I had a really good conversation with a good friend and client this morning and it made me realize something fundamental about moving forward in the music industry. When you grow your team, it should be begrudgingly. This is sort of tied into my last article about scammers, but it represents much more than that. As I have mentioned in previous pieces, younger people tend to screw up a lot more. This is fine, but it is also a brutal reality that we all have to deal with. In fact, this applies to most folks in the music industry, young or old. So, what does this mean for you? Simply that you need to be doing as much as you possibly can before you ever consider hiring someone, unless you have a very goddamn good reason to do otherwise.
See – adding someone to your team is going to cause all sorts of problems, almost inevitably. The growth process is always a hard thing to handle, especially when you don’t have a clear vision for what you want from the latest member of your team. People should be willing to bring on employees, and should be willing to pay people, but to expand the group working with you is always going to be a very delicate and refined process. Finding the appropriate steps forward is not always going to be an easy task. The point I’m simply trying to make here is that lots of people are going to want to hop on board right away, it’s the gradual hiring process that needs to be refined very carefully before moving forward.
Ultimately – having a staff is useless if you’re not generating the revenue to support them. It’s great if you have three people on your staff and board meetings, but if no money is coming in then why bother? You are just engaging in puffery for your own ego. The real question is how effective is each member of your staff and what does it mean for your bottom line? The people who actually have money to invest and who will be willing to help you to grow your company are the same people who are going to be the most cost conscious. It’s people who understand the fundamentals of the way businesses work, not just the music industry, who are most likely to have a positive impact on your career – and the way you structure your band, label or whatever, is going to need to follow the same models that your peers in more traditional business roles are going to be taking.
In a lot of ways this makes sense. The biggest businesses didn’t form because one smart guy was willing to hire all his friends and see what happened .No – they formed by being very careful in who they brought on board and carefully growing themselves only when they had to. You need to figure out how much work is ‘too much’ for you and then gently expand from there. As to how much work that means, that is a very personal thing – but you should have a good idea of where you want your income to go and then develop from there. Entrepreneurs have been at this sort of thing for years, and if your band is truly a business (Which all good bands are) then why wouldn’t you want to follow that sort of model?
As luck would have it – a lot of very high profile bands manage to do a shocking amount for themselves and do very well financially because of it. DRI for example have managed to sort out their management and booking among every member of the band such that they have been able to survive for thirty years playing crossover thrash. That’s no mean feat! Other bands like Napalm Death have managed to keep their staff small by staying true to their punk roots and making sure that they can document every dollar. This goes beyond the punk world too – just look at how much success our fallen icon Prince had, self producing and handling most of his major business decisions on his own! The man was consistently well ahead of the times! Artists can and will innovate in ways that go beyond the industry.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be willing to hire a manager or consultant. There are people who definitely can do stuff for you that you could never have done yourself Just be aware that a lot of the good people who can help you out are not going to be interested until you have shown that you are at least somewhat able to do stuff on your own. From there, the evolution and gradual advancement of your band and brand should be obvious. You need to add people to your team just as you would add band members, slowly, meticulously and with the future of the whole project in mind – not just how much you want to sleep with them.