June Collabo recap: artist management & navigating the music industry

If you missed last night’s June Collabo music industry mixer, you missed out on a powerful panel of talent managers and bookers. Lucky for you, I took some notes of the key points they shared:


Each panelist has had amazing experience working with artists, major record labels, brands and promoters.

  • Coleen Spapperi, StarSounds Inc. From starting out as a DJ to working in the metal/industrial music genre to managing hip-hop artists, she’s got the know-how to help artists get their careers straight!
  • Deidre Turner, Elise Management. Her client, Ben One, was in the building, and together they work on the 5 Ms: music, marketing, management, merchandising and…damn, I forgot the last one! But you get the drift. This is a team that knows how to grow their business via various channels.
  • Freddie Baez, National Director of Events at GTM Inc. At GTM, he works on the Smirnoff Master of the Mix campaign, which is everywhere – from TV to music blogs. So it was definitely interesting to hear his advice coming from the perspective of a marketing professional who is truly knowledgeable about navigating the music industry.
  • Georgeann Weisman, co-owner of Life Music Group.  LMG specializes in TV song placement, music production, songwriting, music marketing and promotions.
  • Mary Datcher, CEO of On the Street Promotions & Marketing. As the organizer of Collabo, Mary is always on hand to offer on-point anecdotes and give it to artists straight. All the panelists agreed that hosting the Collabo event each month is a great contribution she’s making to the local industry.


When asked about how managers choose which artists to work with, all the panelists agreed that as managers, they have to know an artist is serious about their craft and, beyond that, knowledgeable about the business. They want to see that you care and are committed to your music.

It’s common to have a vetting process and Deirdre added that she typically works with an artist for a three-month trial after the initial vetting, to make sure the partnership is truly a good fit. Because that’s what it is – a partnership. And you could see the proof from the way that Deirdre and Ben One collaborate and work together.

One other tip from Deirdre – if you’re an artist, before hooking up with a manager you should have the right record. And have a record to back up that record. AND have more material still beyond that.

Coleen added, that you should look for a manager once you’ve started to not be able to handle stuff on your own. For example, it’s hard for artists to negotiate their own contracts, because artists don’t want to say no – they want to be liked. But she agreed that first, get in the studio a little, get to know the business, get your social networking together, and then look for a manager.

Lastly, artists should research the manager too. Trust is key, and that goes both ways.


Freddie and the other panelists offered some really valuable advice to artists regarding building relationships and navigating the music industry. Some of the points that stuck with me were:

  • When it comes to selecting a manager, artists should ask the right questions. You should know what your manager does, whether he/she does bookings or not, etc.
  • Give something before you ask for something. Don’t rely on other people to just hand over connections they’ve worked really hard to establish. But do seek their advice for how to best approach some of those music industry connections, and in the end they may just feel comfortable enough to vouch for you after all.
  • Don’t spend your resources on the wrong things. Obviously we all want nice things, but if you’re making some money off your craft, reinvest it into yourself. Attend important music industry events — you might as well start with the GlobalMixx Conference right here in Chicago in August!
  • Show up and work the room. Speaking of using your funds responsibly, invest in a plane ticket and make it out to important music industry events in other markets like NY, LA or Atlanta. Even if you have to crash on someone’s couch when you get there, show up and meet the important people in other markets so that people know you outside of Chicago. Mary mentioned that Malik Yousef is a prime example of this. He invests in himself and shows up at events all over the country, and as a result, he’s maintained amazing connections and had a really successful career in music.
  • Respect the gatekeepers and respect protocol. You should understand the various roles in the music industry and understand the role of an artist’s manager. Do not go around the manager – they are in that trusted role for a reason, and the last thing you want to do is burn bridges with key gatekeepers.
  • Know when the squeeze is not worth the juice.
  • Along those lines, Georgeann encouraged artists not to become discouraged. If you can accept a little of the no’s, you’ll get more yeses in the long run.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s