There are some people in this industry who seem to be everywhere and involved in everything. One such person is JoJo Walker, who not only co-commands Halcyon SF, but curates the events and lineups at Elsewhere NYC, and is the co-founder of E Komo Mai Festival in Hawaii, on top of running her own artist management company, Walker Management. She offers Artist Management services to some of the world's top-tier DJs, which has included house music god, Todd Terry and the voice of house, Roland Clark. Her current roster includes house music stars Ant LaRock, Crackazat and James Curd. JoJo has negotiated album deals, remixes and performance terms, as well as carefully crafted artists' career strategies (to name a fraction of her services). Here JoJo gives artists of all levels a few of her expert tips for success:
Have a strategy & stay true to it
The main thing any artist needs to understand about themselves is WHY they are an artist. What exactly are you trying to achieve and what are your goals? Many artists simply love music and DJing/Producing and of course this is paramount, however understanding what success looks like to you is one of the main keys to obtaining individual success. Always remind yourself of your goals along your journey and adapt your direction if your priorities change over time. Goals will vary from artist to artist. Perhaps you want a track at the top of the dance charts, to establish a certain type of credibility, obtain a release on a certain label or a gig at a certain venue. Perhaps money is a focus - that's ok if it is, just be honest with yourself and once you have established what you are aiming for, it’s much easier to continue the path towards it.
Quality over quantity
Many artists feel they must spend every waking hour exhausting themselves on their career journey. They panic at having a free weekend date without a gig, or are quick to say yes to a release even if they don't think the label is right for them. What they don’t stop to question is; “Is this truly the right decision to move me forward?” If the answer is “No”, perhaps you are settling and this is not the right decision for you as an artist. Consider reducing your output to ensure what you are putting out to the world is high-quality. Make sure every gig or release will move you in the right direction. The main thing to understand is that agents, promoters, fans - they notice and value the quality, which in return increases your value in many ways. Let the quality stuff have room to breathe and stand out.
Know your worth
A necessary skill in this industry is to know your worth and stick to it. Over the years, I have worked with artists that have turned down amazing gigs or record label opportunities because our minimum fee could not be met. This taught me to be patient and perhaps better opportunities are around the corner. With that being said, this industry does tend to run on personal relationships and “mates-rates” are not uncommon. Accepting “mates-rates” is sometimes acceptable because it may lead to other great opportunities, exposure, or simply maintain your status with something you have going well. Doing this too often, however, can devalue your worth. Weigh your opportunities and outcomes so you can know when to say yes, and when to say no.
Follow the “Rule of 4”
This is my own original strategy that I implement with every artist that I work with. This strategy will hold you personally accountable and persistent on your journey. Essentially, you put focused energy, equally across the 4 main sectors of your career; Releases, Gigs, Marketing, and Relationships.
- Music releases (if you are a DJ that does not produce music, discount this and go with the rule of 3!): Continually make music and stay creative with a focus on the labels you wish to release with. If you constantly improve your studio skills and the quality of your music, you will always have new and relevant content to help advance your career.
- Gigging: Playing out is so important on many levels. You're able to test out your/other artists' music, network with other artists/promoters and perfect your skill as a DJ all in one. Keeping on top of your craft as a DJ should never be underestimated, as a good performance is the reason why people will come back and see you play, time and time again.
- Marketing yourself: You have to tell the world who you are, so they can digest you, and like you! Knowing how to effectively market yourself and the methods of communication which are right for you and your brand is key. Again, this varies from artist to artist, the style of music you're creating, the performances you give and type of fanbase you have. From social media to branding, to mailing lists and everything in between. Understanding this and how to feed it effectively is key.
- Maintaining and growing your network: Even as we approach 2020, the music industry is still dominantly reliant on personal relationships pretty much over anything else. Keep in touch with your network on a genuine level. This means giving out as much as you ask of others and spending genuine time inputting to your network. You never know when someone you meet may come in handy, or they may be asked to reference you as an artist or personality to someone else. This is an area where you do truly get out, what you put in - our industry is extremely small and can be isolating at times too, so reach out to others, swap info, connect.
Do I really need a manager?
How are you with negotiating business deals, organization, understanding royalties and copyright? As an Artist Manager, I can 100% state that if you're hot on these things you truly may not need one and shouldn't justify up to20% of your income in that case. If you do need that support however, I like to say that a good artist & manager relationship is like a happy marriage, where you complement each other and work together towards the same goals. This is also the reason why I offer management consultancy services, for acts who don’t want or need management services full-time, where we work on a project by project basis. This is a modern take on the artist management role for those who sit in the grey area.
One final quick tip to apply to each of these - always make sure you have fun every second of the way!