The first piece of advice music lawyer Dina LaPolt and business manager Lou Taylor want to give to up-and-comers in the music industry is to never surprise your artist.
“When you’re doing a tour, no artist should be surprised that their tour isn’t profitable,” LaPolt of LaPolt Law said during the Your Tour Wasn’t Profitable: Why the *Bleep* Should You Get a Commission? panel at this week’s Billboard Touring Conference.
“Every artist, if they are surprised when they get to the end of the tour they will think, why the fuck should anybody else get paid if I’m not getting paid?” said Taylor, CEO of Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group. “I would never in my entire career want to have to sit in front of artist and tell them they didn’t make money when they were expecting to. It all goes back to planning.”
The two music executives broke down for the audience how a successful tour is a collaborative process between an artist’s manager, agent, lawyer, and business manager. All four parties should be coordinating 24/7.
“When we get to the end, we should be really close to what we told an artist they were going to make,” Taylor said.
Taylor described a client she recently received in the middle of his tour. She said she had to sit him and inform him that he was looking at a $380,000 loss on his tour.
“What that says to me is that there was no real budget prepared. That comes back to being a business manager and knowing your numbers,” Taylor said. “You should never drop your guard enough to where you’re somebody’s buddy to where you’re not making money for your client.”
“Every show is an all-in fund. If you’re doing a tour, you have a corporate fund, you get paid per show and everything comes out of that corporate money: travel, food, lodging, production, crew, tour manager,” LaPolt said. “Everything comes out of that fund so it is essential that you build the tour budget and you can show the profit at the end.”
The women added that working with artists on a budget can be challenging, especially when they have a vision for their tour that’s costly.
“For people like us who are tactile professionals, we’re not creative, so if you’re dealing with an artist that is not willing to compromise creativity for expense that’s okay. But you at least need to present the numbers,” Taylor said. “We all understand what we are taking home at the end of the day.”
“When you have an artist that really latches on to a creative thing that they want to do for the tour and it is meaningful and it is going to cost money and lower the profit,” LaPolt said. “Look, I’m not a fucking bakery. I don’t sugarcoat everything. This is what it is.”
Both panelists underscored that it is vital to listen to what an artist wants and instead of simply saying no, provide the client with solutions.
“How you present the information is half the battle,” Taylor said. “There is a real gift, and it is an art, to be able to present factual and truthful information but with love and grace so that you can get to a resolution.”
“We deal with creative people. They think from a different side of their brain,” LaPolt said. “The way you present information to Marilyn Manson is not the way you present information to the CEO of Uber.”
LaPolt and Taylor also emphasized the power of saying “I don’t know” and taking advice from others in order to deliver what is best for a touring artist.
“Every successful person in the music business had a mentor. Someone doesn’t just wake up and poof, out of their ass they know everything,” LaPolt said. “If you don’t know what you are doing, latch onto people you want to learn from.”
To the women in the audience, LaPolt also mentioned that “there are people out there in the music business that do not work with strong women. Stay the fuck away from them. Align yourself with people that empower women and who are not afraid of strong women.”
Taylor added, “Not surprising your artist will keep you from getting fired. It will keep you in a place where you are attractive to other artists. It will keep you in a place that if you need help, other professionals will want to help you and see you succeed.”