Thoughts On How To Approach Music Bloggers

[Editors Note: This article is derived from the “Question and Answer” format found over at, a site that connects artists and music industry experts. It was written by Jack Ought, a musician, freelance writer and digital artist from the UK.]


1. Start With Empathy

I’d say start with empathy. Empathy is a vital skill for dealing with other humans, whether they blog or not. Try to put yourself into the head of the music blogger before you contact one. What do they want out of life and how can you help them get it with your music? Put another way, ‘what’s in it for them’?

It’s a bit like submitting to A&Rs at major labels. If they’re really big, they’re getting more submissions than they can possibly deal with. They’re getting generic/irrelevant pitches all the time, and they might have grown to resent ‘bad pitches’. They don’t want to read War and Peace, even if your content is relevant to them – instead, they’re looking for short, informative, and ’to the point’ releases that allow them to learn more, if they want to. And they are always looking to uncover music that they feel has real value, why else would they do what they do?

If it’s a commercial blog (i.e they have ads), understand their revenue model – they want more page views, which generate more ad revenue. How can you help them generate more page views? One of the things that always gets my interest as a journalist or blogger is an exclusive – I’m not interested in posting content that a bunch of other people have put out before me. Do you have something new to announce that they can post first? A new tour perhaps, or a new single? Perhaps consider: “if it’s not new, it’s not news”

2. Your Mindset

Perhaps consider your mindset too; in the sense that you are here to serve and provide value. You are here to give them something very exciting to show to their readership. You have something genuinely valuable to share with them in the form of your art.

What to do when you pitch a blogger:

Have a strong headline: It’s worth bearing in mind that your email subject is a bit like your headline – you really have to get it right, because if they don’t like the title they won’t even read your email.

Do your homework on the blog: Some blogs ask you to do certain things in your email to help them better process your submission. If you don’t, the blogger will likely reject your message outright.

Personalize your pitch: Make sure the salutation references them by name, if you can. If not, name of the blog that they write for. Don’t start an email with something like ‘Dear Blogger’, please. Tailor it to the blogger in question, ideally in the first paragraph by referencing something they have written about in the past: And why what you have to OFFER them is RELEVANT. I speak from experience when I say that if someone shows that they have taken the time to research what I am writing, I am much more inclined to respond. It’s not flattery per se, more an example that you’re a professional who has taken the time and thought to do their research.

Expect a low hit rate: Sad but true, even the best crafted, most targetted pitches will often evaporate into nothing. This is very often the case and not something to take personally. People are busy, people forget stuff, sometime spam filters get excited, there are many reasons. Which leads us to the next bit… Follow up: 3-5 days later, politely. A short, friendly follow up email to remind them. There’s a trade off between emailing indefinitely until they get back to you or tell you to stop, or not. I think it’s like a lot of stuff in life in that persistence pays. Remember, you have something useful for them to see. An optional step – you could pick up the phone and call them (or try to get them onto Skype). If you are the kind of person who is good on the phone, this may be better for you.

Provide easily accessible links to your content: Either download links to music and imagery on a site like 4shared, or your EPK. Say thank you at the end: Everyone is busy, the fact that the blogger has taken the time to read all the way to the end is great. Politeness will get you around. Here’s an example of an email title (first introduction) that could work for you: “Hi [NAME OF JOURNALIST], I read your piece on [SOMETHING THEY WROTE] & thought you may like this…”

3. On Bloggers (Big and Small)

Please don’t rule out smaller bloggers. Just because they’re ‘small’ doesn’t mean they’re not important – even though a blogger may not have the following of a bigger publication, they often have a highly engaged and super niche following of the kind of people you want to get in front of. For example, they can be followed by journalists at bigger publications looking to catch new bands before they take off. Big outlets often get their ideas from smaller ones.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that bloggers are, on the main part, fanatical about what they like and they can be some of your biggest champions, if they like you. Most of the time, the ones who went into it purely for the money were quickly weeded out when they realized that they’re probably not going to get rich and famous overnight.

How To Advertise Your Music on Instagram

This article was written by Lisa Occhino and originally appeared on the Bandzoogle Blog.

Instagram is one of the best ways to build your brand and showcase your personality as a musician. But now that the social media platform boasts 700 million monthly active users, advertising your music on Instagram has become more competitive, so you need to be savvier than ever before to reach new fans.

