I've lately found myself listening to all sides of the management/artist relationship conversation, and one phrase keeps coming up. I feel compelled to share some thoughts about this phrase from my perspective: an artist who is managed by a capable team, business savvy, has been involved in administration and leadership on the regional opera level, and has served as an artists representative for other singers.
Singer: "I have an agent, but they don't do anything for me..."
I hear this complaint on a pretty regular basis. I'm sympathetic to the position of a singer who may have spent many years in Conservatory or University, training and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege. I understand all the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into molding and polishing a great artistic package. I understand the complications of the singer's ego... What I don't understand is why so many singers feel that management is like a magical pill you take to give you an instant high-profile career. I blame (among other things) schools that hire voice teachers, who students are taught to idolize and utterly depend on, that never had the experience of a modern-day career and all the work and responsibility it brings. The fact is, the industry has had a huge shift, and what was normal 15 or 20 years ago is just not the way business is done. This just won't do.
The reality is that as a singer, you are CEO of your company. You make all the final decisions for your financial well-being, artistic development, branding, engagements you accept (should you be so lucky to have offers), network you build, etc. It is not the job of management to hand you a crown on a silver platter - as romantic (or appropriate) as that sounds... If you want something you have to learn about it, enlist the help of others, and make it happen! As a professional singer, you really are running a business.
The singer is responsible for supplementing the Manager's contacts and relationships with new ones. If you want to work, you have to make sure that people know who you are - in addition to having something special that is worth showcasing. Sitting at home and waiting for the phone to ring, or an email to come in, is a nowhere road! So much of the entertainment industry, and opera in particular, is rooted in personal relationships. Artists can be tricky folks to deal with, so artistic administrators, general directors, conductors, etc. are interested in how you interact with your colleagues, how you present to donors/patrons, how you engage your personal network/fan base to help publicize performances, etc... Being a high-profile singer is not about wearing Gucci and Chanel, big diamonds, big sunglasses, photo shoots, interviews, etc... (I know - I shouldn't talk...). It's a much more gritty - get your hands dirty - job these days. It's a result of the audience expecting connection to artists (one reason I think tabloids are so successful...), and of companies needing to be innovative and engaging JUST to survive financially.
I'm always surprised when an administrator for an orchestra or opera company I'm singing with will approach me and thank me for all the work I do on social media (facebook, twitter, blogging, etc...) to help bring an audience. I firmly believe that it is MY job to tell the people what is going on in their community, and to let my friends, colleagues, and fans know what I am doing, and that I want them to be a part of that experience. It is the artist's job to have interface with his/her community, just as much as it is to bring 150% to every rehearsal and performance. The more noise you make, and the more you create contact with your fan base, management, artistic organizations, etc., the more people will think of you when it is time to cast an opera or concert.
To bring it all home: building a successful career is much more likely if you work hard - as if you were self-managing - but stay in a constant conversation with your management, your contacts, your fans, and your whole network. THEN, you have to save some room for study, vocal work, and always presenting your craft in the best possible way. Not a job for the over-entitled, or the faint of heart... That's why so many great voices fall off the map. It's not just about singing anymore! So, tweet, blog, share, post, and ENGAGE your public and the people who are going to hire you!!
Taking the reigns on your career is the surest way to a successful journey.
Wishing you love and luck!!!