Nashville - GRAMMY U Breaking Into The Business

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By: Garret Lee / GRAMMY U Nashville Student Representative

On April 18, 23 students filed into Bragg 103 at Middle Tennessee State University to view a panel on the inner-workings and behind-the-scenes conversations that occur in the music industry. The panelists consisted of Daniel Miller, Red Light Management/Fusion Music manager, Aaron Tannenbaum, agent at CAA, and Duane Clark, business manager at Flood, Bumstead, McCready and McCarthy. This event was moderated by Chair Department of Recording Industry at MTSU, Beverly Keel.

The 90-minute panel began with Daniel discussing the different roles of each panelists and some current industry trends that have changed these roles in recent years. For example, Duane Clark discussed how business managers used to not get involved with artists until the time of the release of content, but now, since record deals have become so complex, business managers have jumped into the “ecosystem” much earlier. Clark discussed the implications of business managers’ involvement with record deals by addressing all of the revenue streams these deals touch -- including commissions to agents, publishers, business managers, and so forth. If business managers weren’t involved that early on, it is probable that an artist would have no money left after the deal. Daniel Miller then addressed how A&R personnel used to be the ones finding new talent, but now, Miller says booking agents are the ones finding new talent, and are usually the ones that are “far ahead of managers and, most times, business managers.” CAA Agent Aaron Tannenbaum chimed in and discussed the role of artist development, specifically the importance of always planning ahead or else that artist could potentially “hit a glass ceiling of income.”

Daniel Miller described his outlook on touring, stating, “We now put records out to support tours rather than the other way around, which is what it used to be.” Touring is sometimes the largest income stream for artists, so business managers are always working with attorneys, the band and touring crew, tour sponsors and vendors, and even travel agents to minimize any unforeseen events involved in an artist’s touring career. For some tours, which may have up to 200 people on the road from crew to tech’s to merchandise and backup dancers or singers, there are many liabilities and countless contracts that are put in place to also help minimize any risks.

The group of students watched the panelists scroll through a presentation on virtually every job associated with an artist’s career, from radio to merchandiser, graphic designer to promoter, brand partnerships to international. All of these jobs are somehow interconnected through the various roles that come together for the ultimate success of an artist’s career.

The panel discussion ended with a few examples of scenarios that have occurred -- typical speed bumps in the road that each panelist had a hand in resolving as well as other team members that were affected by the event. One scenario suggested an individual who was scheduling phone interviews with radio stations in different time zones, Denver, Phoenix, and Tampa. The artist wakes up in Knoxville and sets up for their first interview, but they’ve already missed the first 2 calls since they were given the wrong time. This failed event affects many roles: the agent and promoter who were banking on those phone interviews to help sell out shows, the publicist now has to come up with reasons why the artist missed the interviews, the label is upset because the artist couldn’t plug their upcoming album, and the radio promotion coordinator now has to deal with the backlash and possibly dealing with those radio stations who now want to drop the single from their station. This scenario showed the students that one small failure of attention to detail could vastly change the course of an artist’s music career.

This event ended with a Q&A period, where students were invited to ask the panel more in-depth questions about their careers in music. All three panelists alluded to prioritizing as the way they make things happen effectively and efficiently. With the volume of requests each of these business professionals get daily, many perform their own versions of litmus tests to strategize whether to accept or deny the request, namely consisting of two questions: (1) What’s the purpose? and (2) What’s the result? It is essential to remember that everyone has their own agenda, but in the end, everything comes back to whether or not it benefits the artist.

Duane Clark offered financial advice, “wealth is not about money -- it’s about freedom,” when asked about an artist’s income and earning curve. Aaron Tannenbaum echoed Clark’s money statement, adding, “working [for CAA] opens up so many other channels of revenue streams. If a book deal helps sell stadium shows, we are happy to do it. Everything eventually becomes a ‘mutual fund’ of sorts.” Daniel Miller concluded the event with his advice on managing artists, stating, “The lifestyle change is huge. It’s not realistic, honestly. Everything comes back to psychology and how to understand the artist's’ way of processing information. Insecurities don’t go away, and in an industry where you’re constantly told what to do and how to do it -- it’s psychology. Understand the people you manage and you’ll go a long way.”

Students were invited to stick around a few extra minutes to ask any other specific questions to the panelists following an expansive and engaging conversation on how all the worlds of careers blend within the scope of an artistic career. 

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