add one more point to Bob's list...
#6. 'NOBODY CARES'.
Mike Dreese, the co-founder of Newbury Comics record store chain up here in New England said these 2 words to me when we started Black Wolf Records in 1994.
I came to Mike ranting and raving about Ellis Paul, and how great this guy's music was. He quickly brought me down to earth saying those two words that have haunted me ever since... "Nobody Cares!".
But I do, and did... and 20 years later I have made a career out of spreading Ellis' music, and the music of other people I care about to music fans who don't care.
We have enough music in the world, we don't need any more songs, any more musicians... there are millions of songs and musicians that will never be heard because they can't find ears interested in taking them in.
So Mike's challenge to me back in '94 was 'How do I make people care about the music I care about?'.
I have worked at this question every day... for over 20 years as a manager.
Personal management has to be a holy crusade... or nothing at all. You have to have confidence that people will care.
Spreading my artist's music is how I feed my family, but just as important... it is how I feed my soul.
Now on to Bob Lefsetz:
Q. What are the five mistakes a new act should avoid when starting out?
- Believing that publicity/marketing is more important than music.
- Believing a record deal will solve all their problems and ensure success.
- Believing that because their parents and friends like them, everybody else will.
- Believing success usually happens overnight.
- Believing anything that happened in the past still applies. MTV no longer plays music, the younger demo doesn’t care much about radio, albums are a historical format with little relevance in today’s marketplace, everything’s up for grabs, and you can have it your way. If you’re good, people will find you. If you get success quick, it probably won’t last.
You can check out the full Lefsetz Letter here.
Unplugged & Uncensored: An Insider's Guide to the Music Industry
Friday, January 6, 2012
I always knew that the power and inspiration music sent through my veins was an important part of what I wanted as part of carving out a career. It just so happened that this 'career' had to be cobbled together with lots o' time, patience and then only after getting a bunch of mistakes under my belt.
After a college fantasy job of promoting concerts at Notre Dame, and a double fantasy come true hanging with a Bruce Springsteen's tour in London, I got a 'real job' in Boston. Whenever I could, I would leave the day gig I had to get on the road to 'follow my bliss'.... as it was called back then.
I learned about the music business from going to music conferences and seminars all over the country. I would fly to a strange city, rent a hotel room, find my way to the conference and parties, hopefully with an open bar somewhere in the mix. I would soak everything in, ask stupid questions and network like hell with no one who cared about me and my dreams... and I loved it!
It was great... but wasn't cheap... even with the free booze.
I found that this was a very expensive way to learn.
Ultimately, the reality was that I was in huge conference rooms with hundreds of others just like me, wanting to be in the music game. My alone time with the 'experts' was limited and the competition to get attention from the panelists/players was practically impossible.
I learned that anyone who can help get someone a gig, a job or some short cut on getting planted in the music industry got all the attention. I had nothing to offer, nothing to trade, or give away, so it was tough starting out.
Jump ahead 20 years, I've been running my own artist management-record label business. I still go to conferences and panels, I'm still learning, reading, and working hard to be the best at the game that I can be.
Recently here in my hometown, the Boston Center of Adult Education (BCAE) gave me the opportunity to create a one day music seminar we are calling: "Unplugged and Uncensored: An insiders guide to the music industry".
I'm thrilled how it came together!
We'll have a panel of experts. Actually it is my dream panel of artists and entrepreneurs who know what DIY is all about. Our attitudes are fiercely indie, we are all in the trenches doing things our own way... and surviving in what is the most turbulent time in the music industry.
The BCAE folks gave me the license to create what I think is the best value for anyone interested in music/creative businesses either on the stage or behind the scenes. Managers, agents, bookers, promoters, musicians, songwriters, fans and those who want to find out what the heck is going on in our creative world would benefit from this.
After spending thousands of dollars attending seminars and 20+ years of being in the trenches of the music business I came up with this seminar. I'm extremely excited about this opportunity. It will benefit anyone in the creative fields, not strictly limited to the music world.
I wanted the seminar to be intimate, so we are limiting this to 100 participants. We have built in time for dialogue, questions and networking. We will learn from each other.
I wanted artists and industry speakers with a national profile with lots of experience to pass on. There will be lots of lessons, warnings, war stories and success stories of how we all are thriving in our own way in a completely different music industry from what was around when I was starting out.
Hope you can check it out.... let me know if you have questions.
