This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Katherine McVicker, director, Music Works International.
Katherine McVicker succeeded in pulling a rabbit out of the hat last year.
In September, 2014, the veteran jazz agent decided to hang her own shingle out, opening her own booking agency Music Works International, based in Reading, about 12 miles north of Boston.
The agencyófocused largely on providing bookings for American acts in Europe and Africaóhas an outstanding roster that includes Dianne Reeves, David Sanborn, Jason Moran, Lalah Hathaway, Ruthie Foster, Plus Stars Lizz Wright, Kurt Elling, Vijay Iyer, Joshua Redman, Richard Bona, the Gloaming, Justin Kauflin, and Martin Hayes.
Whatís startling about her move is that from June 1987 until September 2014 (with a brief two year break) McVicker had held down a post as a booker at International Music Network (previously Scott Southard Talent) in Gloucester, Mass.
An encounter with Scott Southard, while she was working at the Berklee College of Music in the Performance Department, led to McVicker becoming a booking agent. Southard had launched his company 18 months previously, and offered McVicker a job. She began as an administrator. In time, she became the agencyís territorial agent for the North East, mid-Atlantic, and then the Southern region in the U.S. She left IMN for two years to live in Minnesota.
When she returned to the agency 1998, McVicker started overseeing IMNís roster of 10 world class artists for touring primarily in Europe with additional work in Africa, and the Middle East
The list of prominent jazz, blues and roots artists that McVicker has worked with in her career would fill out a book. A very, very big book.
It includes Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, Hermeto Pascoal, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Paco de Lucia, Lizz Wright, Mahlatini and the Mahotella Queens, Mike Stern, Joshua Redman, Chucho Valdes, Joe Lovano, Anat Cohen, Becca Stevens, John Scofield, Cassandra Wilson, McCoy Tyner, Milton Nascimento, Charles Brown, Angelique Kidjo, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Bulgarian Female Vocal Choir, Charles Lloyd, Bela Fleck, Raul Midon, Kind of Blue, Marcus Roberts, Michel Camilo, and Tomatito among others.
Booking agent, however, was not McVickersí first job in the music industry. A trained musician and vocalist, she studied piano through high school into college. After graduating with a B.A. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, she studied piano and voice at the Berklee College of Music, and then worked at Berklee for six years. As well, she learned the nut-and-bolts of live music by booking her own jazz and blues bands in the Boston area for 13 years.
You have entered a crowded field. You are either confident of your career plan or you have balls of brass.
(Laughing) Well, I have been doing it (booking) for a long time, and I know a lot of people. I have a pretty deep knowledge, particularly of the European markets. Itís been 18 years now that I have been working in Europe. I feel pretty sure that the artists that came with me understand what they want to do, and I think that I have the connections, and the understanding to do what they want.
You started the agency in September 2014?
At the end of September. I left IMN (International Music Network) on the 26th of September, and I started my company the Monday afterwards. Itís rolling pretty fast now. Itís incredible. Most of the summer tours are booked. I was really blessed to get a great roster. Things are going unbelievably well for me.
What staff do you have?
Right now I have a contract administrator, a finance guy, and an assistant; I would like to get one more admin person to help with a few things. Eventually, I will have to hire another agent, probably a U.S. agent. If I hire or get involved with another international agent, I will probably get somebody who is over there (in Europe).
How did you gather such a great roster of 13 artists?
How did I get these artists? First of all, I didnít really tell very many before I left (IMN). I may have told one or two. I didnít want people to have to choose what they wanted to do, and I felt that it was best for me to kind of make my departure from IMN (first). Most of them called after I left.
Had most of the artists on your roster been at IMN?
All except for Justin Kauflin, Lalah Hathaway, and Martin Hayes. Richard Bona used to be at IMN for awhile, and then he came back when I started my company. A number of these artists I signed to IMN, and others I have worked with for so many years. I was the responsible agent for a lot of these artists while at IMN. I guess when I left I was the person that they mainly knew at IMN, and that they trusted. I booked a lot of their tours. So they ended coming with me.
