Ask Exene: What a Young Band Need to Know Before Hiring a Manager
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice--on your love life, politics, your musical career--send an email to
I'm in a local band specializing in a ballsy blend of psychedelic punk music that could be showing a lot of promise this year. In the space of about six months, we've recorded with a pretty big-name producer and have been getting a lot of offers to play shows in OC and LA, as well as gigs out of state. Things are on the brink of happening, but we're all--surprise!--pretty broke and lack any of the schmoozing and social skills needed to really get ahead and make the right connections. We want to hire a manager or something, but we definitely can't afford it. We have some friends in mind who could be good candidates, but none has ever managed a band before. You hear all the time about bands and managers who are able to find success despite being super-green, but I'm wondering if before we start saying yes to a lot of the opportunities coming our way, we should try to help one of our friends train to become a good manager.
It doesn't cost anything to "hire" a manager. They get paid 10 percent to 15 percent of what you make. That's what drives them to get your band some work. Anyone can be a manager of a band. Most--even the "pros"--are not very good at it to begin with. Friends usually can't accomplish much because they have no concept of the history of the music business, that it's all a complete scam, and that you must have serious connections to make anything happen. Define "success in the music business." Are you all young, attractive, malleable? Will you wear what you are told to wear, say what you are told to say, and work with a producer who reshapes your lyrics, music and arrangements so that your songs sell? Are you prepared to sell your soul? If not, play music because it's who you are and what you love, and be prepared for a long, hard ride. I would know.
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