Let’s take a look at some best practices for Instagram advertising and how to get your ads up and running.

Instagram Advertising: Best Practices for Musicians

1. Keep your target audience in mind.

The most effective ads are highly targeted, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the audience you hope to reach. If you have a clear idea of who’s on the receiving end of your Instagram ads, all of the creative decisions you need to make will flow from there.

Create a profile of your ideal superfan: How old are they? Where do they live? Are they male or female? What are their interests? Where do they hang out? Which other bands do they love? Use any existing fan data you have from your email listband website analytics, or social media profiles for insight.

2. Make it as authentic as anything else you’d post.

Just because it’s technically an ad doesn’t mean it needs to scream, “THIS IS AN AD!” You’ll generally want to avoid overlaying your image with text, because that tends to come across as inauthentic and most people will scroll right past it. You’ll have more success if you keep your ad genuine and consistent with the rest of your Instagram posts in terms of colors, filters, tone, and overall vibe.

3. Use a captivating, high-quality image.

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential fan. Would the image you plan to use in your ad make you stop and pay attention as you’re mindlessly scrolling through Instagram? If not, pick a different one that’s more compelling.

For inspiration, check out Instagram accounts similar to yours, and try to identify the specific elements that you admire about those posts that you could adapt and make your own.

4. Optimize your caption.

This is your chance to get creative and show who you are as an artist or band, while also making the purpose of your ad as clear as possible.

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to keep your captions on the shorter side (unless a longer caption would help convey the message in a stronger way and not detract from the ad), with a few relevant hashtags and perhaps an emoji or two thrown in (both of which have been shown to increase engagement on Instagram). Again, make sure you keep your target audience in mind and ask yourself what kind of message and tone would resonate with them the most.

5. Give people a good reason to click on your call-to-action.

Ultimately, you’ll judge the success of your Instagram ad by how many people clicked through and performed the action you wanted them to take, whether that’s streaming your new single, watching your latest music video, signing up for your email list, or buying a ticket for your upcoming show.

Your image and caption should work together to deliver a strong message about whatever it is you’re promoting. Be sure to demonstrate the value of what you’re offering and provide a legitimate incentive to click your call-to-action button.

How to Set Up an Instagram Ad

Since Facebook now owns Instagram, you actually set up Instagram ads through Facebook Ads Manager. So, the good news is that if you’ve ever run a Facebook ad before, you pretty much already know how to run an Instagram ad. If not, all you need to get started is a Facebook page that’s linked to your Instagram account.

Here’s a condensed step-by-step guide to setting up an Instagram ad, but we’d recommend reading through our in-depth Facebook advertising tutorial to understand the ins and outs of Ads Manager.

1. Define your goal

You need to have a way of measuring the success of your Instagram ad, so the first step is to set a specific goal. Attach concrete numbers and a deadline to it. The more detailed you make your goal, the better.

Here are the objectives you can choose from in Facebook Ads Manager that are applicable to Instagram.

2. Determine your budget

You can set either a daily budget or a lifetime budget (meaning day-to-day spending will vary slightly, but you won’t exceed the total budget you allocate for the lifetime of the ad set).

Facebook and Instagram ads work on an auction, so the cost is determined by your targeting and the amount of competition among other advertisers for that audience. Depending on the goal you’ve set, you can choose to pay for your ads by cost per thousand impressions (CPM) or cost per click (CPC).

3. Identify your target audience

If you’re new to advertising on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll probably need to play around with different targeting options for a bit until you hit on the right combination. In Ads Manager, you’ll be able to see in real time how your estimated reach changes as you make tweaks. Here’s an overview of all of Facebook’s audience targeting options.

4. Create your ad

You have several options for the format of your Instagram ad, including photo, video, carousel, and Stories. For musicians, we’d recommend starting out with a simple photo or video ad, depending on what your objective is. Be sure to review the design requirements and recommendations for Instagram ads.

When you create a new ad in Ads Manager, you’ll be guided through selecting your objective, audience targeting, budget, schedule, and placement (i.e., where it’s going to be displayed). By default, all of the placements will be selected, but if you only want your ads to run on Instagram and nowhere else, uncheck all of the placements except for Instagram.

