Music and Producer Development

How to Set the Tune for Sales Success in an Agency

Great music combines so many elements. When terrific lyrics are combined with an awesome arrangement, the result is powerful. And sometimes if you separate the two, the power is lost.

Developing successful producers is similar to music because two parts are required. The first part is a person that can produce. No matter how hard an agency tries, no matter how great the producer school(s) or sales training is, and no matter what tools the agency provides, if a producer can’t knock on doors and close sales, he or she is rarely going to be a successful producer. It’s like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Equally important is an arrangement that makes the most of a person’s talent. Alternative arrangements of many famous rock songs are horrible or boring at best. For example, take the live version of Bob Segar’s “On the Road Again” or Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do” and compare those songs to their studio versions. Thank goodness both made live versions or else both musicians would be much poorer today. Or think about some of the humorous or overly clever musicians that have tried to take a rock song and make it a country song or vice verse. Sometimes it works (think Rolling Stones), but most often, the alternative arrangement is a failure.

Similarly, the vast majority of producers need the right arrangement to succeed. That arrangement needs to be set to a tune by which they naturally harmonize. This does not mean everyone gets to play their own tune. In fact, that is a key problem in most agencies. Everyone can’t march to their own drummer. The tune has to be the same for everyone to achieve success. The arrangement can be slightly adjusted for each producer though.

This means creating the right environment. My observations are that this environment must include the following key points:

A positive environment where quality sales are emphasized. In this environment, producers that are not really producing, but more or less babysitting books, are recognized as valuable players but they are not recognized as producers. Too often agencies use the same title for people that truly produce and people that truly service books. These are not the same jobs and don’t warrant the same titles. This is often a source of conflict, sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle, which exists between producers and even CSRs. Help create a positive environment with better titles that fit each person’s strengths.

For brand-new producers, a strong training culture is required. Of course every once in a while a musician is born that needs no formal musical training to be great, like Keith Moon. But if the person is that great, most bands can’t handle them for long and the same is true for agencies. Some of the best producers are the most disruptive, to the point that all the business they bring to the table is not worth the trouble they bring with them. It is sometimes a better policy to develop several above average producers through good, strict training combined with some natural talent rather than hoping to find a great master that needs no training.

An energetic environment is important. Selling requires much more energy than non-salesmen can ever understand. This is a key reason why agencies with many servicing producers almost always have difficulty developing quality producers. The energy required for sales just does not exist in a servicing environment.

A solid structure creates focus and relieves stress. One of the reasons many agency owners claim they do not have proper operating procedures or do not make their producers follow such procedures is because that would kill the energy. This is like letting each band member play whatever tune he or she wants without regard for what the rest of the band is playing. Music is the only language that uniformly crosses all cultures. This standard has enabled so many great compositions in all ages and cultures. Without solid structure, one loses the joy of music.

A solid structure improves a good producer’s potential because it creates focus and it creates business written within the arrangements provided by the agency. Some producers need different arrangements and they are better off working elsewhere. The solution is not to abandon procedures. The producer will not be any more successful under that scenario either and the agency will just have more problems on their hands as a result.

When everyone in the agency is playing the same tune, so much more is achieved because everyone is pulling in the same direction. Without procedures, it is impossible for everyone to pull in the same direction. Again, this does not mean there is no room for a person to put their own touch on the process. Indeed, procedures so strict that a producer’s personal touch is not permitted are procedures doomed to fail. There has to be room for that personal touch, but only within the agency’s arrangements. The producers have to be playing the same tune with a few extra notes tossed in. Duane Allman playing slide guitar on Boz Scagg’s “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” is a great example. Maybe jazz is an even better example.

Agencies today are desperate for new business to offset this soft market and to generate that business they are desperate for quality producers. But that is putting the cart before the horse. Before hiring any more producers, make sure you have the score written so the person you hire knows what tune to play.