First of all, I want to give a shout out to all the moms and dads out there.
Easily the hardest job in the world, but also the most rewarding, right? But this article isn’t about you. This article isn’t about all the great moms and dads that manage their kids’ careers and help them every day, whether they are writing songs in their bedroom or touring the world. After all, a lot of famous singers were managed by their parents. Beyonce and her dad are probably the most famous. Michael Jackson, too, although not in a good way. Taylor Swift’s dad was instrumental in her career success.
But this article isn’t about the great momagers and dadagers out there. It’s about the bad ones. Hear me out. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things after 20 years in the music business. And one of the worst offenses in my opinion is the bad momager or dadager. I am writing this article to hopefully shed some light on poor decisions and behavior in the hopes you won’t make the same mistakes.
Dadager #1: “The User”
Some years ago, I found a really talented, young singersongwriter. She was trying to mimic Norah Jones. We spent quite a bit of time together and countless hours on the phone where I shared free advice with her father in hopes of signing his daughter. However, he was hesistant to commit to any type of management agreement even after months of meetings and oodles of free advice and no real reason not to sign.
Well, one day I am sitting down to lunch with another manager friend of mine. Of course, we get to talking and she casually mentions the same young singer-songwriter. It turns out, her dad was also milking her for months of free advice and information and stringing her along too with clearly no intention of signing with either of us. Now, some might think that is smart behavior. But the music industry is a VERY small world....even smaller now. And shockingly, those of us in the business don’t like finding out that we are being used and taken advantage of.
I tried talking to the artist directly and she said, “I know he’s bad...but he’s my dad. What can I do?” Of course, her career never went anywhere and she ended up giving up on music and getting married, never to be heard from again. The moral of the story: be honest with people. It’s fine to check someone out before signing with them. Savvy, in fact. But if you’re just using multiple people with no intention of committing to anyone, DON’T. People talk. People know each other in this city and industry. And when you’re found out, you can bet that they will tell everyone they know not to work with you, because you aren’t a good, honest person and are taking advantage of people’s kindness.
The lesson? If you find a good, honest and hard-working manager or representative in the music business, sign with them! Don’t keep playing the field. Otherwise, you end up being labeled a “user,” and instead of finding a great manager, you end up with NO ONE!
Momager #2: “I Know Everything”
I’ve worked with countless moms and dads who fall into this category. They think they know everything, despite the fact that they’ve never worked for a record label, management company or in the music or entertainment business at all. It’s a real shame, because when someone thinks he or she knows everything, they are shooting themselves in the foot for many reasons and jeopardizing the career of the child they so desperately want to help succeed. After all, you wouldn’t go to a dentist having never had a root canal and tell them you know best, would you? “Drill more to the right, not the left!” I know!! That would be ridiculous, right?
I check up on this one momager’s daughter from time to time. She thought her daughter would be the next Taylor Swift. Well, her daughter is still playing regional shows in and around her home town and hasn’t done anything noteworthy. But her mom knows best...
The lesson? Listen to someone in the industry if they really know their stuff.
Dadager #3: “The Desperate Parent/Poor Decision Maker”
Most recently, a dad called me about his 20-year-old son. (Of course, I wondered why his son wasn’t calling me himself. He’s 20, of course, not 12!) Anyhow, the dadager’s phone pitching skills were really bad... but I took a listen to his son’s music anyhow and thought I heard some potential. We had a nice meeting over dinner and wine at his house.I met his mom and songwriting/band partner.
After several hours of giving free industry advice, I found out they were currently working with a really dishonest person who had been sentenced to jail time. When I told them they were making a huge mistake, the dad refused to listen. I sent emails explaining the deal they were about to sign was a bad one. They didn’t care. When some artists or their parents see money, all good sense goes out the window.
It’s crazy to me, because this industry is so small. Why would you associate with dishonest and shady people when there are so many good, honest people to work with? I guarantee that if you get into bed with someone who has a history of scamming $10,000 a month from artists’ parents, it will eventually happen to you too. But the dad was desperate. He wouldn’t listen to reason or common sense or anything, no matter how much I pleaded with him. So, I had to walk away. I can almost guarantee you that family is going to eventually be bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars because they are doing business with a bad person.
Momager #4: “The Overprotector”
A couple years ago, I stumbled upon this really amazing young singer. She has been home-schooled and had this really beautiful voice and album she had made. Well, despite her beautiful voice, her parents were sweet but had just sheltered her too much. She had no idea how to use social media at all and had no ability or understanding of the platforms she needed (Facebook, IG, YouTube, Twitter) to promote her music. You can’t expect to simply hire people to manage your social media for you (at least not in the beginning). And the family didn’t have the money to hire someone anyhow.
And what was worse, since this young singer was home-schooled, the young singer had so few friends and classmates that she couldn’t even get out in front of people she knew. Her mom was sweet, don’t get me wrong, but they had no band and doing anything with them was almost impossible as they couldn’t even book more than one show.
It’s good to care about your kids. But if you want your kid to succeed in the music business they must be groomed to be incredibly social. They cannot be sheltered and succeed in the music business.
JENNIFER YEKO is a 20-year music veteran who currently owns and operated True Talent PR. Her specialist is film/TV promotion, music licensing, artist management and public relations. See truetalentpr.com. And check out her music blog with over 100 articles of free advice: truetalentmgmt.wordpress.com.