After you finalize your settings, you’ll then be taken to the section where you choose the format, media, and text for your ad. Once you’ve reviewed all of the details, click the “place order” button.

5. Measure your ad’s performance

The work isn’t over once your Instagram ad is active! While it’s running, you need to track its performance and make any necessary adjustments to have the best chance of success. Ads Manager provides all the metrics you need to help you figure out how well your ads are doing.

5 Questions Musicians Should Ask When Choosing a Venue

[Editors Note: This article was written by Adam Young. Adam is the founder and CEO of Event Tickets Center. He loves taking in live music at venues ranging from underground clubs to massive arenas.]

There are myriad factors that go into choosing exactly the right place for your band’s next performance. Music venues come with many nuances that affect the overall quality of a show, from sound and layout to physical location and audience demographics. Before booking a primetime slot at a spot that looks great on paper, ask yourself these questions. They may just save you from a less-than-stellar experience.

1. Is the venue in the right part of town?

You don’t want to perform just anywhere. Your style of music and the size of your fanbase will help determine where you should play.

It goes without saying that a location in a major city center is going to bring in a bigger crowd. And the closer your venue is to any big transportation hubs, the better the accessibility for potential attendees. When the venue is highly accessible, more people who rely on different means of transport can attend your show.

Pay attention to the fact that outside noise could infiltrate your space. Check out the venue during its quietest time, and listen to what you can hear. Does the proximity to the airport mean airplane engines overhead? Maybe a city park’s amphitheater offers a better opportunity than that downtown lounge with too much street noise. These are crucial factors to consider when considering the location of a venue.

2. What type of audience does it draw?

Reaching the right audience is crucial, and booking at the right venue can get you there. If you’re a toe-tapping jazz duo, the local EDM club isn’t going to be right for you. Do your research, and see the other musicians that have played at the spot before. Are any of them like you? The best venue for your audience is a familiar one, where they’ll be comfortable attending, and happy to see you perform.

3. Does size matter?

Yes, capacity is important. (You want there to be plenty of space for your fans to be able to come to the show, but also consider if you qualify to play larger spaces to begin with.) But the reason to consider size is less for attendance, and more for sound quality. For example, if a room is very large, the sound could be dissipated, and therefore hard to hear. But if the shape of a space reflects that potentially lost sound back to the audience, then no harm done. The size isn’t as important as the acoustics within the space you’re playing.

4. So the layout is really what matters?

Architecture has the power to make or break a performance. Inside arenas and stadiums, for instance, sound waves can bounce off various surfaces or become absorbed before reaching the ears of fans on the floor. In order to know how exactly this is going to impact your performance, the best thing to do is to go listen to a performance in that space. How does the band sound? Does the space match your style of music? Maybe where the local philharmonic performs isn’t best for your indie rock or punk band, but they’d sure have a tough time fitting into the small, underground space best for headbanging and guitar solos.

5. What about technology?

The technological power of the venue is almost more important than its acoustic capabilities. A good sound setup can minimize, if not eliminate, any flaws within the venue’s size and structure. (You should make time to find out if the venue has monitors or other equipment useful for determining your noise-exposure levels.)

And, if you’re the hottest DJ on the rise, it’d be wise to find a venue that comes with all the lighting necessary to host a stellar rave. Knowing the lighting capabilities of the venue can be vital to the performance you want to give.

Next time you’re trying to decide which music venue is right for you, remember to ask yourself the right questions. In summary: know your audience and know your sound, and choose a venue that’s suitable.

Road Hazards: 5 Challenges Of Touring and How To Avoid Them

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]


For young, ambitious bands, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for a national tour. There’s something timelessly exciting and relatable about a band traveling from city to city in hopes of getting the world to care about its music. But while tour is capable of bringing huge benefits for artists as far as opportunities and industry credibility goes, touring can be tedious, thankless and even downright dangerous for some bands. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the road’s more serious challenges and show you how to cope with them.

1. Physical Inactivity

If you’re someone used to exercising regularly, touring for long periods of time can be especially brutal. Unless your band is raking in the dough and traveling in a big tour bus, you’ll most likely spend the majority of your days on tour crammed in a car or van. Long-term physical inactivity is hell on your body, and the longer you stay sedentary, the more your risk for things like depression and heart disease increases. One two-week tour isn’t a big deal, but if you’re a serious musician intent on touring over the course of your career, inactivity can lead to massive problems.