The result is that you have responsibility for quite an impressive roster.
I think that I am pretty much going to have to call it a day in terms of what I have on the roster. I donít want to get to the point where I canít get anything done because I have too much stuff in front of me. I donít take myself seriously, but I take my responsibilities seriously. It probably comes from being a musician. They get jerked around all of the time by people telling them a whole bunch of crap, and then not delivering.
Are you booking acts for U.S. events?
No. Iím not doing America at all. Iím only doing Europe, and I have always worked in Africa. I am going to do Australia, and New Zealand for a couple of people. I really am just focusing on Europe, right now. If I add another agent, it would probably be for the States.
How do your clients handle their U.S. bookings?
Some of them stayed with IMN for the U.S., and some have other (U.S.) agents that they work with.
There are few U.S. agents that book jazz acts direct in Europe.
Well, itís an unusual situation. IMN is one of the few U.S. companies that specialize in a lot of jazz artists. We always worked in Europe. So many of these American (booking) companies use middle or sub-agents in Europe. They donít really book the stuff themselves, but we always worked direct (at IMN). We only used middle agents in a couple of countries where itís very difficult to work direct.
You are essentially a one-stop working with US-based artists who may work with others agencies.
But Iím not a middle agent. I basically book everything direct. Itís great doing bookings in this way because I can really focus on developing careers for artists. The way I like to work is to be pro-active, as opposed to reactive. When I start developing things for artists working in international markets, I do think about whatís the best place for this particular artist in the major markets so we can continue to develop their profile for an extended development for their profile in Europe. Thatís the best way to go. You built it (a European profile) in really small ways. They might play a tiny club in Paris first. Then they go to the next biggest club. Then they play a theatre. Itís a building block kind of thing.
The ability to book direct in Europe is an incredible advantage for you.
Probably the people that are my competitors in a way are the European agents themselves. There are not that many peopleóthereís Ted Kurland (The Kurland Agency), and thereís IMNóthere are very few (U.S.-based) agencies that do it direct. I know that Monterey (International) and some of the bigger companies work with (European) sub-agents, but we go direct. I know all of these people. I know all these halls. I have been in a lot of these venues and festivals. I know a lot of these artists.
You were at IMN for such a long time.
Well, thatís right. 28 years.
In 1995, you left IMN, and moved to Minnesota for two years?
My ex-husband took a job in Minnesota so we went there for two years. He started a music program at one of the schools there. Unfortunately, it didnít work out, and we ended up coming back to the East Coast. While I was in Minnesota I booked some tours for some of my friends. Not international artists, but artists that I knew that came out of the Berklee (College of Music) community.
When you returned to IMN, you began booking acts in Europe. Did you want to move on from doing domestic booking?
No. It wasnít a choice. He (Scott Southard) had hired someone to take my old territory. I was gone for two years. He needed a European agent. I got thrown into the fire. I didnít have any idea about Europe. It really does work differently than the States. I paid some pretty heavy dues in the early days learning how the situation works there.
Do you recall your first business trip to Europe?
The very first one can tell you about. In 1998, I went to the ILMC (International Live Music Conference) in London. It was the first business trip that I ever took to meet promoters. I had been to Europe many times in the past during my hippy chick days. When I was 22, I back-packed around Europe for many months by myself. But that was the first business trip. ILMC was a much smaller conference back then. There were a lot of rock and roll people, and various people who do jazz and other things there. I was at that conference for many years. It was 13 years in a row I think that it was. That was the beginning of me being able to meet people (in Europe).
Are industry conferences helpful in making European contacts?
