Picking your partners

If you're going to do something big in this music business, you're going to need some help, that's for sure. Picking the right partners, your musical partners and your business partners will be one of the most important decisions you're going to make. Get it right, and you will increase your odds of success dramatically. Screw it up, and all your talent and efforts could be wasted. When you're picking your partners, there are some key things for you to consider. First, it's much easier to hire a partner than it is to get rid of them.

So take your time, and pick your partners for all the right reasons. The impact of picking the wrong partners can follow you around for years, long after that partner is gone. I'm thinking of crazy band members you hire for reasons you can't even remember, or can't even talk about in public, and now you have to pay them in perpetuity to go away. I'm thinking about bands that signed their management deal at a ridiculous commission rate, with somebody who had no experience in the music business, but was crafty enough to get half your publishing along the way.

Picking your partners is a little like getting married. Go on a few dates before you get married. It's easy enough to fall in love, much tougher to stay married, so you've got to be sure. If you're going to get married, make sure you've thought about that marriage contract. Know that the contract you're signing might last longer than the marriage, so if you're not 100% sure, think about a prenup that outlines what happens if it doesn't work out. So don't be in a rush.

Keep things loose, until you've had a chance to work together. The best way to avoid picking a bad partner is to focus on the what before you think about the who. Let me explain. At the big picture level, both your musical and your business partners need to share the same values. It's important that you share the same goals and targets. The right partners will share your commitment and your work ethic. You'll need to share a mutual respect for each other's skills, and each partner's unique roles in the process.

There's plenty to do in the music business, and it's important that everybody do their job as well as they can, rather than trying to do their partner's jobs. If you find yourself questioning how the drummer is playing, or how the manager is managing, you're going to have a problem somewhere down the road. It's important that your musical partners share that same musical vision. If you want to play jazz, and your partner wants to play heavy metal, that's not going to work. While it's important that your musical partners be able to make great music and play their instrument, it's also important that you actually get along.

If all goes well, you're going to be spending a lot of time together, so playing a great, terrific solo won't matter if you hate that guitar player at the end of the night. Hire your partners because they fit the big picture of what you're doing, not because they fill some short term need. Hire your drummer because he's a great player and gets along with everybody, not because his dad's going to pay for a van that's going to make everybody more comfortable on tour. When you're picking your business partners, understand that enthusiasm is great, but experience is much better.

A great business partner is somebody who will have enthusiasm for sure, but they'll also have experience and deep contacts in the music business. Do not be afraid to ask potential business partners about their experience, about their contacts, about their track record for fear of scaring them off. There is no shortage of music business experts out there that will offer to help. Particularly true in this internet world. You've got to be smart, you've got to do your homework, you've got to ask questions, and if you don't get the right answers, you're not talking to the right prospective partners.

Talking a big game, folks, is easy. Delivering big is much tougher, and that's what you'll need from your partners. Bottom line is this, picking your partners, the right partners, is the single most important decision you're going to make. Focus on what to look for, and then find the person that fits that bill. Be patient, even if it causes you grief and more work in the short term. This is one decision you absolutely need to get right. Pick your partners, and pick them wisely.