[This article is an excerpted chapter from “Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business” by Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas.]
Talking about a team can instantly bring to mind boring corporate talk, a la the movie Office Space. Rest assured, when I talk about teams, I’m just talking about a set of people who work together — much like a sports team. I promise there’s no company retreat or exercises where you fall backwards and let your drummer catch you. We all know how that would pan out.
Whether you want to make everyone your own personal employee or have everyone working from their own agency, you need a great team. There are many jobs that go into what popular musicians do every day. Everyone has to be on the same page and doing a good job for you to be successful, so you want to find team members who are as excited and talented as you are. Remember, you and the musicians you work with can fill these roles yourselves, even when you’re famous. Regardless of whether your band members all take on a piece of the work or if you decide to outsource each individual job, you’re going to need to fill every role outlined below.
You want to find passionate, self-motivated, driven and competent people to fill each role. Maybe your bassist does graphic design as a hobby and can provide fantastic work for your band. Your drummer may aspire to be a manager one day and want to take on this role until someone better comes along or you need someone more experienced. There is no “right” way to fill these roles, but in the end you need smart, competent people focused on your band’s future. The weakest links in your team always weigh you down. A strong team pushes everyone involved to do their best and raises the quality of everything you do. Recruiting passionate and talented people for all of these positions is one of the most important practices you can do to reach your potential and make something remarkable that fans want to talk about.
Members Of The Team
Below is a list of roles you’ll need to fill to make a team. There is no rule that says each of these roles needs to be a separate person. In fact, when you first start off, you may need to fill all of these roles yourself. As you grow, the demands of each job will become too much work and you’ll need to bring in more help. As you build a fanbase, you should assemble team members who do an exceptional job filling these roles and bring them on as these jobs become too much to handle. Throughout this book, I will further explain how to find the right person for each of these jobs.
Until you build a fanbase and can afford to pay people to do most of these jobs, you’re going to have to do them yourself. The musicians you work with are a crucial part of the team and will be responsible for many of these roles until you can afford to bring in other people. This is how you’ll get things done when you’re starting out and keep your costs down. It’s also important to note that if any of the musicians you work with aren’t too wild about doing this work, the rest of the team may start to lose excitement as well. It’s extremely important for the musicians involved to keep their heads up, take on their roles and keep the ship moving forward with enthusiasm so that all other members of the team feel motivated to do their jobs. Otherwise, they will find a more motivated set of musicians to work for and gain greater returns from.
Whenever you get an opportunity, no matter where it comes from, it’s your manager’s job to maximize its potential. Your manager is the hub that connects your team together. They’re the go-to person to make sure everyone is on the same page and keep your strategy coordinated.
Your manager is also responsible for making sure your accounting gets done correctly, that everyone shows up at the right place and that your whole infrastructure is working well. It’s your manager’s job to make sure something gets done even if another team member is slacking off. In the next chapter, the many roles and duties of a manager are discussed more extensively. Your manager is by far the most important member of your team, outside of those you make music with.
3. Booking Agent
One of the hardest team members to find is a good, competent booking agent. Because of this, many musicians are forced to act as their own booking agents. Your booking agent will book your tours, take care of guarantees and submit you to get on tours with other acts. While this member of the team is usually hard to come by, taking this job seriously is do-or-die for a musician whose fanbase is built through live shows.
Once you’re making money and getting new opportunities, you’ll need a lawyer to take care of any contracts that come your way. In general, you’re going to want to deal with a single lawyer for all of your matters. Oftentimes, a band will sign a contract with a lawyer where the lawyer receives a fee on all earnings that the band makes through the lawyer’s help. A lawyer will also shop your music for record deals and licensing.
5. Record Label
If you choose to sign with a record label, they will handle various aspects of your career. In this day and age, this is not the swiss army knife of duties like it used to be. Most labels will usually provide you with a publicist, distribution, some marketing money and–if you’re lucky–radio and video promotion. Most deals will bankroll your recording and help open some new doors for you. Some labels go far beyond these capacities, while others are much less prominent in your career. Every label does things differently and there are few universal standards in recording contracts, making it all the more difficult to assess whether you’re getting a good deal.
While the record deal is thought of as a huge problem solver, these days it’s more of a piece of the puzzle than anything else. If used properly, it can help you advance your career greatly. But if you don’t properly take advantage of your spot on a label’s roster, it won’t do much for you and you’ll be another one of the many musicians who got signed and went nowhere.
If you don’t sign to a label, you need to get a distributor for your music. Distributors get your music for sale in physical and digital outlets. Many distributors will work to get good placements for musicians who show promise and constantly promote their music. Developing this relationship can do a lot for you.
Doing publicity is a time-consuming job that takes lots of marketing know-how and relationship building. Writing countless emails and searching out places that will talk about you is a never-ending job. Having someone good at it, with relationships that open doors, is an amazingly valuable asset.
8. Radio Promotion
Promoting to radio is still a huge piece of getting your music to break into the mainstream. Doing this on your own can be difficult unless you just want to focus on smaller radio outlets and online radio. But independent artists can still do it effectively, especially as online radio starts to dwarf terrestrial radio.
9. Video Promotion
Getting your videos promoted can be a huge step in gaining more exposure. While promoting to traditional TV outlets is nearly impossible to do yourself, you can get around this by utilizing online video promotion–by far the strongest method for promoting videos today.
10. Graphic Design
While musicians will use the talents of many different designers for various duties throughout their careers, it’s smart to employ one person who can deal with the many graphic needs you’ll have. Websites, advertisements, stickers, merch and album art all need graphic work. This can get expensive fast, so developing a relationship with a talented artist or learning to do it yourself is necessary.
11. Web Development
Sometimes your graphic designer can also be your web developer. No matter what, you’re going to need someone to handle the more complex web coding duties that arise. These duties can also mean developing marketing tools for contests or making you a great website.
Your publisher can do a lot for you in terms of getting placements, licensing deals and making you money through these avenues.
13. Merch Fulfillment
You’re going to need someone to make your merch and send it to people who order it online.
14. Recording Engineer/Producer
While musicians will change this up from record to record, having a constant person who can help you record alternate versions of songs, blog content and provide quick edits for placements is a plus. Learning to do many of these duties for your own music is extremely helpful.
If you’re going to do YouTube updates, acoustic videos, music videos or any other type of video content, someone is going to have to film and edit them.
16. Tour Crew
If you are touring with a live band you will need a crew that handles many roles like tour manager, merchandise, guitar and drum tech, soundguy, lighting technologies and countless other roles depending on the size of the tour.
For more information about these roles and how they support a DIY musician, check out Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business by Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas.
How have you built a team to support your music career? Which roles are you still looking to fill? Let us know in the comments section below.