As the co-manager of Hey Rosetta! as well as the full manager of Rich Aucoin and Old Man Luedecke, Jason is familiar with the ins & outs of managing musicians in the Canadian industry and in this interview he gives us a peek at music management in Canada as well as what musicians need to know about landing themselves a manager.
What are your thoughts on music management in Canada currently?
It’s great! I don’t know what it was like before or how it works anywhere else (except I go to LA for stints). We build bands and make money and try not to pay taxes. Just like everywhere. But management in Canada is a good racket. I feel like I’m cutting my teeth on it more and more every day.
I’m constantly inspired by other Canadian managers around me including Louis Thomas, Eoin O’Leary, and Nick Blasko. But I also look at successful label and promoter friends for insight and guidance as well since managers are taking on more of a label/marketing role.
I have a bit of education in marketing and really enjoy putting that to use. We (managers) are completely involved in the branding, placements, and we’re even A&R’ing our clients records. We completely A&R’d the last two Hey Rosetta! albums. From scheduling to budgeting to getting things at the superstore for them. But then we’re also A&R’ing the video creation and building most of the creative tools with the band. All the while making sure they’re paid for and will generate revenues. And then we’re involved in marketing including aligning partners on the radio and promotional end.
But there are drawbacks to management in Canada. Developing a small music management business structure in Canada can be hard. If you’re a young person living in Montreal for example and trying to develop one band it can be expensive. The band starts to pop and you get a label offer for $60,000 USD for example. As a manager, you need to get a $1500 work visa, spend $1000 in travel to the US to negotiate the deal and meet the label, pay $1000 in roaming charges for your shitty Rogers plan. Then you finally take 20% ($12,000) of the advance as your share of the profit and you’re left with maybe half of it and a tax bill!
But if you’re diligent you can make it work. It takes a bit of time and you can access some funding for those expenses. And Canadian geography itself can be difficult. It’s a big country! We just opened an office in Toronto which has made that a lot easier. I’m happy to say we’re the only Nova Scotian entertainment company with an office operating in Toronto. Next for us is LA or New York!
Anyone who is reading this and wants to practice artist management in Canada, you need to look into The Music Manager’s Forum of Canada. Lots of additional resources and information. So helpful. Go sign up and take advantage of them.
Are there any misconceptions that musicians have regarding managers/management?
I think so. But probably the same everywhere in the industry. And rightfully so.
At what point does a band/musician need a manager?
That depends…on a lot of things. But usually when they’re at a point when they’re ready to get to the next level. To me a band that’s “ready” is a band that has a great live show, isn’t afraid to show their true talents and have the songs to make a great record. I want to be confident that when I put an act on a stage, they’re going to make an impression on everyone in the room. When you see them on stage, you know it’s a band with longevity. I like working with artists that are incredibly ambitious artistically.
I also feel like a band/musician will want to have an idea of who does what in the industry before they talk to management. Read the new Donald Passman book (the one with fellow Canadian manager Chip Sutherland). They should have enough business sense that I can talk to them as business people (in small doses mostly) and they understand profit and loss, whose money is actually being spent, what a record deal means, etc.
If you’re an artist and you need “help”, you should look to employ a friend-manager (we call them friend-agers). I used to be one. That’s kind of how I started. My assistant is a friend-ager and he’s doing a great job for a Halifax band called Billie Dre and the Poor Boys. Keep an eye on them!
How should a band/musician approach a manager / management company?
Approach them naturally. You’re already on their radar. So keep motivated and keep doing whatever you’re doing. I love talking to musicians at shows or whenever. Just don’t be shy. And especially don’t be cagey. I’m not going to sign you because you have an elevator pitch.
What mistakes do you see bands/musicians make when they approach a manager / management company?
Don’t send us everything you think we need to know. Managers don’t care about what you sound like or who you compare yourself to. We can figure that out in 5 seconds. Send a link to listen and some recent successes. That’s a good intro!
What makes you want to work with a band?
I love their music. I love their live show. They are ambitious. They are hard working. Personally, I won’t stick to one genre of music. It just has to be amazing.
Jason Burns is the president of Burnt Tree Entertainment where he co-manages the careers of Hey Rosetta! and fully manages Rich Aucoin and Old Man Luedecke. In 2011 and 2012 Jason won the award for Manager of the Year from Music Nova Scotia.