Everything You Need to Know About Band Management Part 8: Coaching
Why should all musicians have a coach?
A coach is a hybrid mentor, educator, muse, boss, therapist, motivational speaker and probably some other things too. At the end of the day, a coach is whatever they need to be to make you successful.
Historians of success have pointed out that great success comes from great coaching. The entire multimillion-dollar motivational business/personal advice industry exists because coaching works for those who know how to use it. Nearly every successful person can point to other successful people as being instrumental in their success.
The strategy we recommend to you is this:
- You are the manager until you find one, so be a manager.
- You are the student until you are the coach, so find a coach.
- You get to play lots of music for lots of people for lots of your life if you generate enough value to have a business team handle your business, so generate value and attract team members.
It’s that simple. We think coaching is the bridge between the self-managed “musicpreneur” and the established musician with a business team.
If you’re a singer, you’ve probably worked with a vocal coach at some point (if not, you don’t know what you’re missing!) If you play an instrument, you’ve probably worked with music instructors. These are very specific types of education that are incredibly important.
When we talk about coaching here, we’re talking about a holistic approach to living a successful and sustainable life full of music making. Coaches are thinking about your business, but they’re also taking into account your compositions, performances and recordings. There is no rule that says a coach must do all the things we list below — most will have strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. Many musicians will find multiple coaches. Here’s what to look for in a coach:
- Mentor – A mentor is someone who has succeeded at what you’re trying to succeed at. Above all, a coach is a mentor. They will be your guide, your feedback, your muse, your challenger… there is no easy way to distill the complex roles mentors play. The bottom line is that you need someone in your life that has succeeded at what you want to do, if only to use their success to set a bar that you will one day exceed.
- Educator – Music is academic. From theory to history to psychology to business, the opportunities for musical study are great, and the rewards are huge. A great coach may not be an interdisciplinary scholar, but they will have dedicated expertise in the field you wish to pursue, acting as your ultimate tutor.
- Muse – Another way to put it is that a great coach will influence and inspire you. This should be someone that stimulates you creatively, that pushes you to your creative limits and beyond.
- Boss – When you’re managing your own music career, you’re your own boss. And most of us make terrible bosses of ourselves. It’s easy to talk ourselves out of responsibilities we feel beholden to by only ourselves. A coach will keep you on task and get bossy if it helps you achieve your goals. Setting up a negative consequence for not following through on your goals can be a powerful motivator. Frankly, paying someone to help you succeed is often enough of one. You will strive to get a return on the investment for fear of wasting your money. This same effect is often experienced by small business owners hiring their first employee.
- Therapist – The emotional complexities, substance abuse problems and ego issues in the music business fill countless memoirs. Sometimes the key to success is not blowing it through fragile human nature. Having a coach that can help you work through your mental and physical issues can be a career- and life-saver. (By the way, seek professional help, not a music coach, for a real problem.)
- Motivational Speaker – Most of us think sports when we think “coach”. The coach in the locker room, revving up the team to go out on the field and give it their all. A music coach may not be pacing backstage with you, but they should be there to keep pushing you forward in a positive way. Dealing with the many flavors of rejection is something all entrepreneurial musicians learn to handle. To whatever extent you’re capable, don’t focus on feeling the negative emotions of rejection. Focus on the positive feelings of loving what you do, and focus on what — if anything — there is to learn from the rejection. A coach can help you develop this kind of winning attitude.
We’ve already discussed the myriad team members a musician needs to sustain their musical life, but the coach stands apart as a conduit between where you are now, and the team that will foster your success as a musician.
We’re not saying you have to go out and hire a coach this second. The key here is realizing that a great manager is also a great coach. You need to be a great coach for yourself, while at the same time considering the value of finding one or more coaches, whether you end up paying for them or not.
To close out this series, we’re going to go over a wide range of coaching resources for musicians. If you’ve read this series and are looking for something to jump up and do when this book is closed, let us suggest you follow the coaching resource below that best fits your needs… even if that is a 100% DIY coach approach.
Of course, Songhack is written and designed to be a coaching resource, so if you’re reading this now, you’re already taking our advice!
Our Favorite Coaching Resources
These are just places to start. There are dozens if not hundreds of music coaches out there who are ready to give you one-on-one coaching. Some of them are legendary. Some of them are scams. We here at Songhack are working feverishly behind the scenes to add a ‘Coaches’ category to our ‘Tools’ section (although that means we may have to change ‘Tools’ to ‘Resources’… don’t want to call coaches tools.)
