One of the most commonly asked questions in the music business is, “Do I need a manager?” Earlier this fall, the 11th Jazz Mentors program convened at City College’s upper Manhattan campus to explore answers to that question and others. Jazz Rep Todd Weeks led a panel called “Booking Agents, Managers and How to Navigate the Business of Music.”
Aided by a grant from NYC’s Department of Youth and Community Development, the Council for Living Music continues to present the Jazz Mentors series in the 2017-2018 season, connecting up-and-coming performers with some of New York City’s premier artists to discuss the business of jazz and find answers to many important questions. One audience member summed it up by saying, “I am so glad you are doing these. Every jazz musician in New York should be here!”
Saxophonists Steve Wilson and Camille Thurman and manager/producer Laura Hartmann captivated a crowd of more than 50 students and musicians with personal anecdotes and sage advice meant to inform and enlighten on the subject of managers, agents, publicists and the differences between them.
Panelist Laura Hartmann has had a longstanding career as a manager. In 1990, she became operations director at Herbert Barrett Management, where she worked with Dr. Billy Taylor and other jazz artists until she founded LVanHart Artist Productions in 1997, with her first client, Steve Wilson. In addition to managing a roster of fine jazz artists (including Mike Stern, Diane Monroe and Steve Wilson, both by himself and as the Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo), Hartmann has produced recordings and many live concerts. She is also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the College of St. Rose in Albany. Hartmann reminded the crowd that the keys to a strong artist/manager relationship are a shared vision and excellent communication. Ideally, the relationship allows artists to concentrate on their artistry and not worry about the business.
Hartmann spoke frankly about the role of a manager: “An agent books gigs,” she said. “A good manager, on the other hand, helps you grow your career and deals with the day-to-day business that allows you to be the kind of artist you want to be by nurturing and cultivating your vision and your goals.”
Steve Wilson has attained ubiquitous status in the studio and on the stage with the greatest names in jazz, as well as critical acclaim as a bandleader in his own right. A musician’s musician, Wilson has brought his distinctive sound to more than 100 recordings led by such celebrated and wide-ranging artists as Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Dianne Reeves, Maria Schneider, Joe Henderson and Mulgrew Miller, among many others. Wilson has eight recordings under his own name, leading and collaborating with such stellar musicians as Lewis Nash, Steve Nelson, Cyrus Chestnut, Ray Drummond, Ben Riley, Orrin Evans, Ugonna Okegwo and Bill Stewart.
Wilson, who teaches in the jazz department at City College, was unequivocal regarding the benefits of good management. He recalled his first experiences searching for a manager. “Before I met Laura, I vetted a few different managers.,” he said. “Each one was the same. All they talked about was money, points on recordings and percentages. Not one of them asked me about my goals. The experience taught me about what I wanted from a manager.”
Hailed by All About Jazz as a “first class saxophonist that blows the proverbial roof of the place” and acclaimed by Downbeat Magazine as a singer with “soulful inflection and remarkable, Fitzgerald-esque scat prowess,” Camille Thurman has worked internationally with notable jazz and R&B icons George Coleman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jon Hendricks, Pattie LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Louis Hayes, Jacky Terrasson, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu among others.
Thurman, who is self-managed, provided the perfect foil to Wilson and Hartmann. She explained her approach to the eager audience members. “Yes, I self manage,” she said, “but I do it with the much-needed help and support from friends, mentors and by continually staying in touch with my fans, whether that’s in person at the gig or communicating via social media.”
Thurman added, “Cultivating relationships is vital. By playing great and touching people’s hearts, you will help build and maintain those connections. Gigs come and go, but relationships last for a long time. ”
Assistant Professor of Jazz Vocal Studies Suzanne Pittson facilitated the event for CCNY.
The next Jazz Mentors event will be held just as Allegro is going to press, on Nov. 6 at the Manhattan School of Music at 3:30 p.m. The discussion, which will be focused on issues around creative autonomy, features pianist/composer Jason Moran, philanthropist/historian Wayne Winborne, who is the director the Institute of Jazz Studies in Newark, and award-winning vocalist Jazzmeia Horn. We hope to see you there! For more information, and to RSVP, see www.local802afm.org/jazz-mentors.