How to practice?
Short notes by Roberto Prosseda
12. Being one's own agent
For many upcoming musicians, “having an agent” may seem the start of an ideal phase of their career, in which they can dedicate themselves exclusively to artistic research, delegating to a professional in the sector everything that regards engagements, concert planning and all the more material aspects of their activity. In real life, however, things work a little differently. In fact, even the best agencies cannot be a substitute for the inventiveness and drive that only the artist himself is able to offer his own activity. After all, it is sacrosanct that every musician should be able to decide freely about how to orient his own career, without being tied to external restrictions that may lead it to be misdirected. Moreover, it goes without saying that agencies often tend to work for musicians who are already well known and “launched”, for whom it is easier to find engagements, and more especially with greater profit margins. This is absolutely logical and also correct: it would be quite out of place to look for professional agents similar to “guardian angels”, who with total disregard and disinterest for the business side of the matter, dedicate themselves to promoting young, still unknown artists.
So what are the alternatives to a traditional agency, for musicians who intend to embark on a professional career as a concert artist? Without doubt, one of the priorities is to be perfectly aware of one's own artistic identity and aims. Who are we? Why have we chosen to be musicians? What is our target audience as musicians? Why should an artistic director choose us rather than others? A healthy and serious “self-diagnosis” of our own means, our strong points and limits is therefore a good starting point on which to base our choices. No musician is really complete: looking at the careers of the great pianists or violinists, for example, we can see how they are often able to mold their repertoire and, as a consequence, their image, by exploiting their merits, and avoiding pieces that would show up their weaker points.
Another very important aspect concerns the way we communicate the message we wish to express through our performances. Today the communication starts long before the first note of a concert: all the “public” aspects of our activity combine, in fact, to express an aspect of our personality. Being present on the internet, not only through an official site, but also on Youtube, Spotify and on the pages of Facebook and other Social Media, can have a much greater influence on the public than one might think, and this is surely set to increase over the coming years. The relations with the public (including the people who follow us without our knowing, as often happens thanks to social media) are undoubtedly important to disseminate messages, even not strictly musical ones, that are linked to our activity. All the material that an artist produces, from the curriculum to photographs, helps to build an image, and often, if not looked after with due care, this risks not coinciding with what the artist actually intends to express. The role of an agent is therefore increasingly linked to that of PR or a press office.
All these aspects are part of what we might define “self-management”, and a traditional agent can rarely attend to them all. And yet, the career and concert activity of a musician also depends on such things. After all, more and more frequently artistic directors and organizers of musical events engage musicians they have learnt of thanks to the internet, maybe after listening by chance to one of their performances on Youtube, and the appeal of a discovery made autonomously is much more gratifying for them than one of the countless concert proposals that invade their mailboxes every day, and that perhaps they will never have time to read carefully.