August 2013

DIY or DIE- Building your Team and their roles: Managers

Check out our Mini Manager Services Here!

How people create, promote, discover, distribute, sell, and monetize music is constantly changing.  I’m calling this series DIY or DIE, why you don’t need to go it alone in the Canadian music scene. In it, I’d like to share some insight in how to build a team to support your career goals by explaining their roles.  Though this is aimed at indie artists, this breakdown is just as applicable to commercial artists. 

Unlike days of yore, musicians don’t need to be waiting to be “discovered” by some magical A&R man.  It’s one click, tweet, or viral video away attainable because of the strong team you build. On average behind a 5-piece mid-level band, there’s a team of 20+ individuals whose mission is to make your band the greatest.  Even labels don’t try to do everything themselves.  They hire professionals (hi!), companies and services to do things they are more skilled in.


When you first start out your manager will most likely be a close friend that doesn’t have a lot of experience but really believes in your band.  Whether or not you’re comfortable letting someone else run your affairs/make the big decisions/be the first point of contact is something your band should discuss at length.  (So if your drummer’s on-again-off-again girlfriend offers to help manage you should probably say no.)  You need someone that will be a solid foundation for your band and won’t flake out or miss important emails.

Obviously there’s loads of things here bands can do for themselves just through general networking but here are some things a manager does for the artist:

  • Helping with major business decisions (whether to sign with a label, which one, publishing, establishing advances for music)

  • Creative process support (what songs to record, where, with whom, what producer, hiring other band members; firing them if need be, talking about sound and image)

  • Being your hype machine!  King or queen of networking this person sends a million emails, phone calls, etc. to get you attention.  Hiring publicists, web designers, …

  • Putting together your team

  • Booking and coordinating tours (budgets, grants, road crew, promoter contact, google-maps-fiend to get to the club,)

  • Being your cheerleader.  Making sure your label, distribution, promotion team is working to make the biggest impact on the market which could involve the typical scream-fests caught in Spinal Tap between promoters and management.

Clearly this sort of management has its limitations for first-time-well-intentioned managers (not being familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, not being aware of financial support, legalities, music licensing etc.)  If you’re on top of this and just need a manager to help with admin support, that’s cool, but if you’re being approached by a label, invited out on a big supporting tour and your manager has no idea how to book a show, it’s time to look elsewhere.

NEXT WEEK:  We talk commissions, hiring a professional manager, legalities, and how to hire the right one for YOU.    

If you’re looking into hiring a manager and aren’t sure if the person you’ve selected is right for you, or has the experience necessary, send me an email!  Part of the consultation services offered by YouRockRed means we help you build the strongest team.  We can sit in on meetings or skype chats to ask the questions to allow you to choose the right team.  Having managed bands and worked with their managers on and off for the last 10 years helping bands avoid pitfalls of bad management is almost as fulfilling as seeing bands matched with the right manager that lands them on a festival like Bonaroo.    – S

Band management fail ^

How to Send out Songs- Just Do It

*this post is best applied for people you’ve met IN PERSON, not mass cold-call emails


When it comes to putting art into the world artists are their own worst critics.  You want to make that song perfect to send to the area promoter or radio DJ to flip out over even though they’ve already expressed interest in your band.  You pour yourself into it and write and re-write it until it’s perfect then once you finally record it at home from your bedroom you’re dissatisfied and scrap it altogether to be hidden on your computer for another year until you’ve amassed 20 of the same version.  Don’t.  Good promoters, radio DJs and managers are busy people.  If they weren’t interested in your live music, they wouldn’t have said to contact them.

Your bandmates and you already know the best 1 or 2 songs from live show reactions You have to trust your instincts to lead you.  In your email to them you can mention this is demo-form until you find a producer for your full professionally recorded album when you shop it around.  Remind them of where you met.  Obviously it’s nice to have a polished website but you don’t have to have a perfect band bio in the interim, just a solid contact page with a few basic bio details like where you’re from, influences, who you’ve played with, etc. 

