posted by Jo Mantini
3 satisfying slices of ignorance from EM Agency.
The agent displays:
Please note: some spelling grammar mistakes have been corrected in the quoted text. For the purposes of clarity, we've presented the emails and analyses on separate tabs. The full conversation is logged beneath these tabs.
Event Diary 26/10/2015
From: "EM Agency"
Just putting this out there from an agents perspective, you do make things convoluted and from all the information you gave me initially I've done my best to work out what is actually your band but Shazam tells me some of it is another band entirely.
There is a historic, traceable reason behind everything we do. Please check this journal or e-mail us if you have any more specific/constructive questions.
It just puts me off - all the discounts and pre-quotes,
Does he not know how to negotiate? Or is he simply repellent to the idea of actually doing his job as an agent? We've found most of our agents agree it's best practice in terms of managing client expectations to quote high and then negotiate downwards on the basis of what the client is bringing to the negotiation table (rather than the other way round). Sound familiar? In theory, the pre-quotes he's referring to (or "Quick Quotes") and the live calendar - just those 2 things - are actually sufficient for quoting us without having to even consult us, e.g., if the enquiry comes in on an evening/weekend when we're out performing and not able to field enquiries.
I'm not comfortable putting my name to them just yet. So am not going to put them on our website at this time.
Compare this to the fact that he was added to the Event Diary on 11 September 2015 at 09:35:18 BST. No response was received from this email, indicating that he had registered the production.
chasing for a booking I already said forget about.
He hadn't said "forget about it".
He actually said:
On 6 Oct 2015, at 16:26, EM wrote:
I'll put then client directly in touch with you on this occasion rather than them not be able to find anyone. It just all seems to be such an overload on supplying information which we have to wade though to find what we actually need to know. Sorry - it's taken me an age to get some stuff together from your site to send them.
Then he'd said:
On 20 Oct 2015, at 14:33, EM Agency wrote:
"No please mark this one as 'dead'"
Ironically, this in itself contradicts what he's said about putting the client directly in touch. Actually, he's been the one to go ahead and deliver the final verdict, not the client!
I'm not comfortable putting my name to them just yet. So am not going to put them on our website at this time. I would have taken everything a lot more seriously if I didn't have to wade and wade though all your superfluous material to find what I'm looking for - even this date sheet, is this to make them look busy?
Following this logic, he's inadvertently revealed a significant insight into the mismanaged, "cloak-and-dagger" way he communicates to his own clients and stakeholders. Rather than taking the date sheet as an informative, neutral reference to help him (as an agent) monitor our availability; he's interpreted it. Not only that but he's interpreted it as a marketing ploy - thereby confusing his business as an agent with his business as a musician (note his use of the word 'busy'!). Also note that the date sheet came about under the request of several of the larger agents including Alive Network and W Entertainment, so he's actually contradicting popular client request.
Event Diary #1
Quoting Provisional Availability
They've got 2 gigs?
Not true. 2 confirmed events and the rest are enquiries. Also, he fails to acknowledge that getting more gigs is the very reason we're approaching him in the first place.
Do we bother to call with an enquiry if you have an enquiry for a photoshoot which can easily be rescheduled?
Yes, and we would tell him if we're available or not. Email would be preferable though, so as to avoid verbal intimidation and emotional blackmail (judging by the content of his emails, his behaviour indicates some deep-rooted emotional issues, which would perhaps cloud his judgement somewhat and increase a risk of offensive/abusive language, tone or behaviour).
Conclusion: all of the above signifies:
New act introductory email enquiry - Fiesta Latina
From: Essence Music
I'm sorry but what are you trying to achieve?
We're trying to achieve more bookings for Fiesta Latina.
I've never heard anything made to sound so convoluted.
Too complicated for you to understand? No problem :-)
Negotiating For Nothing #1
Why are our quotes so complicated?
We've been organising professional bands for over 10 years and been a pro gigging musician for 20 years and written music for stage and TV. I have to be frank - the 'corporate' waffle/meaningless titles etc just worries us and puts us off more than impresses. "Manager and central coordinator for Red & Black Music artists and productions".
Tim confuses his business interests as a musician and composer with his business interests as an agent. It's easy to confuse the two sometimes. Note his use of the word "professional"! In his rejection of our "corporate' waffle/meaningless titles", he fails to acknowledge that these are there precisely so we attain the level of professionalism requested and have the necessary measures/structures internally in order to do so.
Jo is a manager - not a musician, producer or agent, but a manager only - and this enables her to focus on management, which is precisely the structural framework needed in place to ensure that the "band" is able to deliver at all times. Imagine if a "band" didn't have a manager? Who would be responsible for fielding enquiries? Who would be responsible for booking and contracting the musicians so that they don't cancel? Imagine the chaos if two or more people were managing bookings without communicating amongst themselves!