Thatís a recent development. It used to be that the way that I would primarily meet people was that I went to ILMC for a long time. It was kind of the only game in town. I was involved with ISPA (International Society For Performing Arts in New York) for awhile, but itís a really small organization. Mainly, I am still much more of a phone person. Of course, I do email, but you donít get to know your clients if you donít call them on the phone, and talk to them. So I talk to people, and over the years, I have gone to festivals and conferences. This is why I jumped onboard with jazzahead! (the annual international jazz trade show/conference in Bremen, Germany) almost as soon as it was put together (in 2006). It is a way to get everybody into one location, and meet people that you may have talked to on the phone for 10 years but never met. Itís great.
Until late Ď80s, American jazz artists tended to play select festival and club dates in Europe. The European jazz market seems to have since opened up considerably. Am I reading it wrong?
No. I think that the market has always been there, but thereís been some significant shifts in how Americans look at the European market. I want to say a few things here. The first thing is that when I first started working at IMN, I remember Scott talking about to the North Sea Jazz Festival (in Holland) and some of the big events that had been around for a long time. It used to be in the late Ď80s and the early Ď90s I think, itís my perception anyway, that if they (Europeans) didnít have Americans on their jazz festival, it wasnít really considered a jazz festival. A lot of these Americans (artists) really had the advantage of going over (to Europe) for festivals.
They were well-paid.
It costs a lot of money to go to Europeótravel and everything. On the other hand, it was still a pretty vibrant situation in the States in terms of the club market. I remember in the late Ď80s when we had a lot more radio available, you could put a band on the road from Boston and you could book clubs all the way to the West Coast. That doesnít exist as well anymore. American artist have become more cognizant of making a worldwide career for themselves, and that they have to build the markets in Europe just like they do here. They have to play hard ticket events. If they only go (to Europe) in the summer and play festivals, they are never going to develop a hard ticket audience because they are always going to be able to play festivals and get overpaid. They really arenít going to be able to build a sustainable (European touring) model.
Itís difficult telling an artist going to Europe that they will probably lose money for the first couple of tours if they arenít doing festivals. But if they do clubs and other venues, they might be able to build viable market there. Artists will likely say, ďI donít want to lose any money going to Europe.Ē
Thatís absolutely right. The other thing that happened in the í90s when there was still something happening in the record industry, with the (touring) shortfalls and investing in the market, some of the artists that had the benefit of that (support). Richard Bona, for example, had a tremendous amount of help from Sony. The company helped to cover shortfalls on several of Richardís early tours which helped to establish him in the marketplace. That doesnít exist anymore. The risk is much greater there now. You often see artists with tremendous success in the U.S. who donít want to start all over again in Europe. What I tell people is that at some point they are going to play every play there is to play in the U.S. and, if they donít develop an international career, they are going to limit what they could have as a sustainable career by alternating the different territories in which they play. When I do tours I am very mindful of how to make them work for people. Tours are a mix of festivals, performing arts dates, and club shows so the whole thing can work together. I also think that artists who only tour in the summer (in Europe) end up burning out their markets because they canít go to the same festivals every single summer. I donít care who they are, they have to alternate (territories). You canít go every year (to Europe) anymore.
As well, bookings for European festivals have become increasingly competitive.
Absolutely. Thatís true. As I said, it used to be that if a (European) festival didnít have American jazz artistsósince jazz is an American art form, one of our contributions to the music world--in general, people didnít feel that it (the festival) had a legitimacy. American artists got really used to being overpaid to play these festivals. In the meantime, the European scene grew up. What I have found over the past 10 years or so is that thereís a lot more competition within the European scene because they have grown their own jazz market. So when you have (American) artists demanding huge fees, with the way the economies are in certain places like Spain, Italy and Greece where they have a lot of difficulties financially, they (European promoters) have to make a choice about paying an American artist 20,000 Euros or getting an European artist who has a very strong following, and paying half the money. Americans have to re-focus their view of the (European) market, and look at it as more of a strategic part of their career instead of just a big payday. Thereís a lot more competition now. Itís a much different playing field than it used to be.