The only solution here is movement. Make every effort you can to move as much as possible throughout the day. Encourage your bandmates to get a gym membership at a national club and to reserve an hour or two each day for exercise. Easier said than done, of course, but if you don’t take care of yourself on the road you simply won’t be able to do it for very long.

2. Excessive Drinking and Drug Abuse

Partying is simply the funnest part of tour for some musicians, and while it’s not our place to judge here at the TuneCore Blog, booze and drugs have caused musicians more than their fair share of problems over the years, so we think it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s a tedious eight-hour drive through the midwest or the lengthy period between loading in and performing, there’s a ton of time to kill on the road, so it’s no wonder musicians drink and use drugs to pass the time. But while casual drinking or drug use is completely harmless for some people, it can be hugely damaging for others.

Moderation is the key here for some musicians, but if you find yourself getting out of control when you drink or use drugs, it’s time to stop and even consider getting off the road altogether. Assuming that you tour because you’re a serious musician, the main goal of touring is playing well on stage and making connections on the road, and this is going to be much harder if you’re drunk and high constantly. If drinking and drugs are keeping you from being your best on the road, consider cutting down, taking a break or stopping completely.

3. Strained Relationships

Maintaining relationships out on the road can be a huge challenge whether you’re touring for the first time as a young band or are a seasoned touring veteran. Relationships are essential to the happiness of most people, and this is one of the main reasons why so many serious musicians become depressed and eventually burn out. If you plan on being a serious musician for the rest of your life, you’ll have to learn how to make relationships work on the road.

Nothing can replace the time spent away from a loved one, but there are things you can do maintain relationships while you tour. Scheduling and sticking to daily calls, FaceTime and Skype chats is one obvious option. Bringing your loved ones with you on the road for certain legs of your tours is another, though that’s not always an option for some musicians. No matter what you decide to do, just remember how vital your relationships back at home are and proceed accordingly.

4. Financial Hardship

Touring is a huge financial investment that never quite pays off for some bands. This means weeks or months at a time away from jobs and a steady source of income. There’s no way to tell for sure, but money problems have probably caused the untimely demise of many bands, and it’s not difficult to see why. Musicians are accustomed to making all sorts of sacrifices for their craft, but there’s a point where lack of money makes it impossible to keep going.

To avoid burnout over money issues, conversations need to happen long before you hit the road about your resources and limitations. Lots of bands set out with lofty goals for tour without having this conversation break up when they realize they can’t be on the road for months and pay their bills at the same time. Communication, realistic expectations and planning will help you be able to tour and keep your personal bottom line intact.

5. Lack of Sleep

Everything from the bad food to excessive drinking on tour can be hell on your body, but the lack of sleep can be especially pernicious. Not getting eight hours of sleep a night while you’re on tour might not seem like a huge deal for some bands, but sleep loss can cause everything from obesity to depression. Again, on a short tour this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that serious career musicians should address.

A major factor in sleeping issues on tour has to do with the fact that most bands can’t afford hotel rooms every night on the road. What can you do if the house you’re sleeping at has a party raging till four or five AM? Doing your best to find accommodations before you embark on a tour is essential if you hope to get good sleep on the road. Stay with friends and family when you can, and communicate your needs, even if it’s awkward to do so.

3 Tips For Nailing Your Next Interview

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]


All musicians understand that press is crucial for growing their fanbase and getting attention to their music. Not all musicians, however, know how to create the greatest impact with an interview.

An interview is more than simply answering questions. The information potential fans find in an interview can be incredibly insightful, allowing them to connect more deeply with the you than if they simply read a review of your music.

An interview is a way to show people who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re currently promoting. In order to properly execute this interaction and leverage the exposure that comes with it, below are three things every artist should keep in mind when preparing for an interview (whether in print, over the phone, or on video).

1. Remember It’s About More Than Your Music

Let’s say you’ve just finished a song and you’re ready to release it to the world. It’s completely understandable that that would be all you’d want to talk about. However, keep in mind most of the readers/listeners have never heard of you before and therefore have no reason to care about your latest release.

An interview allows them to dig a little deeper – learn the story behind the music, behind the performer. They want to get to know you. Make sure you have a few relevant antidotes handy to share during the interview that will resonate with the outlet’s audience.