The crucial difference is that Jo's role is impartial, facilitating these communications, building client relations, representing client interests within the company and ensuring that we as a company are doing what we set out to do. Tim fails to recognise that Jo is here in his best interests. The manager is paid to server our clients - use her! Before taking on a manager, we had too many situations where internal breaches negatively impacted clients. I hasten to add that this happened no more frequently than many other "bands". Jo as manager and coordinator is specifically here to resolve problems "in house" so that the agent need not worry or get involved in internal personnel issues and thereby improving professionalism.
By disregarding these critical measures, Tim dismisses his own expressed desire for "bands" to be professional.
It's just meaningless, it's a band, most just get on with it.
There are 2 issues here.
Productions vs. Bands
Empower The Individual
Underneath all this pretence surely is the important bit - A group of professional musicians who under your direction, know what they are doing, and get on with the job. Is this to justify higher fees?
Firstly, it's not pretence. What do you think would happen if you let loose a load of musicians without any form of structure, guidance or direction. Link his word "pretence" with his word "direction". Another contradiction! Tim fails to recognise that what he perceives to be "pretence" is precisely that - direction! (another word evoking our values of communication and accountability. How can one "direct" without communicating? Does he seriously believe that this KLU (Knowledge, Learning & Understanding) is innate? Is he saying that the musicians are self-directed, or directed by someone else?
It appears that there is a language barrier here. Tim is clearly bothered by our semantics and choices of words. There is a method behind our seeming madness. We act upon all requests and try to please everyone. There is a historic, traceable reason behind everything we do, which is why we've taken the bold yet controversial step to publish arguments and debates in this blog. Tim is an extreme example of a faction of people who have that "pie in the sky" attitude/belief that "bands" and people simply 'come together' by magic overnight, via some unseen, unquantifiable force. Unfortunately much as we'd love for this to be true, it's a pipe dream. Regrettably, it doesn't quite work out so easily because the reality is that there are differences between people. This conversation only serves to prove this further. Therefore, language and semantics must be inherent in any "group" venture to foster a common mediation of understanding both at a musicians' level and at an agents' level. One can't simply rely on "common sense" and expect things to happen spontaneously, or enforce one's own understanding of "getting on with it" without outlining what is meant by it.
If you all have day jobs - are you going to be able to get to gigs early enough if a client requires an early set-up. Is the day job going to interfere with availability if I need to send you abroad or too far from home?
Yes, because we can book days of work. It can be done. If it's a problem and it's a last minute booking, we will simply book different musicians and we will never turn down a booking. That way, you won't need to concern yourselves about availability of musicians. We deal with that in-house ourselves so you don't have to :) We audition and vet musicians, and monitor their availability closely once they've accepted retainers. In other words, we do the hard slog. All you need to worry about is drawing up the contracts. Then you can get on with doing your business as a musician separately. Easy, huh?
If there is an issue sending us abroad, or extenuating circumstances such as a short-notice booking, we will be accountable enough to not accept the booking, and we will even help you by suggesting partners such as Tiger Music Entertainment who will be more likely to send musicians abroad. However, to this date, while we have declined many enquiries due to the client either trying or refusing to negotiate; we have a zero record of having ever cancelled a booking (despite our musicians cancelling on us).
Sorry I just can't spend any time of this. We get an enquiry, we assume our acts are free unless they tell us otherwise as they all share their on-line calendars with us.
Ultimate contradiction! Compare this statement with what he says subsequently:
I would have taken everything a lot more seriously if I didn't have to wade and wade though all your superfluous material to find what I'm looking for - even this date sheet, is this to make them look busy?
By "superfluous material", he is referring to the following:
These measures are put in place specifically so agents can monitor our availability. By referring to them as "superfluous", he's contradicting his own argument about acts sharing their online diaries with them. How else would acts communicate their availability to them? Osmosis? Telepathy? Magic? No. Instead, he's discredited what he's said in his previous email and completely contradicted himself by interpreting the Event Diary email as a marketing ploy to make us look "busy", rather than as a transparent, informative reference (which, ironically, is the reason we're approaching him in the first place). By projection, this reveals a lot about the cloak-and-dagger way in which he treats his own clients and stakeholders.
I'm really sorry but I have too many concerns.
= I'm too important.
= I'm too busy to do my job properly.
New act introductory email enquiry - Fiesta Latina
From: Essence Music Agency
I must admit, I'm a tad concerned about the multiple line-up approach having heard bad stories of with function bands.
This is about the only thing he's said which is worthwhile, because it demonstrates accountability. Tim has displayed a rare depth of insight to look back and take stock of what's already happened to form an almost coherent argument.
But there is a flaw in his argument. He hasn't actually substantiated these claims of "bad stories" via concrete examples. Are these "bad stories" actually written down anywhere? Or are they just intangible "impressions" formed in a cloud of vague recollection, without any substantial fact or proof? He also immediately makes an assumption based on these bad experiences, and tarnishes us with the brush and negative connotations of being a "function band".
