By Alex Teitz
Katey Laurel is a Denver based singer-songwriter. She has three full length albums out including her latest, Periscope. She has had national radio airplay and licensed music for film and TV. She is involved in the Durango Songwriters Expo as well as attending other music festivals and conferences.
Laurel describes her own knowledge in the business coming from the DIY approach. She is self taught. This trial by fire approach is common in the music business and Laurel has achieved a great deal by overcoming the learning curve quickly.
Locally Laurel is the “go to” artist. When artists have specific questions her name comes up as the person to talk to. Laurel has turned this into Mind You Own Music Business, a music consultant business. Laurel has worked with a wide range of artists in Colorado including Megan Burtt, Andy Palmer, Andy Ard and many others. For info visit www.kateylaurel.com
FEMMUSIC: I like your description on why you started Mind Your Own Music Business (MYOMB). I was wondering if you could elaborate. Why does an artist need music business consulting?
KL: Most artists get easily overwhelmed with the amount of details it takes to create, project manage, event plan and market. All of these are skills that are essential to make it in music, however. There’s a reason most established acts have business managers, personal managers, tour managers and marketing teams – it’s a lot of work! I try to help outline and simplify a number of these skills and break them down into “bite-sized” homework assignments, then follow up to make sure they are completed. If my artists that I consult do not feel like they’ve seen the light in regards to many of these tasks, and make more money from opportunities that they would have missed otherwise, then I will have failed at what I set out to do. It is my goal to help people become more successful. That is what is most rewarding about coaching.
FEMMUSIC: When do you think an artist needs a manager or team vs consulting?
KL: I believe that an artist needs management when they have enough income coming in to make it worth a manager’s time investment. This may sound harsh, but most managers worth their salt (or booking agents) are not going to be interested until there is business to manage – i.e. MONEY. Usually in the six figure a year range. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of hard work on the way to that figure, but artists need to realize that they are going to have to do it themselves or with the aid of an assistant up until that threshold. Of course, there are interns and others looking to get their feet wet in management, and that can be a great working partnership, but the A-listers that make your career really move are not going to be available to undeveloped acts.
FEMMUSIC: With the artists that you’ve worked with, how many had a business plan to begin with?
KL: Most artists do not have a business plan to speak of, usually more of a business model, or how they are running their business. One artist I’m working with has it quite together, and she has all her legal agreements and business plans in place. It’s hard to write a business plan based on a non-traditional creative content model that may or may not find it’s market or audience. Believe it or not, I don’t even have an official one! But I do have a lot of guidelines that I follow and opportunities I’ve discovered, and I try to pass those on to my students when appropriate. I can share what I know.
FEMMUSIC: What is the biggest source of income artists don’t think of?
KL: I think most artists don’t know the ins and outs of what they need to do in order to prepare their tracks, find contacts and pitch their songs for licensing. I like to teach them the basics so they can feel confident moving forward in this arena.
FEMMUSIC: Is there a common weakness the artists you’ve worked with share?
KL: Most artists simply don’t have some of the backend details in place in order to start monetizing their art. I try to make sure they have all of these systems correctly in place to protect themselves and also to collect the money once they start getting licensing or different revenue streams that I introduce them to. It’s a complicated set-up, this music business. A lot of pennies from a lot of places, and if you don’t have your nets cast correctly, you will miss them, resulting in less pennies. Which leads to less music. We don’t want that.
FEMMUSIC: What is the biggest lesson you had to learn in the music business? Why do you think it was so challenging?
KL: I find the biggest challenge is carving your own path. I think most artists get into music thinking that if they create the “right” music, they will be discovered and hand-held to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, this isn’t the truth except for a VERY small percentage of artists and musicians. Therefore, you have to be ready to DIY. And there’s a huge learning curve to be good at it.
FEMMUSIC: In my experience most people in the music business didn’t expect to be in it. You mention the learning curve in your intro for MYOMB. What is the most important piece of business advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the music business?
There are a lot of resources out there. Read books. Take courses. People that succeed in finance or medicine or any other field have to work hard to learn the knowledge, and like the music businesses, these businesses are constantly changing. It’s important to look at it as education, and you have to keep “renewing your certificates”. 🙂
FEMMUSIC: The music business is filled with frauds & cheats. We all have stories. What suggestions would you give for people looking for music business advice through you or anyone else?
KL: I think it’s very important to look for or ask for references. Chances are if someone is not a good person to work with, someone else already knows this. Look up BBB ratings. Find other clients on the list and seek them out to ask about their experience and what they gained from working with the individual. Sometimes it doesn’t come out until much later, unfortunately, so be prepared to be burned a time or two, but try to be smart and do the research up front to avoid wasting valuable time and resources when possible. Have a good circle of mentors you can trust and bounce ideas off of.
FEMMUSIC: How do you & your clients qualify & quantify if the consultation has been useful? How do you & they measure success?
KL: I see my sessions with an artist as successful if they learn something they didn’t already know, are able to apply it and see results, no matter how immeasurable. I think that if I can help artists see a bigger picture and learn how to break their tasks down into doable lists that they can tackle next time they have a release cycle, that has been valuable.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing do you want to change about the music business?
KL: I would make it more about the music and less about the commercial aspect. But then again, it is a “business.” Art and commerce have never truly been good roommates.