From the Ď20s to Ď70s American jazz artists were viewed as the originators the genre. Fast-forward to these times, there are matching notable jazz artists from all over the world that listened to the same records as their American counterparts. The pioneering artists may have been viewed as more authentic, but thatís hardly true anymore.
You get exactly my point of what I am talking about: The European scene growing up. There is a certain amount of---backlash is a bit severe of a term---but thereís more of an inherent conflict in all this. Americans have assumed that they are the true standard bearers of this music when, in fact, it has no boundaries. Who can say what is real jazz? Is it any less jazz if played by some Italian or German guy? No. It all adds to the entire diaspora of jazz. We should embrace how to collaborate with our European musicians rather than making it a conflict between who has the more legitimate right (to play jazz).
North Americaís jazz community has largely resisted embracing jazz musicians from overseas.
Absolutely right. I have been very vocal with my European counterparts by saying that itís time for the Europeans to start standing up to represent their artists, and really insist on collaborations. Let me give you an example. If thereís a festival in California that promotes their local youth orchestra out of the local high school or college, and they want to get them access with these big festivals in Europe, I think that the Europeans, in turn, should insist, ďLetís have a cultural exchange. We will take your high school jazz orchestra; you take our high school jazz orchestra.Ē
U.S. Border and Protection makes it so tough for foreign musicians to work in the U.S.
Itís ridiculous. There are so many more obstructions for the artist to come over here in terms of the visa requirements, and the overall expense. It really is unfair. Not only is it hampering this co-operation between the spreading of new ideas in jazz; itís really unfair that the Europeans should accept everything that we send over there, but thereís no co-operation on this side.
Since 9/11, it has become extremely difficult. I donít think anything is going to change until there is a reason that they have to change it. That it kind of eases up. I hope that is going to change. One of the things that I look to with this jazzahead! conference in Germany is that we bring up issues like this. We talk about how can we establish these collaborations and dialogues across country lines so we can have some kind of cultural exchange.
The Scandinavians certainly embrace jazz.
They really do, and there are so many interesting things that they do with the music as well. Interesting things with (Norwegian) artists like Nils Petter Molvaer, Jan Bang, and Arve Henriksen that they have done with the music in terms of adding electronics, soundscapes and things which is really interesting.
Does radio remain a viable marketing component in promoting jazz in Europe?
Oh yeah. In my opinion, thereís much more of a presence of (jazz) radio in Europe than in the States. Part of that has to do with that there is still a lot of involvement with their versions of NPR with their individual radio stations. It used to happen before, but itís almost universal now, particularly for festivals, that thereís almost always a radio component now. They do barter deals where they get free advertising. On a side note, a huge difference between the U.S. and Europe is that there is so much public support for culture (in Europe) which we donít have in the States. You do get a lot more opportunities to get on cultural arts programming and those kinds of things there. It may not be huge, but it still exists, and itís possible (to promote) there.
How do you see the jazz market in Africa evolving?
The challenge with Africa is itís always about making sure that the money is stable. What ends up happening in these developing markets is that if they want to put on a festivalóand I have had this happen many timesóif they want to put on a festival or an event, they are really dependent on one main sponsor. If the sponsor falls, the entire thing falls over. Well, thatís a challenge for anybody, but in a large market in a development situation (like the United States) if you lose your cell phone sponsor, you can go to a car company or something. There are fewer opportunities for people to support that kind of stuff (in Africa). Africa is a really interesting developing market. Most of the shows that I have done have been in South Africa, Mozambique, and a few shows in Angola. Northern Africa is a pretty reliable market for a lot of different acts although thereís been a lot of civil unrest in places like Tunisia. We do have to be a little bit careful, but I do think there should be tremendous opportunities there. The artists that I work with are really interested in going there. Itís a totally different audience, and an appreciative audience.
