Much has changed in the world of management since I began my singing career. At that time there were fewer independent managers and agents. Management was basically handled by the big well known companies, some of which are still around today and their concept of dealing with a young unknown and untested singer was very different. They were more interested in taking them under their wing and helping to guide and develop the whole package before they had had much experience. Times have changed, and the need to become your own manager until you have had enough professional experience and have started making a name for yourself is essential and very relevant. Managers today don’t have the interest, time, energy, or money to develop and cultivate a singer, transforming them from the rough cut into a polished stone. So do your part, until the time comes when the business end of your career is getting in the way of your singing engagements. That is the time to start looking for management.
So let’s talk about managers and agents today. First, know that the responsibilities and differences between a manager and agent have, in the last few years, become less defined. Today the words “manager” and “agent” are used synonymously, and they both encompass similar duties, to a greater or lesser degree. For the sake of my saving keystrokes, I will use the word “manager” here to describe both. Managements can be similar, but there are no two alike. Take your time and do the work necessary to find one that is right for you when you are ready.
- A MANAGER not only gets you auditions, jobs and negotiates contracts, but might possibly and those are the key words, be interested to a greater degree, in helping create and direct the vision of your career. They may be interested in advising, collaborating and developing you the performer. They also want to be sure that you have had a sufficient amount of professional experience, have future engagements already in place and continue to be in demand. This makes it easier for them sell and promote you the product because you are an already known commodity and like any business, it’s about your contribution to their bottom line.
- An AGENT may be known more for booking performances and negotiating contracts without much involvement in the development of the artist. They also want to be sure that you have future engagements and are in demand. This assures them that you will generate revenue to contribute to their bottom line.
- Remember that the titles Manager or Agent are fairly interchangeable today and how they choose to oversee those on their rosters could be either of these above descriptions or a combination of thereof.
There are several things you should be very aware of as far as engaging a manager is concerned. First, know that having a manager does not guarantee that you will get you the job. You will now have a partner, but you must still do your share of the work by being prepared to present yourself at your very best at all times, represent your Personal Brand, and continue to look for performing opportunities that you can then suggest to your management partner so they can follow through. Having that management name behind you may expedite your career more quickly than you had anticipated so be prepared for the faster track. Secondly, as a less experienced singer, it is tempting to feel the need to find management before it is necessary. There are managers that will be happy to have you on board, but know exactly what it is they have to offer you. They often require you to sign a contract, and may charge a monthly retainer fee to cover all of their expenses incurred for their marketing efforts on your behalf, including everything from postage stamps to reproduction of your materials, telephone calls, etc. If they should get you a job, you will also be expected to pay the negotiated commission fee as stated in your management contract, in addition to the retainer. A manager’s usual commission is around 15–20% of your fee. Thirdly, have a genuine sense of humor, know and be true to thyself, have a solid vocal technique, and a robust backbone if negotiating and differing with your Manager. If you have done the work to create a Personal Brand backed by a powerful Personal Mission Statement, it will give you the confidence to say “no” when needed or “what else can we be dong to help move my career forward”. It helps to have powerful communicating skills which in turn, are very helpful when negotiating.
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” – Peter Drucker
One of the simplest solutions to having amazingly clear and uncluttered communication is knowing how to ask questions. Wow, who knew it could be that simple! Most of us are so caught up in our emotions when we even think about asking for what we need or have to deal with any type of confrontation that we become paralyzed and unable to function. There are two issues that need to be discussed here. One is how do you ask questions that allow you to receive the information you are really looking for without becoming confrontational and the second is how do you best deal with the emotions that can often times overtake you by keeping you stuck when you try to step up to the plate and ask for what you need.
“A lady, sitting next to Raymond Loewy at dinner, struck up a conversation.
‘Why,’ she asked, ‘did you put two Xs in Exxon?’
‘Why ask?’ he asked.
‘Because,’ she said, ‘I couldn’t help noticing?’
‘Well,’ he responded, ‘that’s the answer.’”
– Alan Fletcher, The Art of Looking Sideways
Why? Why? Why?
“Why do I always have to call you?” “Why didn’t you do it?” “Why aren’t you getting me jobs?” We all ask the questions from time to time, usually accompanied by feelings of irritation and the gnashing of teeth, all the while adding another notch on our frustration belt. Why do we ask these kinds of “why” questions? Do you ever get the kind of responses you would like to your “why” question? Are they satisfying? Can anyone ever—and I mean ever—answer that question to your satisfaction? I think not! So that begs the question, why do we continue to do it?
Have you noticed that when people ask “why” questions, the person receiving the question often gets defensive. So instead of being responsive to the other person’s questions, they are reactive and in their own feelings which might be some combination of “who the hell do you think you are” to “this singer is way too demanding” to “I’m not interested in working with someone like this.” The person being asked the “why” question isn’t able to give you their full attention, which is what you really want, because they are focusing on “their” feelings and not those of the other person. Even if you try to apologize, it makes for a hard recovery because the other person feels you are not being respectful and appreciative of their expertise and experience. Now we have two people whose feelings are not being considered and a missed opportunity to grow a stronger bond between them.