Not sure what stories to tell? How about what inspired you to write your latest song, or the thing that keeps you going despite all the hardships in this industry? What about the memory of your first concert, or the moment you knew you’d want to write music for the rest of your life? You could even share who in your family/circle of friends are your biggest supporters and what they mean to you (every reader loves a good “This is Us” moment).

Being relatable is what attracts new fans who will then be interested in downloading or streaming your music once they’ve connected with you.

2. Get to Know the Interviewer

It’s not difficult to spend a few minutes researching the person who will be interviewing you. Find out who else they’ve interviewed, what their interests are, who they follow online that you’re a fan of as well.

This will do two important things for you: (1) it will enable you to speak more freely as you won’t feel you’re opening up to a complete stranger and (2) taking time to respect and acknowledge the person who is sitting down to speak with you illustrates to them you’re a professional and appreciate the work they are putting in to help you spread your message.

3. Work Within the Medium

It’s important to consider ahead of time who you will be reaching with this interview. For instance, if this interview is being broadcast over YouTube, you’ll want to consider what you’re wearing and where you want to make eye contact during the discussion; you’ll want to focus on how you’re physically presenting yourself. Could you be wearing your band’s merch or a t-shirt that supports a cause you care about? Will you be bringing a copy of your album to show on camera?

On the other hand, if the interview is over email and will later be in print, make sure your answers are clear and concise, as readers will not hear your tone of voice and have a much shorter attention span when scrolling through on their phones. If the interview is for a podcast, realize that people won’t be able to see you wearing your latest t-shirt or see your album’s artwork, so you’ll want to make sure you take a moment to verbalize where to find you online and where to purchase your music (for obscure names, spelling out your social handles and/or website help).

No matter what, always lead with a confident attitude and don’t be afraid to practice a few times with a bandmate or friend beforehand.

Exposure via interviews can be a very powerful thing. Don’t miss out on making the most of your next opportunity by taking some time to think through your strategy. Get clear on what you’d like to see come from your next interview and then do everything in your power to ensure that happens.

What message are YOU looking to share with your audience? Tell us in the comments below!

“One Is The Loneliest Number”: Reflections On Being An Artist Manager

[Editors Note: This article was written by John Mathiason and Antony Bland, co-founders of CandyShop ManagementCollectively John and Antony have over 50 years of industry experience, and since CandyShop’s start in 2009, they’ve navigated the careers of multiple artists and currently represent The Rocketboys, The Mowgli’s, Lincoln Durham, Monakr, Kid Runner, TeamMate, Baby Baby, The Wealthy West, Radar State,  Split Party and Friendswithbenefits.]


One of our artists sent us a photo of a coffee mug recently. It said, “Being a manager is easy. It’s like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You’re on fire. Everything is on fire. And you’re in hell.”

Sometimes that’s a good day. Sometimes if it doesn’t feel like that – if it’s a slow day, the kind of day where you feel like Jack Lemmon in “Glengarry Glen Ross” and you want to be Al Pacino – it can drive you nuts. You can make yourself crazy trying to be proactive, trying to drum up business, grasp for new ideas. Breaking out of this mentality is critical to your wellbeing and creativity. Learning to take advantage of downtime to read, think, learn or even just relax is not often an easy or natural process but overworking yourself on the details blocks you from looking at the big picture and doesn’t allow you time to reflect on what’s working and what is not.

For a manager there is no sense of completion. There is always another mountain to climb. And you’re most likely climbing several mountains at once, constantly falling, constantly finding yourself at base camp and having to repack and start again. Every footstep forward is a success. Every synch license, publishing deal, successful tour or well executed brand-activation is an affirmation that something is going right. Every time a deal falls apart, or a license doesn’t happen, or a band breaks up or someone quits or the finger is pointed at you it’s a cause to question yourself.

The biggest mental challenge to management is that it can be a lonely business. It can feel like it’s you against the world, like you’re fighting against everyone else for the table scraps. Re-orienting your thinking here is important. Communicating and sharing with other managers is vital – not only to our business as a whole so we can educate each other, learn from each other and advocate for our artists together in the face of inequitable practices, but also for the simple relief in knowing that to some degree we have all had, are having or will have – a similar experience.

