Questions for Three Composer Managers

Questions for Three Composer Managers

Jessica Lustig
21C Media Group

What do you do for composers who are not also performers, composers who are just writing music?

I would say it’s largely promotion—sending their music out, talking to performers and conductors about their catalog, looking for opportunities for commissions for them. And then all of the business details if they don’t have a major publisher. Some do and some don’t. For instance, negotiating the contracts and dealing with all of the details of the actual delivery of the materials.

How do composers know when they’re ready, that they’re at the level where they should look around and find someone to help them out with those kinds of details?

I think when they feel overwhelmed by the amount of details surrounding commission requests. Also when they have several major events that are maybe happening in a short period of time, and they’re not sure how they’re going to get through it. I think it just becomes obvious; it’s a critical mass of having too many requests to know which ones you should do and also feeling like there’s a lot of opportunity for exposure and not being sure how to take advantage of it.

There’s sort of a stereotype that artists are not capable of keeping that aspect of their work organized.

No, I don’t think that’s true. I think some can and some can’t. Some people do it very well—there are some extraordinary business people in our field, and some of those people would never really need a composer manager. Some people are capable of doing it, but simply don’t wish to spend their time that way. They would rather be writing music.

When composers come to you and ask you to manage them, do you take them on automatically, or is there an artistic compatibility issue that you also look at?

There’s definitely an artistic compatibility issue—without that, we can’t do our work effectively.

What sort of things do you look for?

I think fundamentally if we don’t feel like we really believe in the music, we’re not going to be good advocates for it. And that’s a very personal thing. I couldn’t put that into words. There isn’t a certain way that people have to write music. It’s much more personal than that. But if we don’t feel like we will do a good job for it, we’re not the right match. That doesn’t mean that they won’t find someone else who deeply believes and can go out and really go to bat for them and make a lot of things happen.

What if the composer does have a publisher? How do you fit in when composers have several people handling different aspects of their career?

Usually we interface pretty closely when one of our composers has a major publisher. We’ll do things like work together on promotion and follow-up. Oftentimes we’ll come in with a plan for promotion for a set period or specific engagements and work together on executing that plan. Rarely, but sometimes, the publisher will come to us and say, “This is what we’re thinking about doing. Are there pieces of this that you might be able to help us with?”

And what does something like this cost?

It’s a variable cost. Sometimes, it’s a flat fee and sometimes it’s a combination of flat fee and a percentage of commissions. There’s no one price fits all. And it also depends on where the composer is in his or her career.

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