Bruce Edwin is CEO of the A-list firm Starpower Management LLC, publisher of The Hollywood Sentinel, and also a film producer. His services, based on his years of expertise and success in the music and film industry are sought out and used by some of the most powerful companies and stars in entertainment. This ongoing article series, a precursor to his upcoming book, is his way of giving back to models, actors and bands, with free education- that in its totality and with its unabashed honesty- cannot not be found anywhere else. Free.
British Pop Singer Eliza Doolittle (pictured here), in addition to being truly talented, engages greatly with her audience, and puts on a great show. Wearing baby Tees and short shorts while having a great figure hasn’t hurt her publicity either.
WHY MOST BANDS & SINGERS FAIL
99 percent of all bands that have made it through my door end up either flaking or getting dropped. This is reflective of the music industry in general, and the reason why most singers or bands fail to be a star.
FLAKE: The reason most bands or singers flake (or models or other talent for that matter) is usually for one of several reasons. Either 1, they do not take themselves or their entertainment career seriously, and do not treat it as a job. Show business is just that; a business, and if you show up late, try to re-schedule, or miss all together, you will not impress those who are trying to help you.
EGO: The second reason bands flake is that they are waiting for the agent or manager or other industry person to call them. Days will go by, then weeks, then months, and the band or singer still will make no effort to reach out. Why? Ego. They feel that if the agent or manager or label really needs them, they will call, and they consider themselves so great that the agent or manager or label or similar person will call them. Guess what? Unless you are already world famous, making millions of dollars, probably no one needs you as a band or singer. That may be harsh, but true. In fact, probably no one that can really truly make you a star will even want you bad enough to call you more than once if you owe them a call or if they tell you to call them.
100 PERCENT OF NOTHING IS STILL NOTHING
If you want an agent or manager to rep you, and you are fortunate enough to get them to your studio or gig to check you out, don’t start complaining about their percent and ask if their percent is negotiable. Unless you are already a star, it’s not, and even if you are a You Tube phenomenon then it still probably isn’t. Besides, would you rather have 80 or 85 percent of something you would never have without the agent or manager, or would you rather have 100 percent of nothing? I’ve had too many potential clients have to learn the hard way that 100 percent of nothing is a lot smaller than 80 percent of something after I refused to sign them, and their ego was too big to allow them to come back with a changed mind. Those are often the people that run around town saying how I and others they failed to get signed with did nothing for them. Or better yet, my favorite, how they fired us. Get real.
I JUST FIRED MY AGENT
One of the biggest running jokes in Hollywood for an agent or manager to hear from a model or actor is that they just fired their agent or manager. Could you imagine going in to a job interview to be a doctor, lawyer, or salesperson, and telling the hiring manager that you fired your last employer? You would sound as if you were smoking some crack if you said this, right? And so why do so called talent tell us the same thing? “Oh, you know, I fired my last agent; he wasn’t doing anything for me!” Or, “Well, I actually just fired my manager; she wasn’t doing her job, so I am interviewing new managers now!” Excuse me; you’re not even freaking SAG! The fact is, most of the people that have told me they fired their agent or manager often got rejected by the agent or manager they claim they fired.
When someone tells us that they just fired their agent or manager, that usually tells us, A, they have no agent or manager, and probably never did, or B, cannot get along with people, or C, have an ego that is far bigger than their talent, or often all of the above. When a so called model or talent ever tells an agent or manager they fired their last agent, unless they are Brad Pitt or the like, the rep should have four words and four words only for them, which are; “There’s the door kid.”
I MANAGE MYSELF
Another running joke in this town that agents and managers hear is when wanna-be talent tells us that they are their own agent or manager. “I manage myself.” They say. “I do better than any agent or manager can and get myself work,” they say. “Oh great, than you don’t need me, goodbye!” “Wait, wait! No, I didn’t say that, they plead, I could use a little help…”
If someone tells us they manage their own career, that tells us one of several things, A, they have no career to manage, B, they cannot get along with people, C, their ego is bigger than their talent, or D, all of the above. Does the President of the United States tell his party, “You know man, I don’t need you all, I am just going to run my own campaign all by myself this year.” Of course not. Even the president of the United States knows that in order to be the president, he needs a team of team players to help him rise to the top and stay there. If the president of the United States isn’t too important to have a management team, then what makes models or talent think they are? If you want to stay at the level of low importance, then keep that ego blown up and keep telling yourself and others the silly line that you are managing yourself. But if you want a truly successful career, then get a real manager, agent, and rest of your star player team.
If you are a band or singer and do get the agent or manager at the club or studio, get them a drink. I recently had a band rep ask me if I wanted a drink, after I drove across town and paid for parking to go see them, which I agreed to, and then, when the check came, she had bailed, and the band asked me for money. Uh, dude? That is rude. Which brings us to a hard fast rule in this town that you must know and follow, and if you don’t you’re a schmuck.
