If given the opportunity, would you perform in front of a captive audience of 5,000 people for free? Or, would you perform live on the radio for free? If you’re an independent artist, the answer should be “YES!! Book it!“For the independent artist, such exposure is gold and immensely important to career development. Businesses pay a lot of money for exposure in the form of advertising. Free advertising, or artist exposure, is a great business opportunity (and make no mistake about it: if you’re selling your own music then you’re a business owner and need to make good business decisions to be successful). The most successful indie artists make good business decisions.
However, if you’ve entrusted someone else, such as a manager, to make such important decisions on your behalf, the manager might not agree with this perspective on exposure. So, why wouldn’t your manager want you to get the most exposure? The goal is to get in front of, or heard by (radio), as many people as possible, is it not?
Of course. But, managers typically don’t get paid unless you do. So, if there’s an “opportunity” for you to get paid performing for the walls at Wild Bill’s House of Caramel Coated Green Beans (open ’til midnight to satisfy your caramel green bean cravings), your manager might book you there to get paid and turn down the exposure opportunity of opening for a big act for free. $300 is good money for one night, but if you’re serious about building your career then quality exposure should be the priority.
Indie artist managers seem to be overly focused on short-term compensation, making decisions that get them paid today at their artist’s expense tomorrow. “You’re too good (big, famous, talented - whatever, insert any ego stoker) not to get paid big bucks for your performance.” Hogwash! I’ll trade a buck for a new, enthusiastic fan earned by live exposure any day. Quality exposure leads to valuable career development. If this means that you can’t quit your day job then so be it. If you stay focused on your career then you’ll understand this perspective. The truth of the matter is that many accomplished individuals work more than one job while developing a career. Music is no different.
Resist the ever present temptation of a laissez-faire approach when it comes to the business aspect of your career, music. If you do have a manager, it will benefit you not to trust him or her blindly (Billy Joel and many other artists have learned this the hard way). Insist on reviewing all important documents and any decisions that effect you and your career, including booked appearances. If your manager is constantly defensive when you ask honest, sincere questions about decisions made that will effect your career, then get a new manager - now.