“Artist Development”: What it is. What it’s not… (AKA: DIY or get some help)

When I am not making my own recordings & videos or scoring television or films or playing live — I am an artist development consultant. See? :-)


Since I have consulted for years, I have noticed there’s some misconceptions on what “AD” is and what it is not. I think there’s been a story engrained into the psyches of you lost and downtrodden artists that you will have to labor like Cinderella until you meet your very own “fairy godmother” (read: music publisher, label, manager, etc.) who will make all your rock n’ roll dreams come true. Sadly kids, even if you are Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran and you are signed to a big fat label deal, you gotta’ carry your own water and you are 100% responsible for having the fundamentals in place to be ready to capitalize on the opportunities that do show up.

What are the “fundamentals”? (deep sigh) You could read my whole series on music monetization which goes into detail on all this... But since you are a musician and historically very lazy, I guess I have to “help” you with this too…

So, here’s a ‘cheat sheet’ with some important questions:

Do you have complete metadata inputted with your finished masters? Do you have songwriter collaboration agreements with bandmates and co-writers? Do you have a publishing company set-up at ASCAP, BMI or SECSAC? Are you registered on Sound Exchange? Are your social media platforms and your website set-up and looking great? Are you SHARING on social media in such a way that will help create engagement with your music and with you? Are your videos clever, engaging and as high-quality as you can manage? (BTW, you can shoot 4K 60fps on a iPhone now) etc… This is but a few of the “fundamentals”.

To keep things simple on helping you discover what “AD” is and isn’t, I have made two lists: what it’s not & what it is…

What It’s Not:

  1. A pseudo-”manager”. I have far too much respect for great managers to think my work is that of a manager. However, much of the work I do could be seen to cross the line (occasionally) of being “managery” (for a limited time). I hope this experience might give artists an idea of what to expect when they do decide to sign on to a manager. The legal definition of a manager is to “advise” their clients in guiding their careers. With respect, despite the fiduciary responsibility that managers have in their work with their clients, I try to avoid advice as much as possible because there is rarely any commitment or anything at stake with advice. It is a bird’s eye view that doesn’t empower clients. It’s easy and cheap. You also have to watch how “advice” might be the manager leading an artist to make decisions for the manager’s benefit and NOT the artist’s. (read: manager commissions can poison relationships) Therefore, I work with the artist to untangle a given situation so they can make choices for themselves that work for them without the specter of my financial benefit coming into it. (BTW, these days most major artists pay their “managers” a salary and not a commission)

What it is:

  1. Coaching. My definition of coaching is: “I say. You do.” No questions. No complaining. No explanations about the “big picture”. The problem is that most artists are arrogant, stubborn and fearful when being told what to do. This makes “trusting” me as their coach (cough, cough) challenging. I am told often that my clients “ know” their own lives better than I do or they simply ignore what I say as a way of circumventing my coaching. Frankly, I don’t care how you feel about the coaching. I am operating inside of what we said we would accomplish before we began. I know that most of my coaching isn’t popular with my clients. That said, I believe that when coaching is followed and executed as intended that it can be the most effective aspect of what I do because new actions always lead to new and unexpected results. That’s exciting! Now, I just have to get some of my more timid artists willing to jump off that cliff when I say so. A new career on a new path awaits…

So, this is a quick overview of Artist Development. If you are looking at doing “AD” with someone (even me), make sure they are vetted thoroughly. If they promise you that you’ll be “famous” because of working with them, run away. If they promise that your fundamentals will be set — keep talking… That’s the most valuable thing you can have done as an artist and its crucial to walking the long road to being artist successfully.

Emmy® Award-winning composer, record company executive, copyright expert, dad, dog owner and CrossFit newbie

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