Industry veteran, Ritch Esra explains who an artist should have on their team, when they need them as well as how to find and attract them.
ABOUT RITCH ESRA
Since 1992, Ritch Esra and Stephen Trumbull have been running the Music Business Registry which includes The A&R Registry, The Publisher Registry, The Music Business Attorney Registry, The Record Producer Directory and The Film and Television Music Guide.
Ritch started out as a promotion coordinator for A&M Records in Los Angeles in 1980-81. He coordinated releases with radio stations as well as the national field staff, providing promotional prerelease information on what competitive stations are playing, informing stations on status on how a record was selling and overcoming objections and resistance to broadcasting new releases. He also ensured that all field staff had product and took care of any product needs for radio stations.
Welcome to our video titled Who Should Be on My Artist Team and How Do I Attract Them? Our guest is Ritch Ezra.
My name is Ritch Ezra. I am the publisher of the Music Business Registry. We are one of the premiere companies that publishes contact information for the music industry, for record labels and music publishers, music attorneys, artists managers and film and television music supervision. We have been in business now for 31 years. I have a 43 year background in the music industry. I’ve been in radio promotion. I was in A&R and Arista for many years, and I have taught courses in the music business for I guess it’s 36 years now, and I continue to teach at the Musician’s Institute here in Los Angeles.
Ritch, does every artist need a team?
The answer is yes, but it’s a qualified yes. An artist needs a team at a specific point in their career. It’s an important question because an artist, most artists, the mistake most artists think they need a team when they don’t. An artist needs a manager when there is a career to manage. But the mistake most artists make around that point of ‘I need a manager’ is the thought or the consciousness of ‘if I have a manager, they will give me a career.’ They will make me have a career. If Irving Azoff handles my career, suddenly I will have won. It doesn’t work like that.
Remember, managers don’t make a salary from you. They make a commission. They make a percentage of income off of what you’re generating. And so I think that this is an especially important question today. Today you have to build the beginnings of a career and the beginnings of a business yourself.
Before building your team, you have to have a career – an actual career going before a manager can get involved. If you want an agent who’s going to book your gigs, you have to be able to show the agent that you can at least, because I’ve asked agents this before, that you can at least sell out clubs of 300 capacity in and around your area before getting an agent.
No agent in this day and age can take on an act and just say, Wow, I think you are so talented. I’m going to take you on and I’m going to spend the next two or three years building your career. They will build a career, but they’ll build it from a place of, you know, where you’ve done the zero to 40, shall we say, or zero to 25. Or whatever it is – the metric that you want to use.
So that’s what I think is important. Yes. You do need a team. Never, ever sign anything without it being reviewed by your own independent attorney. Managers are not somebody who I think will give you a career. They are somebody who will manage a career. A manager is a very, very important part of your career.
It’s probably one of the most important because the manager’s job, in its essence, is to advise and counsel. That’s the job of a manager. But to advise and counsel on what? Your career. So you have to have a career. They’re not going to give you one. And what does that mean? It means that you have built somewhat of an audience – which is a real challenge today – that you have built somewhat of a live attraction, that you have some kind of metric of success.
And there are many, many, many different metrics today. It could be putting butts in seats… like you have the ability to sell tickets to your shows in your community or in the surrounding areas. It could be that you have a large social media following – a couple of hundred thousand or whatever it is. It could be that the engagement that you have with your fan base may not be enormous, but it’s growing and it’s consistent.
The metric may be that your streams are really high. Now, not everybody is going to have high streams. Again, this really depends on the type of music that you’re doing. You know, people talk about tick tock all the time.
Here’s a reality check. TikTok is a great social media platform. But it’s not for every type of music. Stop thinking that it’s the end all and be all for everything. It’s not. And the reason it’s not is because the audiences for every type of music are not on TikTok. Do your research. Who is the audience? TikTok – well, it’s primarily people between the ages of ten and 25. That’s the majority of the people in the world who are on TikTok.
So does your music appeal to those people? If not, it’s not a social media platform necessarily that’s going to work for your music. Now, if you happen to be putting music out that works for that, that’s great. But so the metric that I am pointing to is that you have to have some kind of element with your business.
I’m fond of saying that managers, publishers, the team, if you will, are attracted to people who are building businesses, ongoing businesses, rather than signing talent. I think back to the era that we came from – in the eighties and nineties, when relatively few artists were signed, when relatively few labels existed and they had all the power and they had all the control. And even in that world where so few people were signed, they still only had a ten to 15% success rate. The rest of the artists that were signed in that era, nobody has ever heard of. Today that rate is much, much lower. So you do need a team. You definitely need a team, but you need to be doing the initial work to set your own business up.
It’s like you need to be market tested. And again, the metric is different depending on what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be everything. But is it going to be,live performance? Is it going to be social media? Is it going to be streams? Maybe your music doesn’t stream well. Maybe you’re the type of artist who’s a heavy metal act or a hard rock band or, a type of music that doesn’t stream well or that your audience isn’t a streaming audience.
Not every audience is a streaming audience. That’s something that people need to get.It’s like I’m fond of saying, social media is not a generic term. Streaming is not a generic term. Not everything goes through streaming. Most hard rock doesn’t. That audience doesn’t stream music. It’s much more into the live performance than it is on the streaming thing.
