Questions for Three Composer Managers

Questions for Three Composer Managers

Elizabeth Dworkin
Dworkin & Company

When you have a composer on your roster who is not also a performer, what do you do for them?

We do management and PR, and whether you’re a performer or a composer, in my book you need both. They work hand in hand, and it’s ideal when it’s all under one roof because everybody’s on the same page. We do all the nuts and bolts stuff, obviously, dealing with the performance and publishers, but we’re inundated with so much stuff in this business today that you really need to be a composer’s advocate. Even if it’s somebody who’s more known, there are always orchestras or conductors who don’t know their work.

So you would also be a link between performers and the composer in a performance situation?

Yes, very often we’ll be contacted if they’re interested in commissioning one of our composers. Then the composer will deal with it artistically, but they need someone else who can put some of it together, put a consortium together maybe. We’ll call three orchestras that we think might be appropriate for whatever it is, or chamber ensembles or festivals or whatever the case may be, and help try to make it happen.

How do composers know when it might be time to get someone to help them out in this way?

Well, I think there comes a point with composers when they know that they can’t push quite as hard as somebody like me can push. Also, once a lot of calls or performances start coming in, they need someone who can take care of this stuff so that they can concentrate on what they should be concentrating on, writing music.

In what areas do you think you are better equipped than they are, especially when you consider the social prerogative you have to speak more freely and push harder because it’s your job?

Even though they may know a lot of people and may be in a lot of places, we’re in a position to be out there and talking to twice as many or four times as many people than they would normally be. And they can say, “God, I’d love it if the Cleveland Orchestra would play my music,” but they just don’t have a contact there, and there may be people there that we work with regularly.

So you become the agent as well as the manager?


How do you fit in, then, when the composer already has a publisher and maybe a publicist? Sometimes it can be quite an entourage.

There are publishers who are really wonderful, but when you’ve got a large roster, it’s impossible to catch absolutely everything. We work closely with the publishers and we can help each other with that. So we can kind of cover all bases and make sure everything gets done.

Do you automatically take a new composer client on, or is there an artistic consideration factored in when making that decision?

It has to be the right fit at the time and the right chemistry. And if you take on too much or if it doesn’t fit in for some reason or if you really don’t believe in the music, I don’t think you can sell it. I know that there are plenty of publicists/management-industry types that do things for other reasons, but in our case, it’s all about the music. My big problem with what’s going on in our field today is that we’re getting away from that and it’s becoming about so many other things. I’m convinced that you can find a way to combine everything, get the marketing and the PR done that you need to get done and still make it about the music.

So, what does this cost?

Well, it varies.

Come on. Ballpark it for me.

Sometimes composers will come to us and we can’t take them on fulltime, but they’ve got this great CD and need to get the word out there. So that may be a one-time project fee, which will be a few thousand dollars. Ongoing management and representation is usually around the $2,000-a-month range.

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