Three Attributes to Look For In A Performing Arts Company

Over my lifetime obsession with Artist Management and Arts Administrative jobs I have read hundreds of articles, dozens of books, and looked into the lives of successful artist management teams with a microscope. Trying to learn the ins and outs of what makes these people successful is mind boggling sometimes. In LA everyone likes to put on a front. It is hard to decipher who is truly competent and who has a team of people that truly makes them and their company’s successful. During the last 10 years in the work force I have learned that there are three things I need in an art management job to be happy – teamwork among co-workers, well developed organizational structure, and great leadership.

Having co-workers you can depend on in the work place is vital to events going off without a hitch. If there is distrust in the workplace you have a tendency to try and do everything yourself which in most cases is not humanly possible without working seven days a week. So how do you trust the people you work with quickly when just stepping into a job? Get to know them outside of work and get personal. Don’t just talk about work. If meeting up outside of work gives you hives try connecting with individuals in the office one on one. You would be surprised how many people will open up when you include them in a project you are working on or asking for their advice.

Jonathan Dickins (Adele’s Manager) said, “If you have a short term focus, you are going to get short term results.” Having a lack of organizational structure is detrimental. I have worked in both structured and unstructured companies. Many that are unstructured manage all events, tours, and marketing within the event year, while structured companies manage all event aspects in a three to five year timeframe. Having that time allows for branding development, strategic marketing, and event expansion. How can a company grow if all you are ever worried about is getting through that year? The answer is it is impossible.

Finally, and the most important, strong leadership. Jimmy Iovine is one of the biggest names in the music business side of the industry. In a past Billboard magazine Iovine said, “Be careful not to breathe your own exhaust.” I think this statement encompasses why great leaders are great. Be careful not to look at everything you say as gospel. Know that you can be wrong. And understand that to bring the company up, you have to bring your team up first. The importance of how you approach your employees can be what makes you stand out as a great leader or horrible boss. If you are supportive and encouraging with a mix of level-headed toughness it is going to make everyone work just as hard as you do because there is a line of respect. In Aretha Franklin’s words, “All I’m asking is for a little respect, just a little bit.”

The Four Letter F-Word

Everyday can be a struggle when you feel that fear has a hold of you.  Fear to move on.  Fear to love.  Fear of the unknown.  When your a child, that fear doesn’t exist.  You trust without a thought.  You love with no regret.  You believe that you can do anything.  So, when does that fear become an emotion that grasps on so tight that it becomes difficult to move, to breath, or to hold on to reality?  Human nature makes us believe that everything is black or white, good or bad, but sometimes there is a grey area that gets forgotten about when people’s actions can be carried by the emotion of fear.  Fear can lead to regret, heartbreak, and resentment.  Why do we allow this emotion to control our actions?  Why can’t our mind go back to our childhood and block out that four letter word?

Society connects with stories about the underdog.  The person that was never meant to make it because of one thing or another.  Is anyone truly an underdog, or do we create these immortal men and women hoping to hold on to something that is better than our own lives?  The people that are important in our lives make us believe that the impossible is possible, but no matter how many people believe in you means nothing if you don’t believe in yourself.  When fear takes hold, you can feel stuck.  Almost like no matter which why you go, what action you make, you are going to fall through that crack in the floor and not be able to recover.

Over the years as I have watched the people around me change.  You notice their personalities change the most as they get older.  You let people go that maybe you should have held on to while others became more important in your life that started out as acquaintances.  You watch your parents, the people that literally could scare you with one look become these 50-something year old people of a totally relaxed mind-set.  The anger that you once saw when you would do something bad is no longer there.  Instead it has been replaced with a calm mind-set that it is now your life and your choices to make.  I have to say that I have been struggling with fear a lot lately.  Not fear of failure or fear of making mistakes, but fear of never being truly happy.  I’m not an emotionally driven person.  I do things based on thought and a lot of planning.  I don’t like to fly by the seat of pants in any situation and I have always thought fifty steps ahead of everyone else in the room if something doesn’t go according to plan.  I usually can tell someone how something is going to play out in any situation and 95% of time I am correct.  This is not me gloating, but more to show you that the people that may look like they are tied together in every way, feel the same fear that you do; they may just be less publicly emotional about it.  In Eminem’s song “Guts Over Fear” he raps:

