Be honest, humble and thankful for everyone who helps you along the way. Reputation is KEY and this industry is smaller than anyone knows”
- Bonnie McGrew
MM: What’s the story behind MusicBox? What inspired you to start your own consulting agency?
BM: I started having friends and old musicians/clients call me up out of the blue. They started small; asking me questions about local studios, or the best venues in town to play. It grew to more complex questions about how to sign to management and tour across the country.
I enjoyed helping these people out so much. I found that the knowledge I have from my 6 years in the industry is not something you can gain from reading any book or study in a class. My hands on experience and working so closely with my boss, Chief, has taught me everything I know today that is a value to these up and coming artists.
I realized there was a strong need for someone like me in today’s business. Someone that bands could get good, honest, current advice from on the industry and all of its complexities, so they can continue to work on what matters most, the music!
MM: What are the biggest challenges you face as a music consultant?
BM: My biggest challenge so far has just been adapting to every different client. There is no one story the same. No genre you treat identical. No band that can be told the exact thing to the next. There are basic principals that really help across the board, but dealing with a one on one plan for each project is difficult.
[pullquote style="right" quote="dark"]There is no story the same… No band that can be told the exact thing to the next.[/pullquote] Which is why doing the research on the client first is so important; understanding what stage they are at and digging a little deeper to ask them questions so we can get them the best results possible.
MM: What questions or advice do you find artists ask you the most? What do you tell them?
What I tell them is they CAN do it on their own, and by teaching them the tools to take their career to the next level, they will be able to get themselves to the point that they do NEED a team and a team will be after them.
This allows the band to work with companies who are more interested and willing to work hard for the group, as well as giving the artists a little more power when it comes to negotiation. Don’t rush to give away your % if there is no money for anyone to commission off.
MM: You work with some pretty big artists at Chief Music Management. How do your experiences working at that level affect the way you approach up-and-coming artists?
[pullquote style="left" quote="dark"]Seeing things on a big scale helps me understand how every team member plays a vital role in a band’s career.[/pullquote] BM: Working with artists at the highest level has given me a sense of how long it took them to get there, what they all endured, and that they have dealt with the same things most up-and-coming artists are today.
I think this helps me instill a little faith in some “baby bands” and give a sense of reality to their career. It’s not going to be easy and if you want it, you might be working at it for 10 years until it’s where you want it to be.
Seeing things on a big scale also helps me to understand how every team member plays a vital role in a band’s career. I may not work as a business manager, tour manager, booking agent, publishing company, entertainment lawyer, A&R or more, but working directly with them I’ve gained knowledge in that part of the industry and confidently know the roles and responsibilities each part has to play.
MM: If you had to pick the biggest misconception regarding the music industry, what would it be?
BM: Drugs, Sex, and Rock and Roll! Yes, I’d be lying if I said it did not exist… But most people outside the industry think it’s a big party and all bands who have one radio hit are rolling in money.
The industry isn’t what it was in the 70’s and 80’s. You can’t generate that much revenue unless you’re the Rihannas, Nickelbacks or Justin Biebers of the industry who have multiple hits at radio, and have toured world-wide a dozen times.
Most “successful bands” are still working hard every day, supporting themselves and paying their bills. It’s more work and less glamorous then someone on the outside may seem to believe.
MM: What are the most common mistakes you find bands/artists making? What do you tell them?
BM: One of the most common mistakes I have seen a band make is trying to play the part too soon. If you don’t have $50,000 to buy a tour bus, you should probably wait. If you don’t have $60,000 to record a killer industry record, you should probably hold off. Bands may not make a lot of money off the bat, but spending money you don’t have just to play the part is going to make it even worse.
Don’t think people are going to look down on you if you have to tour in a van, or can only afford to release a 4 song EP. Be honest, humble and thankful for everyone who helps you along the way. Reputation is KEY and this industry is smaller than anyone knows.
If you or any members have an ego in the early stages, you better put it aside now and take a realistic approach to sharing all roles and responsibilities every day.
MM: What are some tools that all bands should have in their pocket?
[pullquote style="right" quote="dark"]Having 2 good songs is better than having 10 bad songs[/pullquote] BM: An official .com, a Twitter, and a Facebook. All of which are updated and posted on daily and worked on to grow your fan-base and reach.
Having 2 – 3 properly recorded songs up to industry standards that are recorded, mixed and mastered. Having 2 good songs is better then having 10 bad songs. Having no promo photo is better then having a bad promo photo.
Make sure you are putting out a decent product, as well as a good image, logo, brand for yourselves that suits the style of music and is carried across the board in things such as social media and live shows.
MM: From an industry standpoint, what artist do you look at and think “They’re doing it right”?
BM: My Darkest Days. They are a perfect example of a group who has been at it for a while, have worked hard, and achieved great things along the way. They are so great with social media and respectful to all fans and everyone on their team, look the part, work hard and put on a killer live show! They are now on tour with the biggest rock band in the world! I believe they really had what it took and did all the necessary things to get there.
Good luck everyone, and I hope to work with some of you in the future!