Having a partner (or partners) allows you to share this journey. While you might still be stuck on a tiny rowboat – at least there’s someone else in the boat. You’re in it together. You share the wealth as much as you share the pain. Having a partner gives you more viewpoints with the common goal of trying to find the best outcome. As partners, we frequently argue for hours about a plan of action before finally realizing that neither of us was entirely right. And from that argument the best course of action often emerges. But this demands honesty – and security, just as any relationship does: You have to be able to argue your point often vociferously without fear that your partner is going to walk out the door and file for divorce – you have to be able to fight, hang up the phone, sulk, be pissed. I would go so far as to say the relationship you have with your partner can even be more open than with a spouse – or at least be on par: It constantly demands that you listen and learn from each other, express how you feel about each other’s actions and be united in the vision you put forth.

It can be hard not to second-guess your gut, (“What if the band is right and a nine minute concept video is what their fans want?”), but doing so leads to indecision. You won’t always be right but it doesn’t matter. Decide on a plan, stick with it and see it through to the best of your ability. In the end the decisions are made are made by the artist. Managers are here to advise, give their opinions and try to guide their clients to the best of their abilities,

You will always be caught in the middle – between the label and the band. Between the band and their families. Between the singer and the guitar player. Remember that the first responsibility is to the band and their career and that sometimes means you have to disagree with the band in order to truly advocate for them. Sometimes you’re fighting for your artist over things they don’t realize are important, or that they don’t want to fight for. It’s like flying a plane where the passengers are all trying to grab the controls or jump out the windows.

Artists are driven by ego and id. For many this ego, sometimes unfortunately coupled with mental and emotional issues, is what makes them great. Whether they’re tortured geniuses baring their soul or they just create because they enjoy it, believe they’re good at it, are good at it and/or make a living from it, they are human. As humans we all want to be told things that are agreeable to us, that we identify with. That we are smart and pretty and talented and good.

Conversely, as a manager you can’t have an ego. You have to give in to the notion that everyone will give you credit for the ideas you have or your contributions to an artist’s success. We are on the front lines of an artist’s success, but often the least recognized: The artist, the record label, the agent, even the attorney tend to get the accolades long before a manager gets any recognition. If you’re waiting for a thank you or some kind or acknowledgement, you’ll be endlessly disappointed. Maybe (hopefully) this means that the artist sees the manager as one of the core circle and thanking them would be like thanking the bass player…maybe!

Your artists are surrounded by people – friends, spouses, other industry characters telling them what they want to hear, what “your manager should be doing”, what they would be doing in your position. Over the course of my career we’ve had numerous artists tell us all the things their manager isn’t doing or didn’t do. Of course there might be endless truth here but it’s also possible the manager was engrossed in a hundred other things. We’ve rarely heard bands say “we just weren’t good enough” so when you are meeting with a new artist and they are pinning all the blame on the former manager, watch out – it could be a sign that they do not understand or respect the relationship.

Your artists will believe anyone if it aligns with what they think at that moment. A 22 year old A&R person’s advice will carry a lot of weight because “they work for a record company so they know what they’re talking about”. (Anthony: I’ve been that 22-year old and I didn’t know sh*t!)

Ideas flow from everywhere and a disagreeable reality is yes – sometimes those significant others, or parents, or bartenders might have a valid idea. However they do not have the full picture of what is happening in the artist’s life, so it’s important to check your ego, keep an open mind but still have the clarity and patience to explain why something won’t work, why it’s not a great idea – or, how you can take that idea and make it work.

You occupy that uncomfortable space between the artist’s perception, aspirations, beliefs and hopes – and reality. Obviously you need to encourage and support them, nurture their abilities and fight for what they want. But you need to be a mirror and a sounding board, to help them focus on what’s attainable and not fanciful, to serve as a buffer between their ideas and the practical execution of those ideas.

When it comes to critiquing their art, every artist we’ve ever met has told us they want honesty, but again they are human. We are lucky enough to work with a few artists who we can be almost entirely straightforward with, but with few exceptions, regardless of whether it’s a song that tore at the artist’s soul or a quick demo for a TV show, brutal honesty usually isn’t the best option – finding the positive in what an artist does or how they perform is the best starting point. When something is completely off base it can take a lot of patience to get the artist to see where they’re missing the mark.

