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Building Your Team as You Build Your Career

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Eugene Foley – founder and president of Foley Entertainment, a full service music industry consulting firm and licensed entertainment agency.]

As the career of an artist evolves, so will their support team.   In the early days of someone’s career in the music business, they often have to handle all aspects of their career without help from experienced professionals. For the artists who are fortunate to have success, eventually their team will grow. That will allow the artist to focus on writing, rehearsing and performing, while their support team handles the business, financial, legal and marketing aspects of their career.

Let’s take a look at the most common team members and at what stage of someone’s career do they generally come onboard.

Level One

– Publicist & Radio Promoter
– Entertainment Attorney

During ‘Level One’ of an emerging artist’s career, the main focus is on songwriting, recording, tightening up live performances, creating marketing materials, building a web site and social media pages, and increasing the size of their fan base. Once those things are addressed, artists usually start reaching out to clubs and other venues to begin securing live performance opportunities.

During this phase of a career, an entertainment attorney can help an artist get important legal matters in place, including, but not limited to, matters related to copyright and trademark, drafting an inter-band agreement, setting up a business entity and other tasks along those lines.

The next team members to join are often a publicist and a radio promoter.   You can have amazing songs and a fantastic live show, but consumers have to find out that you exist. An experienced and well-connected PR firm and college radio promotion company can secure a tremendous amount of favorable exposure for your music, videos and live performances. They will target newspapers, magazines, blogs, regional TV Talk shows, college and online radio stations and anywhere else that would be willing to give you coverage and exposure.

In these early days of someone’s career, little to no income is being generated and what little may come in from music and merchandise sales and gigs is often just reinvested right back into the project.   So the artist has to wear many hats at this stage of a career before attracting an experienced manager or a booking agent.

Traditionally, managers and booking agents work on commission-based compensation with managers generally earning 15% to 20% and booking agents 10%. So unless a good amount of money is coming in, or serious major label interest in on the table, most top-notch managers and agents will not express interest.

So the artist has to guide their career on a day-to-day basis and turn to the entertainment attorney or a top music industry consultant for advice whenever needed. Most ‘Level One’ artists also book their own gigs at clubs, small theaters, colleges and local festivals. For those who are successful, graduate up and evolve into a ‘Level Two’ artist, help is on the way.

Level Two

– Publicist & Radio Promoter
– Entertainment Attorney
– Personal Manager
– Booking Agent

By the time the artist reaches ‘Level Two’, their publicist and radio promoter will have the buzz and leverage high enough to start targeting bigger press, bigger radio stations and large market TV talk shows.   By now the social media followers should be a high number and it’s time for the artist to get on the radar of top managers and booking agencies.

Once those two team members are added, the artist will finally have full-time help with the day-to-day operations of their career and begin securing well-paying gigs at respected, popular venues. Opportunities to tour with headlining major label acts may even arise thanks to the booking agent’s contacts and connections.

Quite a few artists and groups reach ‘Level Two’ and build a very respectable, long-term career and make a nice living doing what they love. The best of the best climb the career ladder one more notch and reach ‘Level Three’.

Level Three

– Publicist & Radio Promoter
– Entertainment Attorney
– Personal Manager
– Business Manager & CPA
– Booking Agent
– Music Publisher
– Record Company

By the time an artist reaches ‘Level Three’, several new team members join the mix, including a business manager, CPA, music publisher and a record company.   At this point, many artists add a commercial radio promoter to the team, while keeping the college promoter who has been onboard since ‘Level One’.

By this stage in someone’s career, they are touring globally, performing at venues that have a capacity of 10,000+ and selling a great deal of, downloads/streams, merchandise, and CDs/vinyl. Income is also coming in from their music publisher and numerous licensing opportunities offered to ‘Level Three’ artists.

The personal manager, attorney, business manager and CPA all work closely together to guide the artist’s career and the booking agent keeps the well-paying live shows flowing in.   A record company would be helping the artist record and market new songs and helping with financial support, especially in areas of publicity, promotion, marketing, advertising and tour support.

The artist would continue to focus on the creative aspects of their career and all of the team members are working like a well-oiled machine driving the project to the top of the charts.

An industry with a similar climb is baseball.   A baseball player starts out in youth leagues and the better players keep climbing the ranks through high school, college and minor league baseball.   As their career rolls along, they’re securing better trainers, more experienced coaches and managers, they’re adding new professionals to their team, such as an agent, nutritionist, physician and sports psychologist – along with marketing and endorsement executives. As a baseball player’s career takes off and they reach the major leagues, their needs change and evolve and so does their support team.

It’s the same thing in the music business. If someone has a great deal of talent, works hard, builds the right team, formulates a smart game plan and everyone is steering the ship in the same direction, they have a real shot to climb from ‘Level One’ to ‘Level Three’ over a period of time. Good luck on your climb!


Eugene Foley represents artists, bands, songwriters, labels, managers, producers, engineers and other industry participants. Clients have earned nearly 40 Gold & Platinum Records & three GRAMMY® Awards. Foley is the author of the acclaimed educational book, “Artist Development – A Distinctive Guide To The Music Industry’s Lost Art.”   He’s a frequent music biz expert guest on television and radio and lectures extensively on topics including artist development, marketing, music publishing and intellectual property. Foley offers a free music & career evaluation to all unsigned artists, visit: www.FoleyEntertainment.com.