A Conversation with E.T. Brown | Manager of Creative Services at SESAC

We're talking Operations this month and Nathan sat down with E.T. Brown, a  Manager of Creative Services at SESAC to chat about the role of PROs in an artist's career, making connections with industry folk, understanding the different jobs on your team, and more. 

[SESAC] is much smaller by design, we are highly selective, we are the PRO that you graduate to.

Whenever a song you wrote is performed in public via a recording or live performance, you are owed performance royalties. This includes plays on the radio, TV, sports stadiums, in venues or over the speakers of businesses. This money is collected and paid out by a P.R.O. (Performance Rights Organization) or M.R.O. (Music Rights Organization) such as ASCAP, BMI, SOCAN, SESAC or AMRA. 

SESAC (founded in 1930 as the Society of European Stage Actors and Composers) is the second oldest PRO and the fastest growing in the United States. Their approach to growing their roster is “Quality over Quantity.” This is why their application process is invite only.

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Since their job is to collect royalties from virtually everybody who plays your music out in public the your PRO's representatives end up working with people from all over the industry; from music supervisors placing music in TV shows, to venue owners, to radio stations. Having these connections awards them the opportunity to help guide artists along their career path and introduce them to the people they need to be meeting. That's where E.T. comes in. As a Manager of Creative Services his job is to interact with the artists on SESAC's roster and help them with whatever they need. Sometimes that's the administrative stuff like fixing a mistake on a song registration, or helping them access their account information; other times it's listening to a demo and giving them some feedback, introducing them to potential co-writers, or sitting down with them and helping to strategize what their next steps should be towards reaching their career goals. 

When it comes to the day-to-day operations of an artist's career there are a thousand different jobs that have to get done.

From band meetings to studio time to finances to release schedules, how you run your career sends a clear message to anyone paying attention about how serious you are about making it in the music industry. Most developing artists think that if they could just find that manager, or that agent, or that publicist then that's going to be the thing that catapults them into the next level where they can focus 100% on the music while the team makes the business happen.

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Back in the day when record labels were plucking musicians off the streets and turning them into stars that may have been the case but not anymore. These days you have to prove to these people that you're going to succeed with or without them before they even consider joining your team. 


Executing a solid plan on your own is a good way to find your new team


In 2014 Americana/Blues artist Levi Parham self-released an EP called Avalon Drive. His overall campaign involved two singles each with their own music video along with an extensive tour following the release. 

He had met producer Jimmy LaFave earlier on in his career but after watching the rollout of Avalon Drive, and seeing the hard work Levi was putting into his live performance strategy, Jimmy wanted to turn right around get started on a full-length. In December of 2015 Levi was signed to Music Road Records and immediately got to work on his latest LP "These American Blues." 

The album quickly rose on the Americana Music Association Charts; climbing all the way into the Top 40 and staying for several weeks, topping out at #23 and opening up opportunities for even more touring. Levi spent most of 2017 playing around Europe before coming back to the states to get back to work on another record.

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Proud sponsor of The 615 show on Lightning 100


Always Be Creating

If you're looking to build a team that is excited about championing your art...you need to be making art. Every piece of content you release is an opportunity to show the world how you execute a release plan. Putting out a three song EP and trying to gain momentum with it over the next 2 years while you wait for the muse to strike on the your masterpiece full-length debut record isn't going to cut it.   


Conceptualize, Create, Execute

The release of your record isn't a beginning, it's an ending. Once you've released it, it's out there and you have significantly less power over when and how people are introduced to it. Once you've built up your catalog of songs to a place that lets you choose the narrative of your next release, get to work on a release strategy. Work with your team to build a cohesive and executable plan that builds excitement for the release. If you don't have a team then you have a lot of work to do, but it can be done. Keep your plans small enough to be successful but ambitious enough to make a splash. Once the plan is in place it's time to make the art. If you get the strategy in place before you start the recording process, you'll be able to focus on what you're really here for in the first place; making music. 


As a rule we don't schedule release dates for a record until we have the master recordings in hand. This way, when it comes time to begin our release schedule we get to sit back and let it happen. At that point everything is ready to go and it's just a matter of executing the plan.


Now that you've made your plan and executed it flawlessly, check in with E.T. (or your own rep) to make sure all your songs are registered.

Don't forget! after you get back from your tour you can register those performances with your P.R.O. and collect some royalties!

If you're an artist who needs help strategizing your next release

or you're ready to hire a team to handle your day-to-day operations 

catch the full interview with E.T. here:

A Conversation with Jack Davis | Founder of Good Neighbor Festivals

Nathan sits down with the Founder of Good Neighbor Festivals Jack Davis and talks about the importance of confidence and honesty when it comes to crafting a live performance. They touch on the importance of promotion, some things festivals are looking for from their performers, how to submit your music, and more.

According to Jack, if you're trying to get your band booked at a festival the number one thing they're looking for is confidence.

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That comes with knowing who you are as an artist. Typically you’re not very confident when you’re trying to fit a mold that is not you.

It isn't easy to stand out as an artist in an industry with as much volume as the music industry. With companies like Good Neighbor being bombarded by hundreds, sometimes thousands of submissions it's crucial that you're doing everything you can to exude the confidence they're looking for. 



So how do you do that?

How do you show festival promoters, booking agents, and talent buyers that by booking you they're booking  a professional who can captivate an audience ? 