A very captive audience as well in that thereís not an abundance of American acts touring there.
Africa can also be routed as a half-way stop for artists on their way to Australia.
Yeah, depending where you fly into.
Does China show signs of being more open to jazz artists?
China is doing a few more things. I havenít been involved with booking there, but I have been a passive observer, and there are more opportunities in China now. Itís still pretty challenging in terms of getting in there. You really have to do it (book) far in advance because thereís a lot of visa and other administrative hurdles that you have to get over. But I think that it is opening up more. Do you work in Japan? I donít do any work in Japan. Some of the artists do extremely well in Japan. Itís a great market for David Sanborn for example. Most of them, like Dianne Reeves, go there once in awhile. Itís a market that you can probably play every 18 to 24 months. Itís not a market that you can go to all the time. Probably, I if do expand my European stuff (bookings) or international staff I would probably hire somebody just to do places like Asia, and South America. I donít have the bandwidth to take on those additional territories. It really is time intensive to do those other markets.
Booking in some parts of Europe and Africa is different than in North America, where you know for sure there is going to a show, and thereís a set advance. Do you ask for more than just an advance when booking some of the more remote overseas markets?
When you go places that are really far away or very hard to get to, you usually do either get an all-in fee where the cost of the travel is included or they are paying airfares on top. This is for sure for Africa and Russia and places like that. But the days of people having airline sponsorships are long gone. That doesnít exist anymore. What is most cost effective, of course, is to do routed dates. One of things that I try very hard in regional touring for the artist is to get partners to make consortiums. For example, Bucharest (in Romania), a market that on the edge of Europe, I would strive to get somebody in Turkey or Greece to take a show as well. If you are going to fly that far east, and if you can find other shows, it becomes more cost effective. If I send somebody to Africa or Russia, or anyplace where I am concerned about the reliability of the finances, say due to sponsorship unreliability, I make sure that we get all of the money in advance. At least a month in advance because I donít want the artist to even get on the plane if they donít have the money. Most of the clients that I work with in Europe, they are people (promoters) that have worked with for years. So I donít get that worried about it. A 50% deposit two months out. Thatís pretty standard.
In Europe thereís an established promoter infrastructure. In some African markets or elsewhere, you might be dealing with a promoter putting on their first event.
Exactly. I did the first Rwanda jazz festival, the Luanda Festival in Angola. I had the privilege to go there with McCoy Tyner which is something that I will always cherish. I had been listening to McCoy Tyner since I was five. So it was a huge thrill for me. Going with him to this particular show was a wonderful experience. What ended up happening was that the people who do the Cape Town International Jazz Festival did the production on that event. Thank God they did because if they hadnít had an experienced crew to do that show I think that it would have been very difficult. They had to bring a grand piano from Cape Town. They didnít have a good enough grand piano in Angola for McCoy to play. Those are the other things that you have to watch out for. Not just the money, but the production. To have somebody go there and they find that they donít even have a monitor system. So we are very, very careful about all of this stuff in these places.
Some equipment might not even work in certain regions.
That too. Or somebodyís acoustic bass gets wrecked in the airplane going over there. You just canít just trot down the street like you can in London, and get a different one.
How did you get from studying sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell into booking jazz acts?
I thought I was going to be an academic. When I went to school I thought that I was going to be on track to get a Masters and a PhD and be a college professor. When I went to school I studied sociology, and a lot of academic stuff.
Where are you from?
Iím from the Boston area. I grew up in Wilmington, Mass
You attended college in the era of when activist Jane Jacobs, who introduced sociology concepts in her influential book ďThe Death and Life of Great American Cities,Ē was arguing that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. An influence?
Absolutely. So what happened was that I was in college when I was 19, and I met this guy from Denmark. I spent the summer of í74 in Denmark with him. That was the first time I went to Europe. Then I loved traveling. I also ran my first business. I ran a restaurant in Vermont for a season. I made a bunch of money. When I got out of college in í77, I traveled around Europe for 9 months by myself. When I came back I decided to go to music school. That was when I went to Berklee.
