training grounds for children, they provide networks where parents can find out about professional opportunities.
At one of her daughter’s amateur gigs, Norwood got advice that helped her secure an agent for Brandy.
“One parent told me after [Brandy's performance on] the American Teachers Awards, ‘You should call agents and ask them if they saw her on the broadcast,’” explains Norwood, who followed the woman’s suggestion. Subsequently, she sent out videotapes to the agents she contacted. One of those tapes landed at Brandy’s current agency, Creative Artists Agency.
Participation in amateur activities can also bring your child to the attention of local talent scouts. Multi-platinum singer Monica was introduced to Atlanta-based producer Dallas Austin after singing at a talent show, and Mitchell was discovered by Chicago-based Aria Model & Talent Management while performing in a Chicago community theater production. You can also scour trade publications such as Variety, Hollywood Reporter and Backstage for casting calls, but note that most of the listings in these resources are for productions based in major entertainment centers like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
GETTING IN THE GAME
Undoubtedly, your child’s toughest challenge will be making the transition from amateur to professional entertainer. The changeover will be less dependent on your child’s talent than on your ability to surround him with the right support system.
First, you’ll need to learn the entertainment industry’s power hierarchy. Familiarize yourself with who is responsible for setting up auditions for film, TV and commercial parts, and who casts those roles. If your child wants a record deal, you’ll need to identify who can get his music to record-label executives, and which of them can offer and execute deals.
“The music industry [hierarchy] is completely
different from [that of] film and television,” explains Matt Lichtenberg, a partner in Goldman, Lichtenberg, Wasserman and Grossman-the Los Angeles-based business management firm that handles Brandy’s financial concerns. Lichtenberg says that a singer-musician’s first concern should be securing an experienced manager although, typically, a model-actor will first find an agent.
A music manager’s initial responsibility will be polishing your child’s image; setting up performance and talent showcase opportunities and shopping for a record deal. Later, he will pursue promotional and endorsement opportunities. Artists don’t have to pay up front for these services, so any manager who requires cash in order to represent your child is not legitimate. A manager typically earns 15% to 20% of his client’s income. In the early stages, however, your child probably will not have developed enough for an established manager to feel confident that he can secure a recording deal. Thus, much of the work will fall on your shoulders.
That was the case for Melinda Dancil, who began working with her younger cousin, Arista recording artist Monica, while a student at Tennessee State College. “I planned a lot of the campus events, so I’d have her come up to perform and we’d take up a collection to pay her,” says Dancil.
After college, Dancil returned to Atlanta and continued working with the then 12-year-old singer. She booked