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Promote your shows

If you want people to believe that you're a big deal act like every show you play is a big deal. If you're promoting every show that you're apart of, even the ones that you don't think are going to be very successful, that shows that you don't care if you're playing to 20 people or 20,000 people; you are there to do what you do best and you're going to crush it. If you want to get booked at a festival, people like Jack will be looking back at how you promote the shows you're in . Do you post about them on your social media before the day of the show? Do you champion the other acts on the bill? Do you run any ads? Are you engaging with your fan base and encouraging them to come out? Are you making sure to thank the venues/promoters/sponsors? These are all things that are being looked at and if you ignore them you're going to get passed by.

Remember, you never know who's watching

Nashville based emo/alternative band Secret Stuff learned that lesson in February 2017. After a few years being immersed in the local community Michael Pfohl found himself as a key figure in it's growth with the founding of his punk-geared booking company Fountainhead Booking.

Secret Stuff's involvement in their community and killer promotional efforts landed them a mention in an article from Noisey about the Nashville Scene.

It wasn't long after that article was published that emo/alt rock outfit Dashboard Confessional announced the lineup for their series of performances at The Basement East they were calling "Homecoming Week." Inspired by the Noisey article they had read, the entire bill for these sold out shows would consist of local emerging acts like Secret Stuff. 

We try not to book the same acts over and over. We’ll wait at least 3 or 4 years before booking an act on the same festival agin.
— Jack Davis

Another pitfall acts fall into when trying to capture that elusive festival spot is the same one they find when trying to book any gigs; they're setting the bar too high. If you've never brought more then 10 people out to one of your shows, should you be trying to play at a 500 cap venue? It isn't any different on the festival circuit. If you've never played a festival before don't waste your time and energy trying to play Bonnaroo, or Newport Folk Festival. It isn't fun to submit to a ton of festivals and not get selected for any of them but on the flip side, what if you get lucky and end up booked at a bigger festival before you're ready? You may not be in the right position to capitalize on that opportunity yet, and now you're less likely to play that festival again for a few years.

Instead, focus on your hometown markets. There's a local music and arts festival in every community across the country, our friends at Good Neighbor Festivals are responsible for 10 in the greater Nashville area alone! The rules are all the same; get your online presence in order, radiate confidence in everything you do, have video proof of said confidence readily available, play shows in as many markets as possible and promote every show you play

catch the full interview with jack here:

A Conversation with Nathan Dohse, COO/Founder of Zero To 60 by AGD

Throughout my career as a performing artist I often found myself struggling to answer one fundamental question. As musicians, how do we find the balance between art and industry?
Nathan with his band Fight The Quiet

Nathan with his band Fight The Quiet

I was always over concerned with how the business of our band was operating, and didn’t care enough for my craft. Eventually I became a quality writer and performer but it took a very long time, during which I became frustrated and confused as to why my efforts weren’t paying off better. I knew I was handling the business properly, but the art still needed work. On the flip side I was watching the most talented musicians I knew also failing to make any progress despite creating amazing art. Their problem was they lacked business strategy. 

These experiences led me to believe that when an artist does not have a balance between their art and business strategies they will feel dissatisfied with their progress no matter what. This could even result in throwing out an entire project, along with any opportunities they might have created for themselves along the way. They do this in order to either make more money or feel more fulfilled artistically.

If you’re an artist at any level you should be focusing on one goal; to capture and engage your immediate community. Just focus on the potential fans that are right in front of you. This is the same goal that your musical heroes have, their community is simply larger.

But capturing your immediate community is hard. This is why as artists we’re always looking for someone to plug us into an already existing community. Artists tend to get stuck in the fantasy that there is a person out there with the power to present their art to the whole world with a snap of their fingers. Let's pretend, for the sake of argument, you do find this magical person. They believe your work to be pure gold, and when they show it to the world, every last person wants a piece of it. Your magic friend handles all of your business decisions and leaves you to live your life and just be an artist. All your friends are thinking "wow, you're SO lucky, why couldn’t I find that guy?" Now what? Now that you've created this work of pure gold, the project is completed. When it's time to move on to the next project your magic friend needs you to come back with Pure Gold 2.0 because that's what he's been selling to his community.You're left having to  submit to his wishes or start everything over from scratch. Whichever you choose, the balance is lost. This magic person could be a manager, label, publisher, it doesn’t matter, if you’re not backed up by your own community, you're entering dangerous territory.


I’m not saying that you need to be skeptical of every person that takes a business interest in your art. It’s great if people want to get involved. Of course there are still sharks and scams, but I thoroughly believe that anyone that’s still working in music is probably here for a genuine love of the art form. You should actively be trying to grow your community to include these music industry professionals. Where most artist have the singular goal of being brought into someone else's community, I encourage you to bring these people into your own community. Show them how YOU do things.


I believe there are five pillars that make up every artist’s business foundation

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Performances enable you to showcase art in a face to face setting with your community. It’s high energy and and exciting. When this is coupled with a strong brand your people get inspired and intrigued by the art, this enables you to become an influencer within your community. In a world as interconnected as ours there are many ways to inform your friends, family and fans about your release, and dialing in what marketing efforts work best is key. It’s also important that other influencers are validating your art to their communities, this is where publicity comes in. Having a blog, newspaper, or magazine writing up your art really helps your community take what you do seriously. Lastly you need to know how to monetize everything and keep your operation running smoothly.


If you can establish repeatable processes within each of these pillars, when it comes time for a release you'll be able to thoroughly engage your community and eventually transition friends and family into fans. True fans will rapidly increase your community outward. Now that you’re running things like a business, the more successful it is, the more people want to get involved. Without sacrificing balance, an artist can learn to create an invitation for industry professionals to participate in their vision and eventually move to a next level of success within this thing we call the music industry.