Industry "How to"

by SaskMusic

August 26, 2013 in Industry Developments

Ready for a Helping Hand?
By Skip Taylor For The Session
Working with the SaskMusic Career Tracks program is one of the most rewarding things I do. Nothing is more exciting to me than to see a developing artist interested in furthering their career .
During the two years I have been involved in the Career Tracks program, there are a couple of issues that seem to surface over and over again. “Should I hire a manager or admin help?” is one of them.
In my experience, this is a critical point in an artists’ career and some do not get past this point as it is such a big step. In many aspects if you are a self-managed artist, you ARE running your own business and when it comes time to hire someone to help, you must be willing to give up some control.
This is very difficult for some people to do and many business owners, not just artists, put too much emphasis on the success or failure of their first experience hiring. If you hire a manager and it does not work out there is the notion that hiring a manager will never work out. Being able to trust someone with your business is, in my opinion, a difficult task. A manager/artist relationship is not unlike any other relationship. How many people do you know married their high-school sweetheart? Well, sometimes you have to love and lose to know what you do and do not want.
Anyone who has spent time with me in a Career Tracks consult knows I am a believer in hiring some admin help first, rather than instantly trying to find the perfect manager. Finding a competent manager that is going to fit your needs and “get” you, as an artist, is a very difficult task.
Finding someone to update your website, ship out CDs and bios, set up interviews, and order merch seems like much simpler tasks. If you build your business in this fashion you will retain your independence while building your profile and, if and when the time comes, hopefully attract a higher level manager. If you build a successful business that is generating income, you are showing the higher level managers that you are smart, strategic and willing to put in the hard work. You will also have a better idea of exactly what you expect a manager to do.
Now, some people are just not cut out to be business people. For someone with no business sense at all, handing over the business portion is the best option - I get that. Hiring help is not for everyone, but to me it is strategically the best approach in reaching the goal of making a living in the music industry.
If your career is at a point where you feel you need some help, here are a few strategies to consider on finding, training, and keeping a music industry worker:
Think about any other job you have had. Was there structure to it? Most of the time there is a job title, a job description and a list of duties and expectations. It is critical to get down on paper what it is you want your new hire to do. Take a good hard look at your business and ask yourself, “What is it exactly that is getting in the way of my creativity? What do I really want taken off my plate?”
Is general book-keeping your only headache? Is website upkeep or social networking too overwhelming? From that list you should have a good idea of what the job description will look like and outline the duties and expectations. Don’t be afraid to sexy up the job title. People always want sexy titles in the music business; Manager, Tour Services, Director of Merch and Publicity, and Web Design. Titles such as these people are dying to post on their Facebook pages.
Music is a business of passion. I would highly recommend polling your fan-base for a hire. Who will be more excited to work for you than a fan? They will have the right amount of passion and will probably fight harder for you than anyone. However, not just any fan will do. You want to make sure they are capable and competent to handle the tasks you have identified. It is also a good idea to get a picture in your head of your perfect hire. Besides being able to do some of the things you have identified above, what personality type will be the best fit for you? Think about your own personality and what you feel will be a good fit. Are you more comfortable if they confirm with you before doing anything or would you be more comfortable with someone who is willing to make decisions on their own?
Like any hiring process, you should consider references and prior experience. There is a notion in the music industry that you have to hire an expert. I quite often pose the question, “If Shoppers Drug Mart needs to hire a new till person do they call the president of the company to see if he is available?” No, they go through their resumes and try and find a responsible person with perhaps an aptitude for numbers and some customer service experience. You do not always need an expert, but rather someone responsible and trainable with a passion for what you do. Most businesses have a three-month probationary period and it is a good idea to implement this system with your new hire. You should also make yourself aware of employment and taxation regulations and standards in your jurisdiction. As far as determining compensation goes, it really is up to the artist, but like most businesses you want to be fair and if the employee is good or great you want to be sure you are compensating them sufficiently to ensure they stick around.
This will depend on many factors. How many hours are they going to be helping you? What are their previous experiences? You may only need to hire someone for 10 hours a month or you might be in a position where you need someone full-time. Starting them out in an area where they have some experience will be the fastest and most effective way to get some of the work off your plate. If your new hire is a very enthusiastic person with little experience, having them job shadow you might be the best approach.
Remember, there is no guarantee for success. Not every new hire is going to work out; people get fired, laid off, or quit all the time. On the other hand, there are many examples of support staff developing over time and climbing the ranks to become managers, agents, etc. All in all, if your career is at that point where the business in encroaching on your art, consider hiring some help.
SaskMusic members can meet with our mentors to discuss career plans, marketing strategies, touring, songwriting and copyright, funding, trends, get demo critiques, etc. These consults are offered free to members. An hour-long consult alone is worth the price of your annual membership! To book your personal consult with Skip Taylor (Regina), David j Taylor (Regina), Jay Semko (Saskatoon), Carrie Catherine (Saskatoon), Derek Bachman (Saskatoon) contact Derek, 1-800-347-0676 or Over-the-phone consults can be scheduled.