I just interviewed a young band that signed a multi-album major record label based on a 2-song digital-only EP that found its way to a popular audio blog.  He wasn’t ready, but that wasn’t a bad thing.  He believed in those 2 songs but just as I learned from Chris Guillebeau, there’s never a more perfect time than now.  He found an audience of supporters.  You can too if you act now.

The worst that can happen is they can say no.  Even if they do say no, it could open another window of opportunity with the promoter or blogger or whatever saying, “Hey this isn’t for us right now, but I really think my friend X would be interested.” When you email that person, you’ve now started a dialogue based on a colleague of theirs they respect.  They’re going to at least click to listen to your music now.  (If you’re concerned about your music leaking, there’s plenty of ways to make private streaming and downloads possible.) Follow up with them a week after.

Making solid music for yourself over those you’re trying to impress (promoters, labels, etc.) is the first step towards reaching those important contacts.  When you believe in the sound, others will follow.  You can amass a strong and experienced team behind you to bring the best sound forward by doing this but before that happens it means you can’t just sit around in your underwear writing songs 24/7 waiting for someone to buy your song for a Gap commercial.  You have to take the risk of asking, emailing, and just doing it.  It takes some practice, but eventually becomes second nature until you have a publicity or booking agent doing all of this for you.

Obviously there’s a bunch of “don’ts” when it comes to sending out music (just ask!) but the most important thing to take away from this is that if someone with power of influence asks you to send some music, do not sit on it.   And hey! If you want an industry professional to go over the song and email BEFORE you send it off for our professional feedback asap, don’t hesitate to send us an email.


You bet your macaroni, bands have to get paid!

Paying Bands


As YouRockRed launches today I wanted to share some my own history with you and provide some insight into the Canadian music scene.

I’ve been booking shows since I was 17 years old.  From my high school friends’ basement band to being the first promoter to bring Ten Second Epic to Quebec I would do everything to make my bands happy when working with me.

Back then I didn’t know about sponsorship deals, ad revenue or how to get media involved so each time I plunked down $400 for venue or PA rental was a huge risk.  I would put my part-time coffee shop money towards paying my bands’ guarantees instead of road-tripping to Montreal or Ottawa for big shows.  It was a really small town of less than 2,000 and no one had even put on punk or indie shows in the community rec centre that wasn’t a fiddlin’ jamboree (really).

There were no guides to promoting and artist relations available to me but I knew this much:  bands needed to get paid.  And I at least could feed them if we didn’t get enough kids out to the show.  So early in the morning of my shows I would chop vegetables and cook up massive pots of pasta.  The pasta became legendary… as did my hospitality.

A spread of veggies, cheeses, cookies, and pasta was always available to my bands.  I didn’t have any guide books on how to promote or deal with bands.  I just knew how I would like to have been treated.

Now when interviewing people like Conor Oberst they’ll rave about the food spread at Bluesfest in comparison to other festivals where there’s just corn chips instead of full meals.  It becomes not about the food, but about valuing the people you are working with.  Music is my end-all, but it’s people who make the songs that run through my ear phones.  When you have happy musicians and treat them with kindness and consideration they remember.

When I booked Rah Rah a couple years ago when I saw that their rider included a list of vegetarian food items I went out of my way to make sure they were available.  I am a fan of their band but I wanted them to have their best performance and happy, well-fed people make way better music. 

Most shows I was able to pay and feed my bands, but a few times the opening bands got only pasta.  Then again, there was a French hardcore band who chose to get paid in cupcakes.

Food became the currency and just like you do when you’re hanging out in a kitchen, new friendships, clients and experiences came out of that one small gesture. Past Ottawa Rock Lottery participants know I have a habit of stuffing them with gourmet pizza and craft beer.

I hope the bands I’ve worked with remember the pasta and when you’re down to your last macaroni, and that they remember that pasta can be turned to real currency with the right music supporters. 

How have you been paid for performing?  Let us know in the comments!  

And now for you to really get to know where I started, here’s the first article that was ever written about my concert promoting.


Serious flash from the past- teenage promoter.
Serious flash from the past- teenage promoter.