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The Hardest Part About Being Your Own Manager


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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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I once organized a show with a manager of a band in a city where I had a sizable draw. The show was pitched to me by the manager as a great opportunity for me to get in front of many new fans and make a good amount of money. He told me his band brought 550 to their CD release. I was bringing about 100-150 out to my shows in this town so I thought this wasn’t a bad deal. In exchange, I would have them open one of my big shows in Minneapolis. This free show in their town was a college show so there was a guaranteed payment regardless of how many people showed.
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I reluctantly agreed to this “show trade” (even though it wasn’t quite a fair trade as I had a substantial draw in their city and they had virtually no draw in Minneapolis). I’d never done a show trade before this (and have never done one since).
+Can I Open For You? Maybe. But Probably Not?
+Our Tour Page Is Totally Full (of empty shows)

The night of the show, the place was packed for my set. When I finished, the room started to clear out. By the end of the local band’s 75 minute set there were about 25 people left. It was clear who most people were there to see.

I didn’t have any Minneapolis shows coming up (as I had already moved to LA). The lead singer of the group asked me if I could help them get a show in LA. I contacted a great club I had worked with in the past and gave a high recommendation for this band and put them in touch. The lead singer didn’t understand how LA shows work and didn’t see the benefit of the show because the compensation was much lower than they’d get in the their home town.

Months later on my next tour, to honor my word (and because the LA show didn’t work out) I offered them a slot for my Minneapolis show. I offered the 2nd slot of the evening (of 4). Unlike the college show, this was a club show where compensation works quite differently and I was covering (as I do) much of the promo costs up front. I figured there would be 300-400 at this show. I told them I could offer them a percentage of the artist cut or a flat rate which was about $150 less than what I was paid to open their show. I explained to them that this show’s circumstances were quite different in that I wasn’t given a high guarantee like the college show and that there were 4 bands to pay out (not 2 like our show) and we had to cover promo. However, I told them this show would have heavy promo around it (their name would be plastered around town in posters and flyers, in newspapers, Facebook event with thousands invited, radio, etc) and they would be playing in front 300-400 new fans (as they didn’t have a draw in Minneapolis) and should make up for the lower guarantee in merch sales.

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Before the manager wrote back, the lead singer (who had been included in previous conversations) replied with a scathing bitch out on how he was basically planning to ruin my reputation in his town and how I’m a horrible person and that I don’t keep my word. He also filled the email with lies about how he heard from other bands that I never honor my show trades (this was my first ever “show trade”).

I called the lead singer directly to try and process this out and make amends. He didn’t answer or ever call me back. I forwarded the email to their manager and the manager apologized and told me he thought this was a great deal for his band and didn’t understand where the animosity came from.

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This situation alone got me to curse having to handle all of my business on my own as the business decisions I needed to make in order to move my career forward also put my reputation as the artist on the line.

Being the acting manager for your band, you’re going to have to work out tough negotiations so that they are favorable to your career. To not get stepped on or screwed you will have to look out for your best interests, but by doing this you will upset people in the process. This is inevitable.

Be strong, but sensitive, smart and ethical. If you’re an honest, friendly person then these instances will happen very seldom. I take to heart others’ emotions and opinions. Nothing bothers me more than when someone is upset with me or has been put off by me and I try to remedy this whenever possible. Sometimes I’ve succeeded and other times I’ve received more hatred and resentment. Sometimes you’ll just have to live with the fact that people aren’t at peace with themselves and will direct their own discontentment towards you in the form of anger and animosity because you’re in their way. If you’re true to yourself and make sure that your decisions and interactions remain honest and you fill yourself with empathy, then you’ll be able to shield off the daggers thrown your way.
+I’m a Tool and I Have Accepted This

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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