One Simple Key To Getting The Most Out Of Your Artist Agent Retainer

There is a fascinating post by Joe Patti up at Butts In The Seats, which in turn, is examining a post from Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq at MABlogs about ownership of an artist’s booking data; for example, name and contact information for arts org artistic administrators or performing arts center venue managers that are either leads or established contacts. Although the initial topic touched on the touchy issue of proprietary data (spoiler: it belongs to the artist, not the agent), it is an excellent gateway to a topic that comes up like clockwork via my consulting work: “how do I know if I’m getting my money’s worth from my agent’s retainer?”

Adaptistration People 141I’ve lost track of the number of times soloists, conductors, etc. have approached me expressing frustration with his/her agent over paying a retainer but still being the one out there hustling gigs.

The solution is actually quite straightforward so get ready to hit the print button as I’m going to save everyone an hour’s worth of consulting fees ($300) by spilling the beans here in print.

Doveryai No Proveryai (trust, but verify) – Russian Proverb

  1. Require your representation to provide lead list tracking on a monthly, quarterly, or bi-annual basis.

That’s it. It really is that forehead-slap simple and as the posts from Patti and Goldstein confirm, that data is yours anyway so there’s nothing inappropriate about asking for it in the form of a CRM report.

A CRM, or customer relationship manager, is a system for managing and tracking interactions with current and future business contacts. There are loads of good cloud based systems to choose from, one of my favs is Highrise from 37signals.com, but it can be as simple as a free google spreadsheet.

An important point here is when I say “require” your representation provide reports that can take the form of a clause in your written representation agreement to a simple verbal understanding. There’s no hard and fast rule about getting it in your agreement and a firm deliverable but making it known at the onset of your relationship that you expect that data and why it’s meaningful to you is what really matters.

Ultimately, what you want to see in a contact report are the following:

  • Organization name
  • Name and title for each related contact
  • Dates contacted
  • Type of contact (telephone, email, conference, FTF, etc.)
  • Contact details (phone, email addy, SMS, etc.)
  • Communication summaries
  • Lead generation follow-up actions and results

In short, you just want to know who they spoke with, what they talked about, and the outcome. And if you ever part ways, you’ll have the contact details to use as you see fit.

If your representation uses a cloud based CRM to manage this data, most systems provide the ability to set up users with non or limited editing access which you can use to pop in at your leisure to keep tabs on everything, thereby releasing the agents from having to compile a formal report (time s/he can spend getting out there and promoting you).

What If My Representation Says No?

If your representation baulks at the idea (and don’t be surprised if s/he does at first), calmly explain why the information is important to you and that you want to be as involved as possible in promotion efforts to help advance your career. Don’t go off screaming “It’s my data anyway so give it up you good for nothing parasite!” Simply put, flying off the handle isn’t an approach I recommend.

If your agent shuts down the idea and simply won’t have any part of it, then you’re going to have make a decision about whether or not it is worth paying someone a retainer for work you can’t verify while hustling most of your own gigs or simply hustling most of your own gigs with a few extra dollars in your pocket you could reallocate toward other promotional activities.

The choice is yours.

Now, go treat yourself to something special with that $300 you just saved.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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