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Lesson #2 – Start Up Companies

In today’s world many of the most successful entrepreneurs have become folk icons like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have become the new ‘rock stars’ of today.

Most of these companies started with a simple idea. In many cases these entrepreneurs were trying to solve a problem for themselves and in doing so figured out a solution for lots of other folks who had a similar interest or need.

A great example of that are Go Pro action cameras. Go Pro founder Nick Woodman didn’t set out to redefine digital imaging. Nick was a huge fan of surfing and he just wanted to find a way to capture his greatest surfing moments so he could relive them over and over. Turns out lots of other folks wanted to do the same thing and now Go-Pros have become part of today’s action sports culture.

Startups are fueled by passion.

In many cases these ideas were fueled more by a passion to do something fun rather than a motive to profit financially. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started a website to help connect with other students at Harvard University and if you believe the folklore to help meet girls.

Successful entrepreneurs work tirelessly to build these businesses. In the early days they managed to work around a million obstacles to give life to the products that built those companies. For most of them, building the business was a personal obsession.

All of these entrepreneurs were on a mission to do something great and make a difference.

Their strong vision for what they wanted to do attracted other talented folks who helped turn those ideas into something bigger and better than they could have possibly imagined. Their strong vision for what they wanted to do attracted other talented folks who helped turn those ideas into something bigger and better than they could have possibly imagined.

Most artists’ decision to pursue a career in music is fueled by a sense of passion as well. Its not necessarily a rational thought. More often than not they do it because they feel they have to. Like those entrepreneurs, making music or being involved with music borders on obsession.

Entrepreneurs attract others to their mission.

Like those entrepreneurs, successful artists and music pros are able to attract other talented people, musicians and music professionals, into the mix as well and together help turn their art and music into a business.

If you are contemplating a career in music today, then its important that you adopt that startup mentality and understand that building a career in the music biz is no different than building a startup from scratch. It starts with a big idea and the will to make it happen no matter what comes at you.

Artists and Entrepreneurs

I think in today’s music business, artists and entrepreneurs share a lot of common ground.

Entrepreneurs are individuals who organize and operate a businesses taking on huge financial and personal risks to do so.

Artists/musicians are individuals who create art and music taking on huge financial and personal risks as well. There are easier ways to make a buck and choosing a career in music over more traditional career paths most often means accepting that you could go for along time without making money.

Entrepreneurs are innovators who have a penchant for shattering the status quo of existing products and services.

People have been taking and waiting for taxis for years. But then UBER comes along and rewrites the rules for something that’s been done one way for a very long time.The greatest artists are innovators as well who follow their own path and are unaffected by what others are doing. They follow their own true north.

While entrepreneurs and artists share an instinctive nature to follow their gut, most entrepreneurs also have a tactical side. They understand more easily business concepts that help them build businesses.

Artists on the other hand, think a bit differently than business folks.

Their scorecard is usually more ‘feel’ oriented rather than results. They are less comfortable with structure and process than entrepreneurs. Most artists are uncomfortable talking about business. But, I think if you are an artist or a music professional in today’s music biz you would be smart to think more like an entrepreneur and treat your music career as both a mission and a business.

Making that transition from pure artist to artist/entrepreneur gives you the best chance of success in today’s music biz.


Meet Musician and Entrepreneur Jack Conte

Jack Conte is one of the poster boys of the Fuck the Gatekeeper mentality that you need to succeed in today’s music biz. He took his passion for music and visuals and used it to build a music business for himself and partner on Youtube. Then he took it a step further by co-founding Patreon ( Patreon is empowering a new generation of creators to make a living from their passion and hard work. In this clip, Jack talks about following your passion.

Click HERE to watch the whole interview.

Lesson #1 – Why You Need a Manager

Building a successful career in the music business is a huge undertaking. You’ll need help.

The job is bigger than one person’s time or talent. The job of building a successful career requires getting both the music and the business right. Both are full time gigs. Success only happens when you can make a shopping list of key items come together. Its not just about making the music, or the marketing, or getting on the radio, or making sure your records are on iTunes, or booking a successful tour. Its about getting all the pieces to come together. The music and the business. To be successful artists need to focus on the music.  Somebody needs to focus on the business and that’s the manager.

Your manager can help set you on a course to your target.

Mt Everest

Think of your music career as an attempt to scale Mt. Everest. When you start on your music career its all uncharted territory. Having a guide who has travelled that trail before can make the difference between success and failure. You’ll need somebody who’s been there before, who knows what it takes to get there, knows where the bodies of those that did not get there are buried, and has a plan to make sure you get to the top and back alive.  Lots of folks dream of scaling Mt. Everest but few actually get there. Everybody who did had a guide to help them. Think of that manager as your guide.