You went to Berklee College of Music where you studied piano, and voice. Then you worked at the school for 6 years. Had you studied music from an early age?
No. This is a funny story. My mother was an opera singer. Iím the youngest of three. My brother had trumpet lessons. My sister had guitar lessons. When it came to me, my parents said, ďNeither one of your siblings stuck with this so we arenít going to pay for you to take lessons.Ē So what happened was that somebody was getting rid of a piano. So I bought a piano at 14. It turned out that I was the one who stuck with it (an instrument). I had piano lessons all through high school and college. When I went to Berklee, they didnít really have a voice department in 1979 and 1980. They had two people who taught voice. So I was a piano major. Then I studied voice outside the school. Itís not like that anymore, but studied voice outside the school. I had my band....
What kind of band?
Well, I had this little blues thing that I did. And I sang jazz with my jazz band, Montage. I had been listening to jazz my entire life. Then I met someone who did a clinic at Berklee talking about how to make money playing music. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I said, ďWhy should I continue to play jazz music for $50 a night? I can put a band together and we can play parties and I can be paid three times that amount.Ē The interesting thing was that we didnít start out as a wedding band. We started out doing corporate events That was my entrepreneurial personality.
How did Montage become so popular locally?
The interesting thing was that I met this guy who was doing (producing) videos. Nobody had video. It was the early days of MTV but, certainly at a local level, nobody had video. He said, ďI will do a video of your band.Ē We went to this nightclub in Boston, and we lip-synched this video. It was like a goldmine. I also discovered Music Planners International. In the Ď80s, when there was so much money around, all these big companies like IBM had meeting plannersóthey still doóand they would organize events. I had this video sent around to people at these corporations, and they hired my band, which was brilliant. Then we got in with (performing at) the Ritz-Carlton, and the Four Seasons. We made gallons of money.
Thereís always been great club scenes in Boston, and Cambridge.
But clubs donít pay any money. I was always about trying to make money. Show me the money. We did play at Ryles, Casablanca, The Willow, and Michaelís. All those jazz bars. This was a great way to make a bunch of money and because I had all people that were either students or teachers at Berklee, the playing was really high quality in the high band. Besides doing the corporate stuff, of course, we got into weddings and that sort of stuff. We had a really successful band. At one point we were doing 110 gigs a year
You saved enough money to buy a house. Thatís not so shabby.
Yeah. And through this experience I found that I really enjoyed the business part. It sounds funny but I didnít like being the female singer or the front person in the band. I liked to sing but I didnít really like to front the band.
Were you any good?
I was very good. I am a good singer.
Was the band performing any original material?
No. I never really had an aspiration to have a national career.
What were you singing?
So this was back in the day, right? We werenít like a ďChicken DanceĒ kind of band. We had a sophisticated clientele so we played jazz, and we played more funk and R&B, Janet Jackson, and stuff like that. You had to play music that people would know. Like we played dance tunes. Corporate would hire us because we could also play some nice jazz tunes and standards and swing. So I got to do that kind of stuff. Then I had my little side project (band) where did blues stuff. It was really fun. I stopped doing it when I moved to Minnesota in í95.
You stayed with Montage after coming to Scott Southard Talent in 1987?
Oh yeah, I started my band in í82 and I did it until í95. That was my separate life.
Did being a musician provide you with the tools to work with artists as an agent?
Oh, absolutely. I know what itís like to have a 3 A.M. lobby call, and to do six hours of travel, and then have to do a show. Iím mindful of those kinds of things (in booking tours). Itís not just about making the money, and booking the dates. You donít want to kill the band on the road. Itís hard work.
You played the same crappy bars, and did the same type of travel and dealt with side players who wanted more money. So you know what to expect.
