Don’t be a Needy Artist

Fair warning – this is a rant.

Over the past few years, since I started doing the Ask Coach Debra Calls and being more active on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve had many encounters that go something like this:

Needy Artist – How do I get an Agent/Manager/ Gallery Rep (for visual artists), etc.?

Me – Why do you want one?

Needy Artist – Well, I need someone to help me with my career!

Me – Can you make a living from 10-20% of what you are currently earning?

Needy Artist – What? NO! Why?

Me – Well, why would an Agent/Manager/Rep take you on?  If they can’t make a living representing you?

Needy Artist – But I expect them to build my career for me, so they can then make a living!

In other words – this person wants someone else to save them.  They want the easy way out, the short-cut.  They want someone else to build their career for them.  This makes me crazy!!!!

Why would anyone do that?  Why would anyone take on an artist who is too lazy, too self-involved, to entitled to take responsibility for their own career?  Short answer?  They wouldn’t.  But these folks want me to go to my contacts and hook them up.  Why would I do that?

Does this sound familiar?  Have you wanted someone, some white knight on a great steed, to come into your life and take over the hard, hard work of building your career, so you don’t have to?  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

But be careful what you wish for – I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of artists losing their life’s savings because they abdicated responsibility for the career, their money, their success to someone else.  Someone who promised to do all the hard, boring, confronting, uncomfortable work of managing their career.  And they did that, only to abscond with the money they created for the artist, when that artist had relaxed into the relationship and stopped paying attention.

Of course that doesn’t happen to everyone and it’s not to say that every manager or rep is unsavory or dishonest.  But when faced with both temptation and a lack of oversight even the most honorable may give in.

So if this blog post hits home and you see yourself in that “Needy Artist”, what should you do?  You need to learn how to create your own career and take 100% responsibility for your results.  Because even when you get to the point that it is time to work with an agent or manager, you need to know enough about what they do, so you can hold them accountable and give them guidance about what kind of career you want.

One of my favorite blog posts recently is this one from Dean Ogden on ScoreCastOnline – where he talks about how to know if you are ready for success in the music industry.  I’d use it as an assessment tool.  Some of the items are business and craft skills and some are internal skills and emotional intelligence.

And come to me to learn those skills and implement them to create a successful business.  But don’t expect me to do it for you.  That’s not my job.  It’s not the Agent or Manager’s job either.