How to break into a "Boy's Club"
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Just wanted to send you a hello from Nashville! And I also wanted to say thanks for making us write that paper in intermediaries about problems in the music industry. Now being an intern in a studio that's completely run by men, I'm seeing a lot of what I wrote about all first hand. And doing that research has kind of prepared me to deal with some of the issues down here. Not all, and it's definitely tough. There are four interns, three guys and myself. And sometimes I feel like the staff engineers are more likely to go to the guys for help, physical or otherwise. And I know we've talked about this many times but I was wondering if you had any bits of advice on how to stand out or at least match up to the guys?
I know about some of the problems women face in the music business, but I am not an expert. What I DO know, I learned from my family, coming from Italy and other families coming from other countries to America. I learned when immigrants came to America they were underdogs and they had to out-hustle their competition. They worked longer hours and had to find out what people/customers wanted more aggressively than the existing businesses. They had to work hard on people skills to become important members of the community, all while constantly hustling more than others.
Regarding your situation with the 'boys club' in the music business... Don't wait to wait for staff engineers to 'call on the boys'! See what YOU can do to help the engineers before they ask for help...this is about paying attention. Stay late at the studio, get there early and ASK questions. Try to bring in business to the studio if you can, this is how you become invaluable. Make friends, network/socialize like crazy. Use your youth and inexperience as a badge which emboldens you to not be afraid to make mistakes, and to be bold... even when you think you have no right to be so!
You are smart, talented and have the goods to have a successful career.
A career in music WILL NOT come to you, don't wait to be picked for it... make it happen the old fashioned way, out-hustle everyone else... do it will grace, patience and intelligence... your education gave you a good foundation, but now it is up to you.
The patience part is hard... but if you keep going, work through the frustration, you will carve out your own niche.
I am rooting for you.
PS. This makes good reading: http://www.pias.com/blog/41-tips-for-women-starting-out-in-the-music-business/
Dissertation interview for Regent's School of Business, London
Monday, April 28, 2014
A. Talent management deals with artists. The work ethic, drive, motivation and skill set of artists, specifically musicians, is much different than other industries. To get into the heart, soul and mind of anartist is an art unto itself.
Q. To what extent do you believe artist management in music has changed in the last decades? Has the impact of technological development changedthe role of the manager?
A. The changes are coming at us faster than before led by changes in technology. The ability to reach an audience is easier, but the fundamentals haven’t changed: quality, hard work, a great show performed live is still ultra important.
Q. Traditional management theories define effectiveness and efficiency as the core elements used to measure the quality of management. Would you agree that efficiency isn’t the most appropriate measure for management in the music industry as it can impact on musical creativity?
A. Correct, efficiency is not one of my top measures as to the quality of a quality manager.
Q. Out of the variety of ways the quality of management can be measured and perceived, what would you consider fitting for identifying successful artist management? Is it possible to measure such management accurately?
A. The ability to launch, grow and most importantly sustain a career is at the top of my list. For a team, manager and artist should be in good mental, physical and spiritual health. The financial and personal well- being of the artist is what successful artist management is all about.
Q. Do social media figures, commercial sales and other industry statistics provide reliable information, or is management more measureable in a qualitative manner?
A. Data is part of the equation, but data can be twisted and turned… and in some cases fudged. For some very successful artists, sales, statistics and numbers are low on the list of goals.
Q. In your opinion, what artist management styles and methods are effective in guiding artists and musical products in their development? Is a free-management style better than creating a comprehensive business model around an artist?
A. It depends on the artist. Every artist/manager has a unique style… it can constantly change when necessary. As a relationship progresses, growth, progress, failure all require different, evolving methods.
Q. In your experience, are there any specific approaches (with regards to copyrights, live performances, recorded music sales, music resources etc.) that are effective in managing the career and musical products of an artist?
A. Again depends on the artist… the only thing that is certain… is if an artist can blow away an audience live they can have a career.
Q. Would you agree that artist management should focus on creating value instead of profit from music as an art form?
A. You need money to launch and facilitate a career in music.. it is unavoidable… good art, hard work … with capital behind it should create value on some level. A manager has to balance the ‘creating value’ with keeping the business afloat, it is a dance.
Q. Due to the closeness between the music and the artist, is it possible that a trusted manager who has a close personal relationship with the artist could be more successful than a professional with an effective business approach?
A. I think a close relationship should come out of great work together, achieving success, forward progress, and time… an artist needs a manger to be good at business first, not a friend… when a manager becomes a friend, it is a bonus.
Q. To what extent do you believe that the success of musicians and/or musical products depend on the quality of management?
A. Success is driven by the quality of music… a great manager with poor music is like lipstick on a pig… (sorry)
Q. Is there is anything else worth mentioning?
A. I find that I need to be the leader of a holy crusade when I take on a client. I need to fight the good fight, even when it seems like no one cares. I assume no one cares.. and I try to make folks care about my artist. This is the goal.