So you have to have some sort of metric that people can see before you can build a team. But if you build it, they will come – meaning the team. And then you get into other factors about what you want to look for in a team once you start attracting them.
Let’s say you put many of those things in place that make you attractive to team members. How do you go about finding them?
You can search them out. Mainly today they will find you because the metrics and the medium in which to find talent are so easy. All of the success that anybody has is being monitored by so many people – by management companies, by record labels, by publishers. This is how you find them. And everybody is searchable and everybody is researchable. Meaning if somebody says, “hey, I’d like to manage you”, you can do a lot of research on them. Research on your social media, research on the Internet, research via their own clients, you know, as to who they’ve managed. You know, you find them in various ways. Sometimes they come to you. You know, or you can go to them.
But if you’re going to go to them, make sure you have researched these people ahead of time. Don’t necessarily go for somebody who’s managing a superstar act as a brand new artist. And the reason for that is because most managers who manage superstars… that’s usually the only client that they have time for because the superstar will take usually 25 hours a day to manage and they don’t have time.
So go for someone who, you know, you have researched. And research is easy today. Research is very easy today. You can look people up. You can look up their clients. You can look up the agents of their clients. You know, because it’s not all the same. You can look up people that have worked with them in the past and get feedback and so forth and see, ‘is this the right person for you’?
Relationships on a team to me, especially with your manager, is very much a chemistry item. It’s like any relationship. It’s about the chemistry. There are people who… we’ve all had that experience where we go to a party and we meet somebody and we feel like we’ve known them for years. And then there are other people who are in our lives who are good people. But for whatever reason, we’ve never, ever become close with them or we’ve never developed that kind of rapport. This becomes very, very important when you’re going to be in a relationship with a manager because they’re going to know everything about your personal life, your professional life, your financial life. So it has to be somebody who you have that chemistry with, that you trust because it’s a very intimate relationship and it’s a contractual one.
I don’t think they have to be your best friend. I don’t think that you have to have that kind of relationship with your manager. There should be some distance. But there should be chemistry. You have to like them. They have to like you. That’s an important factor. Do they share your vision for where you see your career going? Do you respect them? Do you feel that they have an understanding of what you want to achieve? And can they articulate to you how they feel that they can get you there… or not? You know, these are things that I think are really important when you start searching for a team. These are the kinds of questions that you want to be asking, especially for a manager with agents, it’s much more of a specific, narrow road.
An agent’s role specifically is to procure work for you mainly in the live arena. If you’re a musical artist. they’re not going to start with you usually unless, number one, you have your live act together, which means that you have a full stage show. And you have something that an agent could come in and say, ‘Wow, Vinny, I love what you do!’.
I’d like to book you now saying that it means that you have a stage show, you have songs, you have, you know, a two hour show or an hour show or whatever. But that whole aspect of your life is is is together before an agent can even be approached. So that’s that’s a very big factor. And I say that it may sound obvious, but it is very interesting today in the way that artists are getting signed off of tick tock videos and things like that where those factors are not present.
Record labels are signing artists off of a hit record or off a record that’s reacting, but they can’t really push the button because there is no show. The artist doesn’t have a backlog of 20 – 30 songs that they can just start writing and recording or even have written yet. They don’t have any performance experience. So it’s like the analogy I use – It’s like we’ve all gotten into a car of any and we floored it to a red light. That’s what we’ve done. And I’ve talked about this on panels before. At the Muse Expo, they talked about how all of these artists – they wouldn’t name names – but several of the big labels have signed these TikTok hits and found that they floored it to a red light. They couldn’t go further because the artists didn’t have any more songs. The artists didn’t have a live show; the artists didn’t have any kind of social media presence beyond just that one record. So all of the elements and the benefits that a big Sony or Warners or Universal could give you – there was nothing there to give. It just wasn’t available.
Probably one of the greatest examples of this was Little Nas X. This is somebody who… Now, the difference was that he ended up with the largest number one record in history. That was the difference with Old Town Road. That was the very first song that he ever did. He basically had to build a career. They had to build it, but there was no tour initially for that record. There was no album that followed. I mean, they put, I think, a little E.P. together. But they had to wait and really develop that. And the only reason they did it is because he was committed. He had the work ethic. But it took a couple of years after Old Town Road to really get what’s coming out now with him… to get that going.
Not everybody is going to be so fortunate to have the biggest hit of all time in order to do that. So your team is a very important component in all of this. But those are just some of the things I think that are important when you’re looking at building a teamy. And the team comes with the manager first, an agent second – if you’re at the stage where you are performing then and going to start, you know moving your performance beyond your local community.
And an attorney. Always, always, always maintain your own legal counsel. Don’t let your manager say, ‘Oh, we’ll just use my attorney.’ Because then whose interests are being represented? Your managers or yours? So always have your own independent counsel and never, team-wise, ever sign anything without having your attorney review it. You can pay dear, dear, dear prices for that. Just ask Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen or any of these people that signed bad contracts when they were… Elton John when they were young, and it cost them dearly. So that would be my advice on the team.
This concludes our video titled Who Should Be on My Artist Team and How Do I Attract Them? We want to thank Ritch Ezra for sharing his deep experience and wisdom with us.