You’ll need someone to manage the business.

We talked about approaching your career as a business back in Lesson X. And we talked about the elements of a successful business.  You’ll need great product, distribution to get it out there, marketing and promotion to bring attention to it, a management team to make it all happen and money to finance it all.  Your manager will help you make the music whether its booking studios, finding a producer or engineer, finding musicians, or finding the money to pay for it.

Oversees the Marketing and Promotion of Your Career

A great manager can offer some input on how your music fits in the marketplace. That manager will make sure your music is heard and available to buy in as many places as possible. A great manager knows that standing out from the crowd is what makes a career so they’ll have ideas about how to market and promote your music. They’ll work with the record label to build a marketing plan to get your music on the radio, on tv, on the web, and in the media.  Marketing and promotion requires money and expertise so that manager will look to bring in a record label who can fill that role and get you the best possible deal.

Oversees and Manages Your Professional Team and Partners

The manager will help put together a team of people who can help in all the key areas whether its a lawyer, business manager, agent, publicist, producer or web designer.  And then they’ll need to manage the team making sure that each person understands their role in the process and how they’ll be accountable.   And that process is never ending. There are always relationships to be built and maintained. You’ll need to own the music. The manager needs to own the business.

Helps Develop A Touring Business

Your manager will do this by hiring a great agent to book the dates. Together they will develop a touring strategy at the local, regional, national, and international level. Your manager will assist in the hiring of a top touring team to work with artists when they are on the road. Your manager will work with or make relationships with the top concert promoters and club owners. Your manager will work with you to develop your stage show and work with touring industry suppliers of sound, lights, video, staging, and transportation.

Provides Honest Feedback

You’ll need a great manager to provide honest feedback.  There are all kinds of judgement calls that happen in the music biz. On music, on videos, photos, on people and on relations with band members. And when you make that decision you might not know if you are right in the short term.

You’ll get some right and you’ll miss some too. Sometimes you’ll know you’ve made a bad call but you are getting away with it because nobody will call you out on it.  You’ll talk to your band members, your friends or family looking for advice but sometimes those folk might not be totally honest because they don’t want to disagree or upset you.   An honest voice in these key moments can make a difference.

If you think back to our lesson on “The Best Idea is Your Idea” you’ll recall the situation in the studio where the songwriter hears the song in his head one way and another band member wants to play it another way. Imagine that the songwriter tried to bully the drummer into submission and the other band members just let it happen because they wanted to avoid a confrontation. You might have solved the short term problem but created a worse problem in the end.  An honest voice at that moment would have pointed out that there was a better way with a better result and it made you think. And so you decided to take the time to do it right.  Having a trusted 2nd opinion is important. Getting the unvarnished truth might hurt in the short term but lead to the better results in the end.

Need manager to deliver bad news.

Nobody wants to hear bad news. Nobody wants to deliver it either.  Delivering bad news could make your artist believe that its because of you. If they had a better manager maybe they’d be getting that good news.  But bad news does not go away because you ignore it. The first step to fixing the problem is identifying it and it starts with being honest about where you are at. You need a manager as a buffer to all those folks you’ll meet in the business. You’ll need to use your manager as a shield to politely escape all those friends that have an idea of how they’d like to help you when what they meant to say is that they want you to help them. Better that your manager argues with the folks at the label to get the things you need. Much better that your manager asks for the money rather than you.  When there’s bad news to deliver its much better that your manager does the deed than the artist.  Being in a band or working with other musicians is very personal. Keeping a good vibe is crucial. Sometimes a manager can say things to your musical partners that you might be uncomfortable saying on your own.

Sometimes you just need a shoulder to cry on.

The weight of trying to succeed in the music business can drive you a little crazy. The ups and downs can be difficult to deal with. Its easy to question why am I doing this or think that it will never work out.  Sometimes you just need someone to listen. Someone who’s been there. Someone who knows what you are going through and who’s there to work through it with you.


Drew Simmons talks How Young the Giant got his Attention and Interest as a Manager



Drew Simmons, the Manager for Young the Giant, discusses their recent success making waves touring, on radio, and even having songs placed on TV shows and in commercials.  But, how did they get to that point?  First, they needed to get management on board who believed in them and their music.  Drew recounts how he first noticed Young the Giant (at the time known as The Jakes) and what led to his decision to represent them.  If you are a hot young band looking to get representation, Drew has some words of wisdom for you!