It's all well and each knowing the repertoire but find if a unit is constantly thrown together based on availability then things can get a bit ropey as they don't gel.
Unfortunately, much as we'd like to have the regular lineup on every gig, we cannot deny the reality that musicians and humans aren't always honest. This is one of the first lessons of running a business. We've seen countless examples of musicians not updating us on our availability, accepting retainers elsewhere without notifying managers or simply leaving the country without telling anyone. We try to manage, mediate and communicate internally to resolve such issues, by using retainers, which are precisely those measures required to enforce these values of being in a unit that Tim criticises in his follow-up email. However, musicians are ultimately human, and are imperfect, and make mistakes just like many of us. So it can't be guaranteed (although we try!).
Despite all of this, we believe it is unfair on those musicians who are available, and who do communicate, and who want to perform; to have their opportunities hindered by these other musicians and their chaotic lifestyles, e.g., just because the lead vocalist isn't available. We would always strive to disclose these facts at the point of enquiry. However, your concern is that our quotations are too complicated, yet you haven't actually stipulated what information you do/don't require. Do you want to get involved in discussing internal personnel issues? Or not? Should we simply turn down an opportunity due to the non availability of one musician such as the lead vocalist? Where do you draw the line? Would that not undermine your assumption (see subsequent email) that we are always available unless we've notified you otherwise? Isn't that why we use an Event Diary? Many inconsistencies of logic here, which he fails to take on board. And he hasn't even provided the necessary request points to stipulate what he's looking for in terms of information.
Moreover, what exactly does he mean when he says it won't "gel"? In the past, we've seen occurrences of using the regular lineup of musicians and the musicians not diligently studying the music prior to the engagement (I hasten to add that these musicians don't last long in the production!). By the same token, we've employed deputy musicians and found that this sometimes produces better results in terms of the performance. So it's not as simple as one might perceive. The word "gel" is a farce. It's an intangible concept that evokes some sort of pseudo-religious incantation or secret brotherhood only for the enlightened few. It casts a mist of deception, smoke and mirrors over what is actually the mechanics of musicians interacting with one another. There's no hidden "gel" involved (apart from what some guys rub into their hair on gig nights!). Again, he's confusing his business interests as a musician and composer with his business interests as an agent. Whether it "gels" does not have to be his concern as an agent unless he wishes to complicate things further.
Also people like to know who they are booking and would have booked on the strength of the video/demos. If they don't get who they thought they were booking, even if the band turn out fine, the last thing we want to hear is "This is not the band I booked" which I'm sure you can understand.
We completely understand and embrace that. However, there is a contractual point to consider here. If the contract stated "Four piece band consisting of vocals, Piano, Percussion and Trumpet"; then we are not contractually obliged to bring a specific vocalist unless that vocalist is explicitly named in the contract.
Are you a member of any of these line-ups as a musician yourself or do you just manage them? We always insist on dealing with exactly those who will be there on the day so we can ensure everyone knows exactly what is expected of them first hand
Again, he's expressing conflicting desires. He criticises the idea of managing musicians' availability, yet insists on dealing with the musicians directly. Is he trying to be an agent, a manager, a promoter or all at once? He confuses his various roles/personas by trying to micromanage musicians' availability and whether or not the musicians "gel", yet at the same time claiming that his time is limited and wanting to simply quote ahead to the client without unnecessary delays.
Both of these are valid initiatives. But he's trying to have it both ways while enforcing his understanding of how the "music business" works upon all artists.
Read below for the full log of correspondence...
Event Diary 26/10/2015
From: Jo Mantini
Enquiry 14th November - Harlow Essex.
From: Jo Mantini
New act introductory email enquiry - Fiesta Latina
Red & Black Music was set up in 2012 to stop musicians cancelling.
Red & Black Music has been running a journal since 2012 for the purposes of evaluation and future development. It documents internal struggles faced by musicians and music leaders in an honest and transparent way - and evidences breaches of communication and accountability both on the artist side and the client side, in an open access format.
This link is hidden and only shared privately.
Click on an author's name to view posts by that author.
Rory comes from a musical background having trained at the RNCM and worked with musicians since 2009.
Claire comes from a publishing background, having worked as a digital editor in the books industry, and proofreader in the marketing industry in London.
Jo comes from a hospitality & tourism background, having managed staff at prestigious venues throughout UK, Italy and China since 2009.
A category naming and shaming unreliable musicians to watch out for.
A category reporting unscrupulous venues and traders.
A category exploring the issues faced working via agents and promoters.
Event Diary #1
Event Diary #2
Freedom of Speech
Less Talk More Action
Productions vs. Bands
Unresolved Queries 1
Unresolved Queries 2
What happened to Diaspora Collective?