Building Your Indie Artist Support Team

© 2010 Vinny Ribas

Over and over I hear from musicians who either can’t grasp the business side of their careers, don’t want to learn and implement it, or just don’t have the time to take on more responsibilities outside of writing, recording and performing. The good news is that there is help! In fact, there are a lot of formal as well as informal ways to get help! You can find volunteers, pay someone to assist you, or even barter your services/expertise for their services or expertise. For example, could you offer to play an accountant’s Christmas Party in exchange for him or her doing your taxes? Get creative if you need to! Here are some people who you might be able to recruit or hire to help you:[private_pro]

  • Friends and family. If you have supportive friends and family, you can ask them to volunteer to assist you in some areas of your business. You may still want to pay them, depending on the task and the nature of your relationship, but you will at least know that the tasks are being done right and on time. Quite often they will be willing to give you at least a few hours a week, or just take one responsibility off your plate. Reward them with tickets, free music etc.
  • Fans are a tremendous and often under-used or un-used source of help. Many fans love to feel a personal connection with their favorite artists. Asking them to be on your ‘street team’ is often considered a privilege. They can help do a lot of the marketing for your gigs. They can also spread the word about your music, your latest video, your CD release and more. You can pay them with free CDs, free downloads, tickets to your shows, a free house concert, autographed pictures and anything else you can think of that would make them feel special.
  • Interns. If you live near a college, you may be able to get an intern to work for free or for close to minimum wage. This is especially true if they are studying music business. They want practical experience, and you can give them that. In most cases they can earn college credits for interning. Even if you don’t have a nearby college, you may be able to find someone who will work for you or help you out just to get experience in the business.
  • Administrative Assistant. Many artists hire an administrative assistant to handle all of the minute, day-to-day details like keeping up with the social networking, writing press releases or working with your publicist, booking and/or scheduling your gigs, doing your bookkeeping etc. Finding a well-rounded and talented assistant can make all of the difference in the world for you! And if you can’t find someone or don’t want to train someone, talk to other band assistants who are working part-time and see if they will work part-time for you as well.
  • Music Career Coaches – If you are willing to do the work but just don’t know exactly what to do, you may consider hiring a coach. Be sure you find someone who knows what you need and how to get it. They might be experienced in your genre of music.
  • Artist Development Companies – Artist development is the process of shaping and guiding an artists’ career for a fee. But beyond just coaching, they actually get involved in the actual day-to-day processes. There are many companies that say they do artist development. Be sure to find someone reputable who has the contacts, resources, experience and know-how you need to take you to the next level and beyond.
  • Support Services – There are people and companies that provide various kinds of support services, from bookkeeping to business management, and from record label services to marketing. Be very selective in choosing these kinds of services, choosing only those that can do what you need them to do and are reasonably priced. Once again, experience is the key. Always ask for and check references!
  • Manager – Your manager is in charge of guiding every facet your career. He/she gets paid a percentage of your total income. Since he has a vested interest in your success, he takes a much more active role than any of the above-mentioned players. Keep in mind that a good manager is priceless, and a bad manager can be useless or even a nightmare. Be sure that the person who you contract with knows the industry, knows what you want and how to get it, and has the contacts you need to move your career forward. Be sure to have an attorney review the contract you sign with them. Also, be aware that it is difficult to find an experienced manager if you are not making a substantial enough income to make it worth their while.
  • Industry Professionals. In each area of your career there are people who specialize in that particular area. Some of the most common ones are:
    • Producer – He or she should take care of almost every aspect of the recording process, including choosing the right songs, picking the right studio, hiring the engineer, studio musicians and back-up vocalists, coordinating everything during the recordings, choosing the mix engineer and hiring the mastering lab.
    • Booking Agent – Your booking agent takes care of keeping you booked when and where you want to perform. The best agents are those that will make cold calls on your behalf rather than just waiting for the phone to ring. Like managers, they get paid a commission on the fees you get for performing. Thus, finding an agent who will book you when you don’t command very much money can be difficult, but not impossible. Be sure they believe in you and can really sell you.
    • Marketing Expert – You may consider hiring someone to do your marketing for you. In most cases, you will want to look for someone who knows how to navigate through and promote you via all of the most relevant social networks. Just knowing how to ‘friend’ people is not enough. They should know how to use all of the marketing and content syndication widgets that are available to artists at little or no cost.
    • Publicist – You might hire a publicist to write and send press releases, get you spotlights in newspapers and magazines, get you TV or radio interviews and more. It is their job to keep you in the spotlight for as little money as possible.
    • Entertainment Attorney – You will want to hire an entertainment attorney for any contracts you need to develop or sign (outside of simple booking contracts). This would include your management contract, songwriter/publishing deals, record label contract etc. You would also use them to protect your intellectual property (copyrights and trademarks).
    • Accountant and/or Bookkeeper – Your bookkeeper will record all of your income and expenses (providing you give them all of your receipts). However, they do not usually give financial advice, nor do they do taxes. For these you will most likely want to hire an accountant.
    • Business Manager – Your business manager is usually an accountant and is responsible for taking care of all of the financial aspects of your business. This would include paying salaries and commissions, investing your profits etc.

As you can see, the farther along you are in your career, the more help you will need. Also, the caliber of the help you need becomes higher as you progress. If you’re just at the beginning, start small with fans, friends, family, volunteers and interns. Some of them just might work their way into some of the paid positions that you’ll need within a short time. As your income increases, you will be able to hire some of the fee-based service providers that you need. Then, when your income is substantial enough, you will attract the attention of the industry professionals who will work on a percentage rather than a flat fee. That should be your goal. In the meantime, don’t let the pressures and responsibilities get to you. Enjoy the journey as much as the creative work itself![private_pro]

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.