My blogs, as you will know, are all about healthcare and my work as an interim programme manager. So here is the most “off on a tangent” piece that you can possibly get. As a freelancer, my business portfolio is diverse to say the least. As well as running a successful healthcare management company that takes me all over the UK, I also have a business networking organisation and, since April 2018, have managed a rockabilly band. Yes, you read that right. As a newby to the music industry, here is my beginners guide to managing the collection of free spirits that we like to think of as ‘the band’. There are some hints and tips here that will work across any industry…trust me.
Where did you get that bruise?
This is the question I’m asked most. I always have at least one purple bruise on my arms or legs. During the prep for the launch (more next time) my hands and arms were black. As band manager, you will see what needs to be done, what needs to go where and how quickly it all needs to happen. Others won’t and don’t have the sense of urgency that you will have. Amps are the heaviest bit of kit of all and a nightmare to get in and out of the boot of a car; remember that a broken manager is an ineffective manager, you have other work to do so pretend you haven’t seen them and let someone else do the lugging around, particularly up rickety steps to a stage. “Help” magically disappears or makes itself busy. And managing a band brings a whole new meaning to Health & Safety. Cables? Walk away (but watch your footing), just ensure they are safely placed (nobody ever thinks of this and it’s especially important if you have dancers) and always have some of that yellow and black hazard tape (nobody ever thinks of this either). Forget having nice nails or wearing heels. Leave more time than you think you will need. Work on the principle that there will always be less space to work in than you had envisaged.
Date the man who plays the triangle.
My partner of seven years plays the drums (quite brilliantly); possibly out of all the available musical instruments – a full set of drums takes the longest to set up and take down, they are surprisingly delicate and cymbals can break or crack. Drumsticks break, usually in mid song, so always check (tactfully) with the drummer that they have more than one set with them. The amount of kit can be enormous and needs careful cajoling to fit into even a large car. Be prepared, on occasion, to travel with a drum on your knees. Learn how to fit the kit together and how to dismantle it properly and which drum goes into which bag – fitting the bass drum into it’s bag is like grooming a cocker spaniel – you’ll undoubtedly end up nipped. When all the other musicians have packed away their guitars and standing around fiddling with their phones you will still be saying “where does this go?” when unscrewing the cymbals. Resist the temptation to give the drums a little bash – it’s frowned upon and you’ll be accused of wasting time and mucking about (which, of course, you are). You may also damage them and be forced to flee the country and assume another identity.
Don’t forget the mics. Don’t forget the mic stands. Don’t forget to pack them up and take them back home with you.
On the plus side, you are never lost for ideas for Christmas presents – drummers always need new drumsticks. They like hickory wood with acorn tips best.
It’s all in the name.
A tricky one this, and entirely subjective. I’m told that the name shouldn’t actually reflect the band’s genre (so, for example, a swing band shouldn’t be called “The Swingers” but I think there may be other reasons for that too) but it should be memorable and not too esoteric unless you are entering Goth territory. Have a logo that is appealing, recognisable and “clean” – it makes reproduction easier. Oh, and get the logo in a variety of formats including jpeg. and make sure that your chosen font is crisp and clear and can be easily read in a variety of formats and sizes. If the band has a “look” in terms of outfits etc (and it should have) have a variation on that look for yourself as manager so when you travel to gigs you appear as one cohesive unit and people know who to do go for queries (and, trust me, there will be queries and band members will point helplessly at you to give answers).
Deciding on the name may be your first big fight so be prepared and if necessary suggest the name “S Club 7”. That usually shuts everyone up. Ensure that everyone completely agrees and buys into the band name before you invest any time, money and energy into creating business cards, social media, logos and photography. Which brings me onto….
For us, Facebook has been the most important tool thus far. Great for livestreaming when they are performing, great for photos and who doesn’t love a good hashtag? Keep it up to date, post frequently and make sure you respond promptly to questions and comments. Learn how to use Sound Cloud – it’s free and it does the job and it’s easy to share songs. Use organic growth to build your fan base and don’t ever pay to boost posts on social media. Hashtag as much as you can.
Take a variety of photos including solo shots and black & whites to suit your band’s genre; I use a lot of black & whites with some creative filters as our band has an authentic 1950s rockabilly sound. Build a portfolio and ‘drip feed’ them on your social media and website.
When it comes to business cards, fliers, CD inserts there is one word – Vistaprint. They are brilliant. I’ve used them for years for all my businesses and they have never let me down, there is no to-ing and fro-ing with proof copies and the quality is excellent. Delivery is fast. Job done.