If you are the recipient of the “why” question, it’s best to know right off the bat that there is no reasonable way you can give a satisfactory and meaningful answer to their question. It’s best to step back out of the emotion you are immediately feeling because it is a strong one, and literally ask the other person, ‘Why are you asking?” which will bring them back to the present moment because you are answering a question with a question, or, “What is it that you need, right now?” Then remain curious about the actual purpose of the question being asked. This helps you focus on the other person’s feelings, instead of defending what you did or didn’t do. Most often the other person is much more interested in having his/her feelings acknowledged than really looking for an explanation of or an answer to their question. And this often allows a conversation that takes you both in a good way to the heart of their needs.
Instead of using the ambiguous and unanswerable “why” question, try restructuring your questions using “how” or “what” so others are clear about your intention. An example would be: “Why am I not getting more jobs? to “How do I go about getting more jobs? (Notice the feelings that accompany each question.) “Why do I have to be the one to get in touch with you all the time?” to “What would be the best way to stay in touch with you on a more regular basis?” The “Why” question comes across as an angry child stamping her/his foot on the floor instead of behaving as a professional who knows how to ask for what they need in a responsible and mature way. Learning how to ask questions that allow others to give you a clear answer works within all the many roles you play in life.
“How much has to be explored and discarded before reaching the naked flesh of feeling.” — Claude Debussy
It is not uncommon to get caught up in our emotions when working on being understood during negotiations or when communication breaks down. It’s just human nature for us to feel our emotions. Here are a couple of ways to consider dealing with them when they feel like they might be taking over and keeping you from accomplishing your objective during negotiations or when communicating.
First, it is very important to simply recognize which emotion you are experiencing and then do just that. Take a moment to really feel it. When that is accomplished it’s time to let it go so you can focus once again in a clear manner to resolve whatever needs your attention or on the situation at hand. Often we try to ignore our emotions, which drives them into a long time ago constructed internal mass where we cannot distinguish one emotion from another. It feels all consuming and doesn’t allow us to be present and accounted for. It really is that simple, but it will take some effort on your part because we so often have learned to ignore each emotion as it shows up rather than taking the time to recognize it, accept it, examine it and then let it go. Until you can accomplish this, listening to others becomes difficult because you are busy defending yourself by creating clever retorts, and having a conversation in your own head instead of being part of the solution by fully participating.
Another proven way to accomplish being clear minded when the emotion card gets played is to simply take one step back out of the emotional situation physically. Once there, it is amazing how obvious the real issues become which then in turn gives you the opportunity for meaningful dialogue and possible ways of resolution even if you only agree to disagree. In this way you become responsible for getting your needs met or at least understood.
How does one find a Manager?
Managers often travel to see their clients perform. That means that if you are performing on a professional level on a fairly regular basis, you may be seen by the managers of your colleagues. This is one of the important reasons you always behave as a professional and represent your Personal Brand. That means being genuine and staying friendly with everyone but not stepping over that line, never getting involved in the politics of the company or caught up in the local gossip. You might catch the eye and ear of a colleague’s manager during a performance at which point they might engage you in conversation, or ask others about you, so be prepared. And always follow through even if nothing comes of it. Send a short email saying you enjoyed meeting them and hope they will keep you in mind if they are looking for someone to fill a position on their roster in the future.
You can also ask your colleagues if they have management and if so, are they happy with them, how often they get work, etc. Ask if they would feel comfortable introducing you to their manager or if you could use their name to introduce yourself via sending your PR Packet. If you are singing with a more well recognized singer, they might be excited enough about your talent to help arrange an audition for their manager. Also ask the Artistic and General Manager of the company, which Managers they usually work with and what they enjoy about that relationship. If you feel they are impressed and happy with your performance and overall work ethics, etc, ask them if they would feel comfortable introducing you to them or at least allowing you to use their name to introduce yourself. Also, let them know that you would be very interested in performing with them again. Remember that this is business; it’s about networking by creating and maintaining relationships. Keep in touch with everyone you have worked with throughout a production.
“Get excited and enthusiastic about you own dream. This excitement is like a forest fire – you can smell it, taste it, and see it from a mile away.” — Denis Waitley
Having information about Management is worth its weight in gold when you are truly ready to start the process of looking for someone to join your professional team. It helps to understand exactly what the Managers you are looking at do for their clients. It’s always great to have one or even several recommendations from influential colleagues, conductors, stage directors and the General and Artistic Managers of any of the companies you have performed with on the board. Knowing how to handle communication so you get what you need during conversations and negotiations helps others view you as a responsible professional. And yes, it is about doing the work, which becomes the focal point of your day, even if you have to have a regular job to make ends meet. It’s always about doing business which means creating and maintaining relationships, so and I hope the information I gave was helpful S & M.
Avanti and Ciao until next time,