“Do I really belong in this game? I pondered
I just wanna’ play my part, should I make waves or not?
So back and forth in my brain, the tug-o-war wages on
I don’t wanna’ seem ungrateful or disrespect the artform I was raised upon
But sometimes you gotta’ take a loss
And have people rub it in your face before you get made pissed off
Keep pluggin’, it’s your only outlet
And your only outfit so you know they’re gonna’ talk about it
Better find a way to counter it quick and make it, ah
Feel like I’ve already said this a kabillion eighty times
How many times can I say the same thing different ways that rhyme?
What I really wanna’ say is if there’s anyone else that can relate to my story
Bet ‘cha feel the same way I felt when I was in the same place you are
When I was afraid”

The best songs that we connect with are about emotions that we feel everyday and fear is just one of many, but I feel that it can be the strongest one of all to either make us fight or fall in this world.  Everything you want, desire, and need is on the other side of that fear; so let it go.  Sometimes the best you can do is take it one day at a time and get up each morning to Eminem’s “Not Afraid” because no matter how alone you feel, your not.

“And I just can’t keep living this way
So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, I’ma face my demons
I’m manning up, I’ma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now!”

The 1940s – The Music of My Grandparents

As we were driving down route 10 headed to the first weekend of Coachella in April 2016 I was giving my father directions from the backseat; trying to explain where he was going to be headed as he got off the exit.  Needless to say, when I don’t know how to pronounce a word I still sound it out like an eight year old and sometimes it is totally wrong.  Every street in the Palm Springs area are named after old time 1940s singers.  The area is considered Hollywood’s desert playground.  A place where people of Los Angeles can escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a weekend.  There was a street called “Dinah Shore” and of course I butchered “Dinah” where then my father proceeded to be in shock and make fun of me because I had no idea who this woman was in the industry of music.  So, I dug a little deeper into this 1940s icon and discovered the world of crooners, big bands, and barbershop quartets.

It was the decade that music was starting to really come back to life after the depression.  After the stock market crashed in 1929 music died a little.  Dance halls were empty and musicians couldn’t find work, but by the mid 1930s the economy was starting to recover and the 1940s crooner superstars (Bing Crosby, Cab Callaway, Eddie Cantor) started to hit the scene hard.  There was also the return rise of big bands such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw as jazz and blues artists were becoming national sensations – Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.  Then you have Dinah Shore who hit on another level.  After failing auditions for the bands of Benny Goodman and Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey she struck out on a solo career leading to a string of 80 charted hits between 1940 to 1957.  She was one of the first singers of her era to achieve such success.  She was Taylor Swift before there was Taylor Swift.

1940s music was filled with brass, big sound, and a voice that could sooth any rotten day.  The voices of this generation seem gentle, soft, and hypnotizing.  Getting lost in an era of musicals, where men acted liked gentlemen, and woman had more drive and ambition than taking the best selfie for Instagram.  This is not a knock on the Millennial generation, but I sometimes wonder where the magic went in this world.  When did image and beauty begin to matter more than substance or talent.  There is no mistaking the talent of these artists and musicians.  There was no machine back then that could hide voice or instrument mistakes or imperfections; recordings were honest and had truth behind the words that were sung.  Even instrumental big band music such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller –  their music has power to bring you back in time as an underlying woodwinds carry the brass horns to tell a story of two young lovers being torn apart by war.

Maybe that is why this music is so special.  It was created during a time of bombings, air raids, and being exposed to horrific deaths at a young age.  Your best friend could be next to you one day and gone the next.  The music has a stroke of blues even in the up beat songs (i.e. Sing Sing Sing).  Benny Goodman’s song “Sing Sing Sing” is iconic.  Even if you don’t know 1940s music this song has been used in movies throughout the decades since its creation.  It goes up and down in moods from jumping and jiving to slow and bass level waves in notes that get a little too personal.  That bass drum remains its constant heart beat throughout the whole eight minutes as saxophones and trumpets slither in and out of quick and smooth music bar lines taking the listener through a party scene of people feeling different emotions and the rollercoaster that we call life.

Click Here for some my favorite 1940s music!  Better yet watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” plays in the background.