We’re not currently equipped to offer recommendations on individual coaches (well, if you’re near London, we recommend checking out Tommy Darker and his Darker Music Talks). We’ll start by highlighting some broader coaching resources. They are helmed by the best music coaches and educators in the industry, and we get really excited when we turn people on to these treasure troves of music career advice:
Artists House Music is a nonprofit dedicated to helping musicians understand how musicians make money and succeed in the music business. Long before today’s “musician as entrepreneur” revolution, founder and industry veteran John Snyder pioneered the concept of band as business. The Arists House site is basically the YouTube of musician career advice videos. Full and proud disclosure: We here at Songhack joined John last year to produce the free Band as Business course on Udemy, taken by over 1300 musicians at the time of this writing. This 6-hour video course features big industry names like Jimmy Iovine, Irv Gotti, Randy Newman and dozens of other musicians and businesspeople. Artists House may not offer personal coaching, but the education available to self-starters in the music business is unrivaled.
Renman Music and Business is a one-man show of epic proportions. Steve “Renman” Rennie is best know for managing worldwide rock sensation Incubus. After Incubus finished out their major label recording contract, Renman saw the writing on the wall in the changing music business. He nit only took Incubus independent, he decided to dedicate the rest of his time to educating musicians on how to do the same.
Renman leads the pack in music coaching today. His one-man show of epic proportions is approached with a combination of “fuck the gatekeepers” (his words, not ours, though we agree) and “you don’t ask, you don’t get.” That should give you good idea of Renman’s mission: Good riddance to the old music industry, now musicians are in control… so take control of your music now and make your own value. Or, as Incubus might say, “make yourself.”
Renman regularly has top names in the music biz on his talk show, which features questions from the audience. Renman has also started a sort of online university where musicians can get personal coaching from the industry veteran. These talks are also availabe for free on YouTube, and we highly recommend them as a starting point on your quest for music business success.
Moses Avalon – Moses is the man. He’s been telling it like it is for decades now, breaking ground with his legendary Confessions of a Record Producer exposé on the music industry targeted to musicians. Since then, he’s been laying bare the dark underbelly of the music business so musicians can avoid its pitfalls and perils. His official website is a regular source of inspiration, his several books are all highly recommended, and he even offers more personalized coaching these days. In Mo we trust.
creativeLIVE – There’s no two ways about it, creativeLIVE rules. OK, the way they capitalize their name is ridiculous, but everything else about them has us really excited. They secure top industry talent for multi-day sessions that are well-organized, interactive, and recorded with a really high production value. Better yet, if you catch the sessions when they’re live, it’s free to watch. Licenses to watch previously recorded sessions are pricey, but still worth it, especially if your artistic hero is teaching one. We recently watched modern-day rock studio legends Kurt Ballou and Jesse Cannon do separate sessions that were mindblowing. Start tuning in to creativeLIVE.
Google Helpouts – Google’s new Hangout-enabled online coaching platform is catching fire, as a quick search for music will prove. Oh look, there I am! Helpouts are perhaps the easiest way to connect one-on-one with a mentor right away, with no geographical constraints. You just schedule a time slot with a coach, and they’ll do a Hangout with you for the rate shown. Good advice will easily pay for itself, and lots of talented and experienced coaches are available day and night to hang with you and help you reach your goals.
Dave Kusek’s New Artist Model – Nobody has hit the modern music business nail quite as squarely on the head as Dave Kusek. His early-2000s book The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Revolution was prophetic to say the least. Now he’s put the last decade of his experience into a new venture to educate musicians on how to navigate the waters of a new wave of musician entrepreneurship. The only thing preventing us from recommending this is its price — hundreds of dollars — though we don’t doubt to many musicians it may be worth it. There’s a good chunk of free content for folks who just want to sign up and kick the tires. Kusek’s platform is the one to watch.
Of course, we are just skimming the surface with these online coaching platforms. Lots more exist, of varying degrees of quality and price. Like we said, we’ll be expanding our list over time, so check back soon.
We’re wrapping things up with Coaching because a coach can help you achieve the other seven things we talked about.
A coach can help you form an Understanding about how the music business works and can work for you.
I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you did, you might be happy to know that by popular demand this series will be expanded into a full eBook that will be available this spring. All you have to do to get it for free is sign up for the Songhack email list (box at the top of the page). I’m giving away 1,000 copies to the first 1,000 true fans of Songhack to request it!
Thanks again for reading, and good luck. Remember: music is free, songs are for sharing, and a musical life requires musical revenue, so understand the music business and generate the kind of value and connections you need to make it work for you.