Tips For Hiring Music Industry Consultants

TThere are easily tens of thousands of people with a lot of experience in different areas of the music industry, including myself (Vinny Ribas of Indie Connect), who are seeking work as consultants or coaches to independent artists. Many market themselves as ‘industry experts’. I don’t for a minute doubt that most of them are extremely sincere in wanting to help artists. I also believe wholeheartedly that the majority of them have valuable experience, insights, knowledge and skills to share. And I know first hand that a good coach/consultant is worth his or her weight in gold!

However, it is important to keep in mind that not all people with experience are really experts or make good consultants. There are many things to be aware of and to look for when considering hiring an industry coach or consultant, regardless of what area of the business their expertise is in (e.g. marketing, business, songwriting. producing etc.) Here are a few:

  • Current Expertise – Be sure they know what is happening in the music industry today. Many facets of the industry are changing rapidly, and it is imperative that both you and your coach keep up with the changes, the trends and the technologies.
  • Current Experience – Be sure that their experience is recent enough to qualify them as a relevant coach. There are many ‘consultants’ who haven’t been on the front lines in many years. That may be fine if you are looking to stay local and just play weekends. But the landscape on the touring, airplay and marketing sides of the business change daily.
  • Success As A Coach – Be sure that they can show a recent track record of successes as a coach or consultant, not just as what they did personally. Being on top 20 years ago doesn’t qualify someone as a person who can help you be successful today. Nor does being a successful artist, or producer, qualify anyone as a coach. Get references and check them.
  • Understands You – Be sure that they take time to get to know you personally so that they know what you really want and need. Don’t let your coach or anyone else dictate what they want your career to look like. Don’t let a ton of industry jargon convince you that they are the answer to your prayers. Get to know them, and let them get to know you as a person first.
  • Good Communicator – Be sure that they can communicate clearly and succinctly with you, your team, your fans, your family and anyone else with whom they might come in contact with. It will avoid misunderstandings, misjudgments, mistakes and missed opportunities.
  • Teaching Style – Be certain they are a good teacher and fit your style of learning. Having a coach with all kinds of industry experience and knowledge won’t help you if they can’t effectively transfer them to you. Everyone teaches differently and everyone learns differently. Maybe you need a very hands-on teacher. Maybe you just need to hear things once and then you’re off to the races. Maybe phone calls aren’t enough. It is important that your learning style matches their teaching style.
  • Personalized Approach – Beware of someone who presents a cookie-cutter approach to your career. You are unique, and your situation is not the same as everyone else’s. Also, in order to stand out, you need be doing some things differently than everyone else. You need to know that the plans you put in place are specific to your personal challenges and goals.
  • Image credit: gavaconda on Flickr

  • One-On-One – To really get your money’s worth, you may want to hire someone who will work one-on-one with you. Group coaching/workshops can be great for general training. But once again, the cookie-cutter approach won’t work in specific situations.
  • Hands On Experience – Be sure that they have practical experience doing the things that you need to get done. Having read things in a book or on a blog isn’t nearly enough to understand all of the ins and outs and little nuances of the industry. Having a music business degree without corresponding experience does not necessarily equip someone to coach. Find people who have ‘been there, done that’ recently.
  • Relevant Experience – Be sure that they have knowledge and experience in the exact discipline(s) that you are hiring them for. For example, having ‘worked at a record label’ for many years doesn’t qualify a person as a good marketing coach if his job was cleaning the office. Being a professional marketer for general businesses does not qualify someone to coach you on the intricacies of music marketing.
  • Connections – If someone is telling you that they have all of this industry experience, then along with that should come some great connections. Be sure to ask about any introductions they can and will make on your behalf. Again, get references to check out the validity of any claims they make.
  • Knows More Than You Do – Be sure that their skills and knowledge are far more refined and/or advanced than yours. You may be surprised at how much you really do know. You may only need someone to help you with planning and organization.
  • Works with independent artists – Be sure that they have experience working with independent artists who are at your level. The business model, your goals and the methods of attaining them are all different at each level. The world is completely different when you have the marketing and financial muscle of a record label behind you.
  • References – Be sure to ask for multiple references and check them. This includes current and former clients, colleagues and anyone else who can vouch for them.
  • Reputation – Be sure that your coach has a good reputation. The best way to do this is to start by asking people you know and trust for referrals to a good coach.
  • Creative – Be sure that the person you hire is creative enough to think outside the box. In today’s market, this is often the only way that you can stand out from the rest of the crowd.
  • Risk Manager – Be sure that your coach is great at managing risk. Be sure that they know your risk tolerance and are willing to work within it. Never let anyone push you into taking more risk than you are comfortable with. At the same time, keep in mind that the greater the risk, the greater the reward!
  • Realistic – Be sure that the person you hire has a realistic perception of the industry, the current music market, your strengths and weaknesses and of your market potential. Also be sure that they can develop attainable goals and a solid action plan for attaining them. Beware of pie-in-the-sky promises.
  • Compensation – Be sure to do your homework regarding how much compensation a coach in their sector of the industry and with a similar track record should receive. If possible, tie their compensation to their performance, just as a booking agent gets paid based on the quantity and quality of the gigs they get you. It is easy to get ‘taken’ by someone who sees your hunger and charges you as much as they can get from you.

As you can see, there are a lot of criteria to measure a good potential coach or consultant by. What it all boils down to is the fact that in today’s economy, you honestly have your choice of coaches to choose from. Choose wisely, and your return will be many times more than your investment!

© 2011 Vinny Ribas
Read the entire article at Indie Connect Magazine.