You certainly noticed a proliferation of companies calling themselves artistic agencies or record labels. In fact I’ve received lots of emails from these companies flattering me and offering me a management or recording contract (or both!).
The first email of this type I got was from an “artistic management” company. I was excited to get an offer and I went on reading it carefully, thinking a manager was interested in my projects. In fact what I read was a weird offer : paying a high monthly fee + a commission to get a pdf press kit and have a call center phoning presenters to try to get me concerts. In brief, “pay 300$ or 500$ a month for minimum one year, and maybe you’ll get something“.
Just for fun, I checked their roaster : something like 30 pianists with a nice empty schedule for the next years, and obviously 25 of them had been listed less than one year ago. Conclusion : obvious rip-off. (Well, Norman Lebrecht posted a warning on his blog about these “agencies”).
For me, that’s not the way management works. I take a risk putting my career and interests in the hands of a stranger, the manager takes the risk of believing in and trusting an artist. Reimbursing the manager’s expenses can be considered as normal (press-kit design, web-mastering …) but paying a high monthly fee for nearly nothing is unbelievable. The couple manager/artist works as if they were associates : they both invest time and money for a common goal, it’s a win-win deal (at least, it should theoretically be one). They must trust each other and I’m pretty sure commission-based work is the only way to keep the motivation alive for both parties. And don’t expect to do nothing because you got an agent. It’s your role to help him.
I spoke earlier about record labels because the same kind of rip-offs take place in the recording business. The deal is generally something like this : Record, bring them a master, and add a 8000$ to be listed in their catalog and produce 500 copies. They claim they’ll advertise a little, do the P.R., distribute your recording and take a 20% on the sales. Usually the only things appearing in contracts are the fees you have to pay, and obligation for them to send promotional materials to some random journalists. When you know how the promotion business is working, you also know this kind of “obligation” doesn’t mean anything and have no impact.
Of course, if you need copies for yourself (the copies you already paid!) you have to buy them from the label (at a discounted rate, but anyway you already paid the goods…). What a good deal… for the label! They have nothing to invest, and they earn money even before the recording has been published, why should they bother to promote your recording? And I don’t want to speak about their releases, usually as bad as the deal is.
The musician’s life is complicated enough and we don’t need these vultures flying around our heads. My question is : do they really think musicians are that dumb and rich?
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