Facing the Music: Some Straight Talk with Tina Terry

Tina Terry with Matt Murphy

Facing the Music: Some Straight Talk with Tina Terry

Tina recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by Janet Hansen over at Mary4Music.com  and shared with her some insight from two decades of experience in management, talent buying, and booking.

There’s a lot of talk in the industry on both sides of the fence about what constitutes being a veteran or a legend in the music business. Artists refer to themselves as being a veteran or legendary when they have no business doing so. And so too, on the administrative side, those who’ve dabbled here and there for a few years inflate their influence for appearances which has caused a great deal of distrust between the artists’ camp and those people they need to help achieve solid business goals.

When it comes down to it, there are just a very small few music professionals left who really know what they’re talking about and would be scared to death to overstate what they can do, because they know there are no guarantees in music. They know nothing comes easily even to the seasoned pro. They know what works. They talk the talk, and walk the walk with confidence and no exaggeration.

Pete Lauro introduced me to Tina Terry recently. She is the owner and head of the Tina Terry Agency — dedicated to booking the roots of American music. I have to say quite frankly she is the most honest of professionals I’ve had to pleasure to interview. While others gloss over questions with regard to the change and challenges music faces, Tina meets every question head on with candor and grace.

With more than two decades of experience in management, talent buying, and booking, Tina Terry knows what she’s talking about and has an outstanding business model to prove it. What you read in this interview is information you can take to the bank no matter what level your career has risen to. And if you want my two cents — these are the kinds of answers you should get from anyone in any discipline on the gatekeeper’s side of the business.

Here’s Tina’s take on facing the music.

You’ve spent your career in talent buying, artist management and now booking. How did you decide to continue with booking and start an agency?

It was nothing I planned yet everything I have been training for! I had my own Agency, Sandbox Productions, for 6 years before joining forces with Piedmont Talent. Returning to my own agency after the owner’s untimely death from cancer was the natural course of progression for me. And, because booking is what I did for 10 years while at Piedmont, it only made sense it would be a booking agency. 

What are the highlights of your years at Piedmont Talent?

The entire decade was a highlight. I had an amazing mentor and the honor of focusing strictly on Blues Music. To represent some of the best in the business. Robert Lockwood, Jr, Carey Bell, Nappy Brown, Sean Costello, Johnny Winter, Lonnie Brooks, Eddy Clearwater, Canned Heat, Homemade Jamz, Eden Brent, Mike Zito, Damon Fowler, Cassie Taylor and Samantha Fish to name a few. 

Who are your current clients?

Bart Walker. Billy D & the Hoodoos. Grinder Blues. Heavy Heavy Hearts. James ‘Blood’ Ulmer. The Kinsey Report. Lauren Mitchell Band. The Peterson Brothers. Seth Walker. Zac Harmon. 

What is the biggest misconception artists have about working with a booking agent?

Assuming we have a magic wand. To believe we create better tours instantly and double their money within the first year. In the end, an Agent’s job is to build on what has already been created and depending where the career is will depend on the time for which the progress can take place.

What is on your Top Five List of things artists MUST do?

  1. Have a professional webpage.
  2. Participate and be very active with social networking.
  3. Hire a publicist, especially for tour support.
  4. Have printed posters and marketing materials
  5. Never lose the ‘show must go on’ mentality.

Conceptually getting “the gig” or a string of bookings is what matters most for touring artists. Talk about getting the “right gigs” as opposed to just taking what is offered, and how that fits into the big picture.

Every artist has a room. Every artist deserves the best room. Not every artist sells enough tickets to be in the ‘right’ room. You are either the vibe, the buzz or the ticket seller. Which markets you are what will dictate the room you can be booked in. And, in markets where you are neither, knowing how to maneuver to become one of the three, is intrigual to properly growing or maintaining careers. 

Rock and roll was borne out of the blues over five decades ago. How do you feel about the heavy influence rock has on contemporary blues crossing cultural and genre boundaries? 

The Blues genre created many other genres of music besides Rock-N-Roll. However, Rock-N-Roll is the one that openly credits Blues as the influence. The fact that both stayed true to their art form, both share the same aged fan base, it is no wonder the two are joining forces for its survival. For the first time in history, Blues is embracing the change and allowing it to remain within the genre. It is focusing less on the 1,4,5 structure and more on the songwriter which is ultimately where it all began and why it birthed the many genres it did. And with this change has come a younger generation that is willing to embrace the Blues and for that you are starting to hear it referred to as roots music. 

Shooting straight from the hip, how does social media really influence bookings, when music survived very well without social networks for eons?

People’s attention spans are shorter than ever and the Internet is their source of learning. It gives the ability to be seen and to reach more people faster than ever. 

From your standpoint, explain which of these elements is the most important in an artist’s press kit: The preview, the review, the interview?

The preview. How it is presented matters most. The objective is to say as little as possible while creatively and clearly showcasing the music. 

What are you looking for in an artist’s history that helps you decide to sign a new artist to your roster?

Every agent knows their strength and their buyer base. The artists’ history and music must mold to the specialty of the Agent. 

Everything about the infrastructure of music has changed over the past decade. How has booking changed? Is it for the better?

Due to the Internet and the amount of musical reality TV shows, the world has more bands than it ever had trying to succeed. It has bred a competitive world where in order to get the gigs, those who sell tickets are willing to take less of a guarantee for a a higher percentage against the door/tickets sold while the younger generation with their social networking skills and hunger to perform are willing to play for less. A good thing? Yes and no. No business should be successful without promotions and planning, and if you aren’t a good business person or are able to find solid business people to join forces with, you probably won’t survive. The downfall is music has become more about business and less about the music. The upside is it is pushing the creators of music to be unique and original in order to rise above. Hence, why all forms of music are starting to merge and more venues are opening their doors to forms of music they once turned away. 

You’ve added more personnel to the Tina Terry Agency creating a bi-coastal company. Tell us a bit about who you’re working with and the idea behind covering both sides of the country.

The Agency books worldwide and will continue to add staff to accommodate the ability to focus on the needs of each and every artist we sign. We are dedicated to the roots of American music and the success for all: myself, the staff, the artist.