When I was in college, there was this unspoken rumor going around that if you just sing good enough, you’ll get a manager and you will get tons of work. You’ll take the Metropolitan Opera, Houston, San Francisco and others by storm. They will all just come begging for you!
But it’s not true and I see a lot of really great up and coming opera singers who are just waiting for their opportunity.
They also have no idea how to even start getting a manager. So I’ve come up with basically four different things that you should absolutely have in order to be ready to get a manager. Now, doing this doesn’t mean that you’ll get a manager. I don’t have a way to know if you’re even ready for one.
A lot of managers say
“I’ll manage you when you have something to manage,”
Meaning if you’re already showing a lot of interest and buzz, if people are talking about you, that’s when they’re most interested in signing you. I think this is true.
But there are things you can do to help convince them or help push them towards signing you.
Get Quality Headshots
I think this is so important. A lot of beginning singers, and even some some established singers, won’t pay for headshots. And I totally get it! Headshots are freaking expensive.
It’s easy to want to get your best friend to do an iPhone photo shoot (which I think can actually work if you know how to do an iPhone photo shoot well enough) but my advice is toe save your pennies and pay for a quality photographer.
There are some people who are really really good like my friend Jillian Riesen who just had a baby! She’s excellent and she’s just starting out doing headshots so her prices are so reasonable.
However, you can expect to spend a thousand dollars on an excellent photographer and excellent set of head shots. These do make a difference and, as for me, I’ve never looked more handsome than I did with a professional photographer. So not only do they help your confidence when you’re sending your materials out, it’s fun and you can use those photos for years.
I think I took my head shots five years ago or so and they cost me I think less than a thousand dollars, somewhere between $800 and $1,000 to get five shots edited and everything. We just walked all around Chicago and just took pictures for hours.
They end up with thousands of pictures and sift through the best. Then they send some of their favorites for your approval you choose your five.
They then edit them in case you have any blemishes or whatever, it’s fabulous. Real photographers are worth their weight in gold.
To a manager it really shows your commitment to the business and your professionalism.
Get a Great Quality Vocal Recording
Now, this can be with piano. If you have something live with Orchestra and the and the audio quality is good, that’s best.
A lot of opera companies show their performances on PBS or their local classical radio station. Grab those, record them, cut them up, and put them in your portfolio.
If you don’t have that, seriously spend the money on a quality recording space where the piano is balanced and your voice is balanced but just a little more to the forefront.
This isn’t too expensive, and definitely shop around online for a good studio. If you are really in a bind, find a friend with a great hand recorder or buy a mic that goes into your cell phone, and see if you can record in a cathedral.
If you’re going to find a manager and all you have is a resume and some iPhone recording from your college graduate recital (which I used early on) it’s not going to be impressive. This isn’t an audition for a young artist program.
You will also use it to get more work, even after you get a manager. Do you know how they get companies interested in you? They send clips of you! So these quality clips are not just used to hook that manager, they’re used BY that manager for other opera companies. So invest in a great set of recordings.
And as a side note, please please please don’t record what you think. You will be in five years. Don’t record something too big. Don’t record too small.
Record what you love and what you do best. Period. If you got a good recording studio and good people working on your recording, your comfort will shine through and people will go nuts for it.
Write a Quality Letter
I think musical theater people talk about getting management more than Opera people. And I think, back in the day, you used to put your headshot, your resume and a letter into a manila envelope and you would send it out to all the management companies in New York and hope that they would open them.
Well, the letter is pretty important. Nobody ever talked to me about this. But at some point you have to write to these managers.
This is you just marketing yourself. So, what I suggest if you aren’t a writer, is go on a website like Fiverr.com and pay somebody to write a good sales letter for you.
When I had done my first principal role in Santa Fe, I had only had three or four other things on my resume and three of them were young artist programs. But I felt ready to be managed. I was luck to have had Santa Fe opera on my resume.
There was an artistic director that I trusted. I went and requested a meeting with him. During the meeting I asked, “Hey, will you please tell me your top 10 favorite managers to work for?”
So this person opened up a giant catalog of managers and management companies. It must have been two inches thick and it was filled with movie managers, theater managers, film, dance, etc. He flipped to the Opera section and circled 10 different management companies that he enjoyed working for.
So I left with a list of e-mails of management companies. I had decided to write them all asking if they would hear me audition. Then he said “bring your letter back to me so I can proofread it before you send it out.”
So I wrote this letter. I thought I’d drop some names, appropriately and talk about myself well enough. When he got the first draft, he took one look at it and said, “I’ll send you a new new copy tomorrow, an edited version.” And he rewrote this letter. It was so beautifully worded. It dropped the right names the way I never could!
I sent that letter out to ten companies. Nine of them gave me auditions. So if you’re not a writer, like me, have a professional do it.
Fiverr.com has Freelance writers who do that stuff for a living. Just try them.
Have a Very Clean Website
And I haven’t done this for my website as well as I should because I have a neglected it so much. But I know more about websites now, more about marketing for business, and for our field.
Matthew Epstein, in the master class in 2012, said that your websites should have all your information on one page.
He said, “Don’t make me search for all of your clips and stuff.” And I thought, “you’re just old. Learn how to use a website.” But I was wrong.
A lot of people don’t want to go searching for your content. So make a landing page. A landing page has everything that you want that person to see on the first page they land on. So when a manager goes to your website, they have no doubt who you are, how you sing, andwhat you’re trying to do in this business. They should get that all from your first page.
That means they don’t make them go searching for for your audio clips, which is not different page from your video clips, which is on a different page from your pictures and your head shots. And then, make it all accessible really quickly and really easily.
There are a lot of people in this business who aren’t as website friendly as some of us younger people. Put it all out there, put it in the front, make them know who you are right when they look at your website.
So those are my four tips on getting management. They’re good tips for business in general. But if you follow these tips, I’m not going to guarantee you’re going to get management. A lot of Managment companies are at Max Capacity and can’t take any more people.
But your job is to do everything else. These steps are incredibly important and overlooked.