The lessons of those who have gone before
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
This business of music is changing almost daily. I am bombarded with new companies, blogs and slick new technology - it is hard to keep up. Often I turn off the clutter and lean on my reliable sources for the information I let come my way, experts I subscribe to on my computer screen or my phone line daily. I don't need to be THE expert, I just need to know where to find the experts I need.
When I got into this business, I had a few months of calling myself a manager under my belt when I called Tim Collins, the longtime manager of Boston's Aerosmith, arguably America's biggest rock band. Tim was on top of the food chain for managers and I just wanted to meet him, touch his garment and hope that something would rub off on me.
Tim was very generous of his time and we had a very nice, cordial meeting.
To my surprise, Tim called me the next day and asked me if I knew anything about a 200 capacity club in western Massachusetts, The Iron Horse. I did, and for the next 15-20 minutes I was able to download everything I knew about the club to Tim. He said "thanks" and we said good bye.
I hung up the phone and was amazed that I was able to help Tim Collins just months into this new career. So I called Tim back and said "Hey Tim, I just helped you" and he said "yeah, thanks" and I said "If I can help you, I"m sure you can help me out."
Needless to say, managing Aerosmith for almost 2 decades at the highest levels of the music business made me confident that Tim knew a couple of tricks about managing artists and while I was on a roll, I told Tim that "we should get all the Boston managers together to help each other out".
Many years later, it sounds a bit naive, and it was, but this conversation was the birth of the Boston Manager's group that is now still going strong after 14 years and with over 50 managers as members. With the birth of this group, I have my personal panel of experts I can contact to help me out of a situation that needs some extra finesse, and vice-versa.
As a manager, I need to be the leader of the Holy Crusade and I am supposed to know how to guide a career without question, the artist places their trust in my guidance. I need to be an expert.
This is quite a responsibility, sometimes it keeps me up at night, but often I relish in the wild west that is our business and the feeling of taking an artist up the food chain.
Where do I go for information? Often it is with lessons from people that have gone before me and blazed a trail that is still well traveled. It could be Tim Collins or John Lennon, or it could be Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.
Before the brilliance of Steve Jobs, there was a fellow named Henry Ford, who blazed a trail that changed the business world in a profound way.
When I was a kid I heard a story about ol' Henry that I recently ran across in a blog by a writer of all things marketing, Sean Rasmussen, an Aussie 'Success Communicator'. In this blog he wrote, it talks about my favorite Henry Ford story - he surrounded himself with smart, talented colleagues, just like Steve Jobs did. It takes a village, the manager should be the conductor of a talented team. Check out Henry's story it is a great one.
An Abundance Of Knowledge
An educated man is not, necessarily, one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge. An educated man is one who has developed the faculties of his mind in such a way that he can acquire anything he wants, or its equivalent, without violating the rights of others. Both Henry Ford and Bill Gates fall well within the meaning of this definition.
During the First World War, a Chicago newspaper published a number of editorials in which, among other statements, Henry Ford was called “an ignorant pacifist.” Mr. Ford objected to the statements, and sued the paper for libeling him. When the suit was tried in the Courts, the attorneys for the paper pleaded justification, and placed Ford himself on the witness stand, for the purpose of proving to the jury that he was ignorant. The attorneys asked Mr. Ford a great variety of questions, all of which were intended to prove, by his own evidence, that, while he might possess considerable specialized knowledge pertaining to the manufacture of automobiles, he was, overall, ignorant.
Mr. Ford was asked questions like:
“Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?” In answer to the last question, Mr. Ford replied, “I do not know the exact number of soldiers the British sent over, but I have heard that it was a considerably larger number than ever went back.”
Finally, Ford grew tired of this line of questioning, and in reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointed his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question, and said, “If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, why I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”
Playing The Logic Card
There certainly was good logic to that reply.
That answer floored the lawyer. Every person in the courtroom realized it was the answer, not of an ignorant man, but of a man of education. Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action. Through the assistance of his “Master Mind” group, Henry Ford had at his command all the specialized knowledge he needed to enable him to become one of the wealthiest men in America. It was not essential that he have this knowledge in his own mind. Surely no person who has sufficient inclination and intelligence to read a book of this nature can possibly miss the significance of this point.
Access To Knowledge
This is an important point. You do not need to know everything, you just need to know how to access the knowledge that you do require at various points in your life travels. It’s fairly obvious that you possess that skill, because somehow you landed here, surrounding yourself with a community of support for success and the access to knowledge for building prosperity. Not one of us here claims to “know it all” already, but we do claim the education to know how to access the resources that we need to succeed.
Sean Rasmussen/ SeanRasmussen.com