Lesson #9 – Artist Manager Relationship – Respect the Decision Making Process

Decisions need to be made in a timely manner.

Important decisions don’t wait. They happen on their own timetable. Staying ahead of the process is key to maximizing the opportunities that present themselves. There is a time for debate but it can’t go on forever. So make sure you make the time to be part of the debate. Make your feelings known. Make your case for what you believe. In the music business biz there is no checklist of tidy answers when decisions need to be made. Inevitably, disagreements will happen and when they do it can be very uncomfortable for everybody.  The only way to relieve that discomfort is by resolving to work through the disagreement.

It will be the manager’s job to do your homework, layout the options and the ramifications of each decision, and then make a recommendation based on their best instincts.

If there is disagreement, make sure the disagreements are issues of substance and not just differences in style.  If everybody agrees on what they want to do, who they want to do it, then arguing over the way it got done is a waste of time. Everybody has their own way of getting things done and just because I might handle it differently than you should not be a real issue. When in doubt, vote substance (read results) over style and you’ll have less disagreements. Results are what matter in the music business.

When you do disagree and the decision is not what you wanted or what you would have done, accept that fact.

Don’t pout. Don’t undermine it. Just do your best to make it the right decision.  It’s not a competition. It’s a quest to find the right answers . Whose idea it is is not what’s important, only that you get the right ideas.  When the decisions are made artists and managers needs to accept responsibility for their part in the process.

Artists-When you say Yes it means Yes.

If you agree to an interview you need to do it. If you agree to do a show you can’t pull out because you’ve changed your mind or you don’t like the venue. In the music business or any business you need to do what you say your were going to do or lose credibility.  When you have made a decision that is different than the manager’s recommendation and it does not work out, you’ve got to own that one too. It’s not fair or productive to do the old “how did you let me do that”  routine.

For the Managers, you  can not spend your time blaming other folks for mistakes.

At the end of the day managing the process is your job and you will be judged on the results. If you’ve hired the wrong people, got in business with the wrong partners, or were unable to bring all the pieces together that one is on you.


Manager Pat Magnarella

Renman talks shop with longtime manager Pat Magnarella who guides the careers of Green Day, Foo Fighters, and All American Rejects. Click here to start the clip where Pat discusses how decisions are made amongst the band. Click here to start the clip

Lesson #7 – Artist Manager Relationship-Get To Know Each Other

Talk about the artist/manager relationship

When I started  in the music business most managers were referred to as personal managers. And it made sense. That relationship  with artist and manager was just that. It was very personal.

While artists and managers share the same goal to be successful they bring different skill sets to the mission.

Artists are all about the music and the manager is all about the business. Managers and artists think differently. Artists are more instinctual. They deal in feel. And the opposite is true for managers who tend to be more pragmatic and tend to be more results oriented.

Finding the right balance amongst those differences is the key to successful artist manager relationships.

I spent 20 plus years as an artist manager working with artists every day. Based on my experience I believe there are 4 key elements to a successful artist manager relationship.

  • You need to take the time to get to know each other.
  • You need to be honest and direct your communications
  • You need to understand and respect the decision making process
  • You need to TRUST


You need to take the time to know each other.

The artist/ manager relationship is one of the most personal relationships in the business. Because of that you’ll need to take the time to understand what makes each other tick. You’ll need to understand each other’s style and why it works for them. Accept that getting things done is what’s important and what works for one person may not work for you.  Understand that people handle situations differently. Take the time to figure out how your partner will react and strategize around that. You need to know when to push and when to lay back. This is a complex relationship. The first step to making it healthy and successful is to take the time to know how each other work.


Grouplove talks with Renman and Nicky Berger about Their Rise: Transition, Fate & Camaraderie

Grouplove calls into the broadcast to chat with Renman and Nicky Berger, their Manager, about how their paths intertwined to create the foundation that is Grouplove. For each member of Grouplove, how that person came into the fold was uniquely different, yet their chemistry developed quite organically. In this Renman Live! Highlight, Renman talks with Hannah Hooper, Christian Zucconi, and Sean Gadd from Grouplove about their individual connections to the band and how that evolved to create a strong bond and Camaraderie amongst the band. Nicky Berger also chimes in to elaborate on why that bond has become as strong as it is!

Lesson #6 – Accepting the Outcomes

Understanding and Accepting the Outcomes

In the music biz, success is the exception and ‘failure’ is the norm. If you believe that’s true, then you’ve probably asked yourself this question.

