As music students, it is often easy to dedicate ourselves solely to practicing and to forget about the practicalities of our industry. We forget to think about questions like:
“How do I get my music discovered? When is it time to get a manager for myself/my band/my group? What’s the direction for the music industry as a whole?”
Last July, UCSI University was privileged to have Ralph Jaccodine, manager of the Boston-based guitarist Shun Ng; and Sharon Wong, lecturer at UCSI University’s Institute of Music (IMus) to answer these types of questions that are important for any music major to ask at an informative and inspiring Music Industry Forum.
Q: What does an artist manager do?
Ralph Jaccodine (RJ): An artist manager is someone who is passionate about music. They think that music can change the world. Their job is to do everything possible to make sure that the world cares about having more musicians, and that their artists have a career.
Music is a wave, a vibration that goes into your ear. It goes through the ear and becomes an electronic stimulus in the brain. It makes you think different thoughts. The music accentuates things and plays in our brain – that is power. Music gets into prisons, the White House, a millionaire… (etc.)
I left commercial real estate for music because I thought that music was the most powerful force on the planet. I can’t create music but I work with artists who make music that can change the world. What a job it is to be able to work with artists who can possibly change people’s lives. I take my job seriously and I want to work with artists who want to change and bring light to this world. If you want to make a career, you have to break through all the artists and managers – by bringing light into the world.
Ralph added that in order to become an artist manager, you had to go out and meet people. If you want to be successful in the music industry, you have to break out of your comfort zone and be “fearless and foolish”.
IMus received numerous questions from its students and staff, directed to the 2 invited panelists. Here are some of the questions, which both Ralph (RJ) and Sharon (SW) took turns to answer:
Q: What is it like being an artist manager in Malaysia?
SW: There is no managing agency in Malaysia, but there are full-time managers here. However, they do not manage more than one artist. Some managers get paid very well (they get a 15-20% cut of the artist’s profits) and managing is their full-time job, while others need to have other jobs at the same time.
Q: When is the right time to hire a manager?
SW: The right time was when you get so busy that you couldn’t arrange things yourself anymore. Since most music students have no money, the best thing to do was to get favors, such as asking for playing, sequencing and photos for free.
Q: What is the best way to get your music discovered?
RJ: The best way was to perform in public all the time. If you can play in front of people and blow them away then you will have fans. You need to imprint on them, because one fan is worth $2,000. One fan will come to ten shows, buy t-shirts, tell 10 people about you, that’s how valuable one fan is.
SW: The best place to go about marketing yourself was at shows. The pay may not be great but it is a start. Remember that every show could be your last so make sure that every show you play, perform your best so that you get called back. If you show up on time, do your work properly and have a good attitude then you’ll go far, word of mouth is very important in this industry. You have to have the passion and work really hard.
Another question that was asked was what the direction for the music industry as a whole is.
SW: In Malaysia, there would always be a market for education. However, the demand for shows was very much influenced by external forces, such as the share market, and so you would have to work with the market. If things picked up, then there would be a greater demand for shows.
This begged the question, should musicians ever play for free?
** This article is part of a 2-part series of the Music Industry Forum held last July, at UCSI University. For Part 2 of the write-up, click here **
This article was written by Andrea Sim, student of the Foundation in Music program.