IF YOU INVITE- YOU PAY
If you ask someone to meet you at a club or restaurant, you had better be prepared to offer to buy them lunch or dinner, or if at a bar, a drink. And if you are not prepared to do that, then you need to be very certain to tell them at the time of your invitation. Just straight out tell them, I would like to buy you a dinner, or I would like to invite you to a drink, not dinner, or I would like to invite you to meet with me, but I am NOT buying. The same goes for models and actors inviting out casting directors, directors, producers, agents, or managers, which is a good idea by the way. And don’t assume that just because you think they have more money than god that they should and will pay. They won’t. Again, you invite, you pay.
BE ON TIME: I’ve said it a million times and I am saying it again. You must be on time in this business. For an actor, one foot of film can cost thousands of dollars, add to that the cost of catering, union, crew, and more, and your one minute late on set can cost production over ten thousand dollars. If you are late to an audition, people will consider that you will be late to work, and you generally will not get the chance to prove them wrong, you will simply get no chance. The rules for bands with regard to being on time are not much different for actors. You must be on time.
BE POLITE TO EVERYONE
If we see you treat the waiter or waitress or secretary rude, then we figure we are seeing your true colors, and your big grin for us is just an act. Treat others how you would like to be treated.
DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE CONTRACT
One band recently expressed concern to me about the exclusivity of a contract. Look, if someone is going to help make you a star, by getting you signed virtually overnight to a major record label that may grant you worldwide distribution of your material and tour support, do you think they are going to ask you to sign a napkin, or will they want a tight contract ensuring that they will get paid and rewarded justly for the hard work they do for your behalf? If we work, we get paid, and yes, it may be for years in case that first album is a flop- deal with it, or make yourself a star instead.
Do go over anything you sign with some one more business savvy than you, ideally an attorney if you don’t comprehend it all, before you sign. But also remember, that contract you get offered will most likely be non negotiable, and there may not be another deal as good for some time- if ever. If you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t sign any way. My firm these days lets clients start with a non exclusive agreement as we get to know each other and build trust, and then usually they end up asking me for an exclusive contract.
DON’T DEMEAN AN AGENT, MANAGER, OR PRODUCER’S WORK
I had someone I was negotiating with as a producer once complain to me that I was asking too much to get paid for just making a phone call in order to get paid a lot of money. I no longer deal with people that are this insulting if I can help it, however what I used to say to them was this, and that is what you as a band or talent must realize; it is not just one phone call. It is countless hours of hard work, at our desks working for you for free, for no money down, with the hopeful trust that you will be reliable, deliver, and not try to rip us off or bail after we do great for you. Additionally, it is not just those countless hours and many, many phone calls, follow ups, letters, e-mails, and sometimes in person meetings on your behalf. It is our years and years of toil, labor, education, trial, error, and hustling year after year, to amass the knowledge, contacts, reputation, databases, and experience we possess. That is why the A-list agents, managers, and producers get paid. Acknowledge the value of those working or considering to be working for your behalf. If you do not acknowledge our value with your words, actions, and a contract, then you can be sure that we will not value you much either.
DRUGS: Drug and alcohol use was something that used to be a more standard part of the music business. Today, when we hear rockers like Ozzy tell kids how drugs and alcohol fried his brain and tells kids not do what he did, somehow, it makes sense. Stars like the talented “fill in the blank” don’t look cool for their partying; they just look weak and stupid. And they are a financial liability not only to themselves, but to their record label, agent, and manager. When Atlantic Records asked me years back if I knew of some good bands they could consider signing, they asked if some of the ones they liked had drug or alcohol problems, and they asked me if I knew what drugs they did. That was in the 90’s. Today, drug and alcohol abuse is even less wanted and less tolerated than it was twenty years ago, and it wasn’t much then either. Demand that your band members clean up and if need be, get in a program to do that. Call my office if you want a referral to a good place to help with that.
SEX: Another thing a label once asked me was if a band had any diseases or health problems. I have been on cross country tours with rock groups before and there were groupies waiting for them in every city. If you want to live long, you need to be safe sexually, and you must also think of other people out there. Get tested, and stay safe. If you play the field, use condoms.
BE CLEAN: The music industry is one of the dirtiest areas of entertainment because the performer may be up on stage running, jumping, doing the splits, dancing, stage diving, and carrying on, then traveling for hours on end in a crowded car, van, or bus. I have interviewed tons of bands, and the most respectful ones either talk with the press before the show, or clean up and shower before they go out in public. Be clean when you do a meeting or meet the public or press when possible. Obviously, if you are running from stage to your dressing room and dozens of kids are chasing you trying to rip off your t- shirt, that is hard to avoid, but do your best to make a good, clean presentation.
SMOKING: Stop. You will not only live longer and smell better, but you will have more energy if you stop smoking. Smoking looks about as cool as pounding a nail in your head; although I have to admit, Hellraiser is a great film. And if you gig in a place like Los Angeles, you can’t smoke in most venues here anyway.
Don’t miss the next issue as I give you tons more advice that you should know in order to do great in this industry. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me on the front page of this site.