Credit where it’s due.
You cannot do everything. You cannot please everyone. So start building a good list of professionals who can do “stuff” for you (more on this next time). Use local companies wherever possible (although there are exceptions, see above) and most important of all, make sure you give them publicity and credit for their services. Tag them on your photos and in your blogs and in your social media posts; they have a business to run too.
And still on the subject of credit where it’s due….never forget to thank the band’s partners. Truth be told, they are delighted to have some free time to themselves when their other half is rehearsing but, nevertheless, recognition for their support, a thank you and a bouquet of flowers is a must. As my partner says, “behind every successful man there is a woman rolling her eyes”.
Repeat after me, “you are not The Rolling Stones, you are not The Rolling Stones”.
Before you know it, they are refusing dairy products before they perform as it’s bad for the vocal cords, telling you EXACTLY how they like their tea and informing you that they need a change of clothing before the photoshoot because its hot (top tip, don’t bother telling a 56 year old woman it’s hot – she knows. She’s been permanently boiling since she was 50). And it gets worse once they’ve been in the studio and “cut” a CD. They will talk over each other, they will be rude to each other, they will make you gasp at their lack of respect for each other. A room full of politicians or NHS consultants will look like the Cats Protection League’s kitten room in comparison and will make you grateful that you have a day job. Be prepared to spend MUCH MORE time on the band than you had expected and learn to manage the band’s expectations of you. Bite your lip; remember they see themselves performing at the O2. When they are performing, keep a copy of their set list with you so you know what song they’re starting with, what song they’re ending with, their ‘false ending’ (that’s a real phrase, see below) and their true ending.
…but they are your’s so demand the best for them.
Like all wayward children, as the band’s “mother” you love them despite everything and want to keep them out of jail or appearing on the Jeremy Kyle show. Look after their wellbeing pre and post performance – ensure they have water in the Green Room (see below) and something nourishing like a burger, sorry, I mean bananas. At a gig, make sure the announcer knows the correct way to say the band’s name, any other relevant details and do, please, make sure they get the introduction they deserve – they’ve worked for this and you want to get their name out there for potential future bookings. Don’t throw the intro away or think it doesn’t matter.
Ensure any publicity materials (see above) are the best you can afford and always keep a supply with you at gigs – including a few demo CDs.
They may not be The Rolling Stones, but YOU are a cross between Don Arden and Sharon Osbourne
Use phrases like “the balance was spot on” – they love that and other people will look at you in awe of your knowledge and professionalism. Another great phrase is “what’s your false ending” (this is the song that everyone thinks is the last one, but they have another one or two in hand ready for the shouts of “more, more” and rapturous applause) – better still, have a laugh (to yourself) and call it a “faux” ending.
The Green Room, (as in, “where is the Green Room located for my artists?”) an area ranging from a white walled fragrant room adorned with kittens to a barely erected tent where the performers can relax, have something to eat and drink, warm up, cool down and generally chill. It may need to double up as a rehearsal space or a place to build kit such as drums. A word of warning – as manager you will have access to the Green Room but it’s advisable to knock before you go in (it may be used as a changing room and you don’t want to be traumatised. There are some things you cannot unsee).
Always strive to be diplomatic; it will soon become obvious who the person with the most influence is and who the loose cannon is – learn how to manage the group dynamics as you would in any other profession.
Have some ear defenders (honestly, you will need them – you’ll be at very close quarters to all the music and it can be VERY LOUD) but be prepared to explain to their delicate feelings that it’s because of the volume and not because you are trying to block them out and secretly listening to Tony Christie’s Greatest Hits (I do actually have a copy of that if you need to borrow it).
Don’t wreck your back lifting heavy objects the wrong way.
Always carry your phone so you can do a few Facebook Lives. Hire a professional photographer for big events (more next blog) and carry your camera (with a full battery) for the portfolio. Carry business cards, CDs and fliers, pen and paper for contact numbers.
In my next blog, I’ll give the lowdown on how we went from zero to hero with the launch that rocked Gloucestershire
Oh, and the band? They’re called The RockaRolas and are based in Gloucestershire. They are absolutely brilliant and extremely professional, even if I say so myself, and have an authentic rockabilly and rock & roll sound. You can find them on Facebook (@therockarolas) where you can read our 5* reviews. Their website will be live shortly. We are available to hire, so please contact me for details.