“What if my music biz dream doesn’t happen?” and “how do I deal with the prospect of failure every day while I am trying to make it happen?”

You’ll do it by accepting the fact that there are only 2 possible outcomes. It’s either going to happen or it’s not. It’s that simple when all is said and done. Once you’ve accepted that idea things get a lot easier. You’ll focus more on the process and less on the results. You’ll resolve not to overthink the things that can sink your ship and focus on the things you need to do to be successful. You set your targets, you build a plan, and you do everything you can do to make it happen. And you’ll just accept that the rest is beyond your control.

Success or failure is ultimately measured by your own expectations. You decide what success or failure looks like for you.

People ask me all the time how long should I try to make it happen or how will I know if it’s not working out.

Only you can make that decision in the end. it’s different for everybody. But the fact is sometimes our dreams don’t pan out. That’s life. I know from my own experience. When I got out of high school I had a dream to be a golf pro and play on the PGA Tour. Instead of going to college, I lived and breathed golf 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 4 years. But in the end, my desire and ambition were not matched by my talent and skills and I knew it. So I gave it up and went back to college looking for something new to catch my interest. Was I disappointed? Sure I was. But I took comfort in knowing that I had done everything I could to make it happen and that I would not look back later in my life and say I wish I would have done it.

So what does it all mean for you.

It’s one thing to have a love and passion for music. It’s quite another to be able to take that passion and turn it into a career. It’s a longshot on the best of days. But if you are truly dreaming of doing something big in the music business give it a shot. Let your love and your passion for you music drive you.

And if you can accept the outcome whether it happens or not, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the ride and you’ll have some great stories to tell for the rest of your life whether it works out or not.


Incubus singer Brandon Boyd on Renman Music & Business

Incubus singer Brandon Boyd sat down with RenmanMB to share his thoughts on how he committed to a life as a musician and accepting the outcome, regardless of knowing what that would be.

Lesson #4 – Finding Your True North as a Writer

Finding your true north as a songwriter

In Module One we talked about this notion of Finding Your True North. Too many times people have asked me what kind of music should I write or what kind of job should I be looking for. Whenever I hear that it always gets me nervous. Because it tells me that they’ve not really figured out who they are and what it is that makes them special or unique. Until you’ve found your True North as an artist its going to be very difficult to make any progress towards your target.

You’ll need to ask yourself…

Are you going to write and perform your own music? Will you do its as a solo artist, or as part of a band. Are you better off writing songs on your own or would you be better off writing with a partner? Are you writing music that has wide appeal like pop or is it music with a narrower appeal like reggae or jazz. These are the kinds of things you’ll need to sort out before you can reach your true potential as an artist.

Whatever it is it needs to be authentic.

It needs to reflect who you really are as an artist and as a person. If it doesn’t it will show. It will become obvious and in the end you won’t be happy with the results.

Finding Your True North-Example

I want to go back to my friend Tom Kelly one more time. When Tom first started making music he was played in a number of different bands. But he never really had any sustainable success in those bands. His musical tastes ran very wide. He loved pop music but he was playing in a rock band. As he put it to me, all the things that would ultimately make him great as a songwriter were holding him back in a band. At some point it became obvious to him that his real talent was as a songwriter. He recognized that his forte was making music and writing melodies. He found a partner by the name of Billy Steinberg, whose talent was the writing great lyric rather than chord progressions. Together they found their true north and great things happened.

“Yes, it was a job, but once we just focused on (the fact that ) we are songwriters, we would literally write Monday thru Friday. The mornings were for phone calls and at noon he [Billy Steinberg] would show up at my house, maybe with some burritos to go… we would hit the piano, or synthesizer, guitar. I would start banging out his lyrics and we would get going and demo things, work until dinner time and then it was time go home”.

— Tom Kelly

Great songs are what the music biz is all about.

If you are going to write great songs you’ll need to find the inspiration that starts the process.You’ll need to understand what makes a great song, find a songwriting routine that works for you, figure out what your true north is an artist, and then go to work each day and make it happen.

It worked for them. And it can work for you as well.


Hall of Fame Songwriter Tom Kelly talks about Getting Started in the Music Business

Tom Kelly had that passion for music from an early age and constantly worked away on his skill set and songwriting, whether it was humming melodies, coming up with new chord progressions, dreaming up lyrics, or staying up to snuff on the newest instruments. If you are dreaming of a career as a songwriter you’ll be inspired by Tom’s story. Click HERE to watch the whole interview.