Let me give you an example. While I was a U.S. agent, I was talking to a promoter in North Carolina---that I wonít name---and could not get this venue to agree to give the band a hot meal. They just said, ďWe donít do that.Ē I went back and forth with her over a period of a couple of days. Finally, I called her up, and I was so exasperated that I said, ďLook, you donít have to feed the band, but Iím telling you that if you have a bunch of hungry musicians out on the road showing up, and thereís nothing in their stomachs, you are going to get exactly that kind of show. Itís in your best interest to take care of them and treat them well so you get the show that you are paying all of this money for.Ē
Some club owners and promoters donít see that logic.
Well, they do this all of the time. They are watching pennies. We take it for granted that you get your hotel and your catering covered in Europe because the Europeans always do that. But thatís not always the case in the States.
Plus being a pianist you know what kind of piano to ask for in a contract for McCoy Tyner.
Well, yeah. Thatís their instrument. They canít do their best show with a crappy piano.
Do you tell new clients what is or isnít realistic about their career expectations? How do they react when you tell them they arenít being realistic?
I feel very lucky that I am in the position that I am because there are artists that I just donít take if I canít work with them. The basic thing is that we all have to get on the same page, and agree with what we want to do. I like to put it out there to people, give them my plan, and ask them to sign on to it. My position isóeven more so now that we have record industry collapsingóeverybody on their team should be coming with a certain level of expertise. They (artists) have to come to me because they believe that I know what Iím talking about and that I know what to. If they canít, at least start from that standpoint, I wonít be able to give them what they want. I have learned the hard way with a couple of artists where I invested a lot of time and effort in their careers; then they either didnít go forward on different tours that I put together for them, or they didnít consistently tour to get it (their careers) to the next level, so all that effort was kind of wasted. At this stage of the game, I only have a certain number of hours in the day, I just want to work with people who want to make a plan and execute it.
Quite often agents and managers are focused on the long-term whereas, due to finances, an artist may be thinking about next Monday.
Right. My job is to lay it out for them why they have to think about six months from now.
In truth, you likely are thinking about an individual artist 4 or 5 times a day whereas that artist is thinking 24/7 about their career. As well, they have advice from their spouses and friends. Some artists overthink their careers.
It makes me really sad when I see incredibly talented people who just cannot get out of their own way to make good decisions. It really makes me very sad. Artists who have been around for awhile, when they come to you, and they are looking for you to turn things around for them, they have to understand that if they have made a bunch of bad decisions that it takes awhile to unpick that, and get them back on track.
Often itís better not taking on a veteran artist due to their career baggage. Veterans will often fight you on your decisions.
Thatís right. Or, if they been burned a number of times, they donít have any trust for anybody. Thereís nothing that I can do about that. The first thing that I tell artists is, ďIím an entrepreneur, and I am agent. I can take advantage of opportunities for you, but I cannot build audience. If thereís nobody who knows who you are, and thereís nobody who is going to help bring that forward, what can I do about that? Thatís what your label and the other people in your team, including your publicist, have to get going.Ē
You sound like if your radar is set off in a meeting with a potential client you will say, ďI donít think this is going to work out. Have a good life.Ē
I might say to them, ďI donít know if this is the right moment, or if we have the right thing together, but stay in touch with me, and weíll see if we can revisit this another time.Ē But there are artists that I absolutely will tell, ďIím not the person for youĒ or ďI donít think we can do this together.Ē I recently said this to somebody who changed management. I know that I canít work with this manager. So why bother saying to him, ďLetís see if this will work outĒ when I know itís not going to work out? Itís just the way it is.
Agents take plenty of blame for career woes.
The biggest disappointment is that you book a great tour and something goes wrong. I did this great tour for Richard Bona but his bus sucked. I had nothing to do with his bus, but I booked the tour for him. (Laughing) Jeez.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.
He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book ďMusic From Far And Wide.Ē Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry. He is a board member of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario.
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