Thanks to Jeff Risden for answering my questions. If you haven't had the chance, I'd highly suggest check out House oF Heroes, they're incredible.
--------------- Frank- I recently talked to a few employees at one of the largest independent labels around. They claim that managers serve absolutely no purpose, don't do anything, and get in the way of stuff. So, to shut that label up, how big of a role do you think managers play in the success of bands like Relient K? Jeff- That’s unfortunate that they feel that way about managers. Perhaps they work with poor managers or perhaps as a label, they’re not doing the job the managers of their artists feel they should be doing and they resent the managers getting on them about that. I think some of that can be eliminated if labels and manager just communicated better. I think there are some unrealistic expectations put on labels by managers and artists. At the same time, labels usually aren’t too willing to be forthcoming about what they can and will realistically do for an artist or record. It can be very hard getting straight answers out of people at times and that is frustrating for a manager who is looked to by the artist for the answers. I think if everyone was more upfront about things, their respective agendas, it would help quite a bit. I think it’s important to the success of any band to have good management and I think good managers find ways to work well with labels and vice versa.
As it relates to the label, a good manager is going to bring the label a plan for their artist and the record, showing where the artist wants to go and hopefully the manager and label can work together to execute that part of the plan which the label is responsible for. If both the band and label are committed to the same plan, they can work together and accomplish more. The manager has the role of overseeing and facilitating this to make sure it happens.
----- Frank- Obviously you take a different approach when working with Relient K, as opposed to House Of Heroes, who aren't very well-known among the masses. Is there a significant difference between working with two bands on opposite ends of the spectrum? Jeff- The fundamentals are the same. You’re still working to promote and build the brand for each band; working to find ways to get them and their music in front of people that haven’t heard it to broaden their fan bases. The differences are mainly in the opportunities that come to each band and how those are handled.
----- Frank- Is the music industry as cutthroat of a business as people believe it is? What makes it this way? Jeff- It can be cutthroat. Anytime you’re dealing with money and power; greed and insecurity will be an issue. I think true professionals don’t act or treat others that way. The music business while far reaching is really still a small community of people. Most people eventually get to know one another. For anyone looking to get into the business or is just starting out, screwing people over is not the way to go about doing it. The short term gain won’t be so sweet if no one wants to work with you. The greatest thing any of us has in this business is our reputation.
----- Frank- What's a common mistake amongst up-and-coming managers? What could these managers do to avoid this mistake before it nails them? Jeff- Thinking they know more than they really do. I live in a city where we have several colleges with music business programs (good programs). Unfortunately many of the students in those programs think they know everything there is to know about the business because of the education they’re receiving. Book smarts is great. I received a music business degree myself, but the real world is something different. Dealing with an artist, label executive, booking agent, etc… in the real world is much different than dealing with your professor or fellow student. One of the best pieces of advice I received before I graduated from school was “a college degree only means you’ve done the work – now you’re ready to learn”. So I would encourage aspiring managers to talk with others in the business. Learn all they can from them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes them. Just be sure to learn from them. Finally, get to know as many people in the business as you can. This is a business of relationships --who you know and more importantly, who knows you.