Getting involved in fights between band members is akin to trying to break up a fighting couple on the street. You’re going to get punched by both of them. Be a sympathetic ear, but be the diplomat and the confidant. You are there to try to help them see the other person’s perspective; and when you’re talking to the “wrong” party, your skill here is in making them understand they’re wrong while communicating that you see their viewpoint. We’re often “wrong” – or at least not completely correct. Where we learn is by understanding where we are going wrong and fixing it rather than stubbornly sticking to what we wanted to.

Beware the sociopath. This is a not uncommon character in the artist world. Their charm, eloquence and single-minded vision can be inspiring but it can sap you of energy as well as self-esteem. They work by drawing you into their bubble, getting you to nod your head to more and more outlandish ideas until you are convinced they are a genius. Frequently self-destroying, generally unable to forge a relationship with anyone providing structured guidance, they play to your desire to be associated with true greatness and demand absolute concurrence with their vision.

Help your artist understand the business. The more they know, the more they will appreciate what you do. And the less likely they will believe the honey-in-the-ear from a prospective poacher. And to that end: don’t poach other manager’s clients. If an artist wants to part ways with their manager that’s fine. Let them do that before they come to you. Poisoning the well is a low trait. An artist that can’t honorably part ways with their current manager is going to do the same to you someday.

There is an upside to all this emotional treachery: Sometimes you get to stand on the side of the stage and watch thousands of people enjoy the band that you’ve helped get to that place. Sometimes you hear the genesis of a song and get to watch it transform into something that connects with the public. Sometimes you get to hear music in a movie or in a commercial and recognize your place in making it happen. Sometimes you get to tell people that you manage the band and have them be excited to talk to you. Sometimes you get to use your band’s platform to do something good, to raise money or awareness for a cause and make the world a better place. Sometimes you get to pay your bills from the fruits of your labors. Ultimately we do this because we live for those moments – that no matter how stressful or tenuous it can be, no matter how much discord is rife during the planning, recording, marketing, promoting of the artist – when things come together it’s all worthwhile.

There are good times and bad times but there is never a time not to be learning from the experience. And what you learn, pass on. Be free with advice. Be glad for and vocal about the success of others. Do favors. Help your friend’s bands out. Give people chances.

You’re managing a store. Sometimes you get to truly manage it. But sometimes you have to stock the shelves, order the inventory, sweep the aisles and run the cash register. The only problem is that the cash register is on fire. And you’re on fire. And the store is on fire. And you’re in hell.

More about the authors:
Antony Bland rose through the ranks at Chrysalis Music Publishing in the late 1990’s, from tape librarian to song-plugger, to A&R Manager and finally to run the International Department at the acclaimed independent music publishing company. Overseeing 250+ worldwide writers and artists, he was the primary US publishing liaison for such groundbreaking artists as Portishead, Spiritualized and Morcheeba, whilst also coordinating strategy with 15 international offices for the companies U.S artists and many A-list songwriters. From 2000-2011 Antony was Director of A&R for American Recordings. During that time he was an early champion of artists such as The Killers, Imagine Dragons, All-American Rejects, Mumford & Sons and My Chemical Romance. He also worked on the Grammy nominated final release by Pakistani Kaawali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, but failed to become fluent in Urdu.

John Mathiason began his career in 1993 managing the million-LP selling alternative rock act Sponge. From there he joined Susan Silver Management, responsible for brand endorsement for Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. As an independent manager from 1998 onwards, John oversaw more than 10 major-label recording artists, working with Island, RCA,Columbia, Warner Brothers, as well as several independent acts. He negotiated all associated Recording, Publishing, Merchandising deals, coordinated U.S and Worldwide tours (including creating tour budgets, hiring of crew and interacting with booking agencies), negotiated numerous music licenses for commercial, TV and film placements and oversaw all aspects of A&R, marketing, budgeting, promotion, publicity, web presence included in the set up and release of albums. He also became a highly sought after merchandising consultant, negotiating deals for Giant Merchandising, Cinder Block Merchandising and The Merchandise Company for artists including The Shins, Bloc Party, Larry the Cable Guy, Frightened Rabbit, Stan Lee/POW, Afghan Whigs, The National, Phoenix, Tiesto, Jet and Rise Against.