Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Artist Management: Secrets Revealed by Bernard Uzan

Bernard Uzan: General Director, Artistic Director, Stage Director, Artist Manager, Set Designer, Librettist, Educator, Actor, published Novelist, Internet Journalist, and recent Grammy winner are just a few professions in which Mr. Uzan has distinguished himself. His management company, Uzan International Artists, has risen to a leadership position amongst the international artists management field. We wanted to get the inside scoop to his life, his success, and see if he could give us some insight into the singer-manager relationship. 

You wear many hats: director, actor, producer, scholar, etc. Can you discuss your personal development and how you achieve your goals?

This is difficult to answer. I don’t have goals. I never said, “I want to do this or I want to be that.” All my life I’ve had to overcome large obstacles. I started to walk at age fifteen, we entered Paris as refugees, my brother died in a car accident, my father died because he couldn’t handle it anymore, and then my mother and I were alone in Paris with nothing. Not a penny. I was pushed by fate and extraordinary luck. Everything I’ve done has been created by necessities. The necessity to believe that things are still possible, that’s what it’s all about. I’ve never planned anything. I don’t know what I’m going to do in five years. Dead, probably… (He chuckles)

Would you say a lot of your success came from a deep belief in yourself?

No. Not a belief in myself, but the determination to take risks. I could have gone to an audition, been rejected, and that would have been fine. Was I nervous? No because this is what I do.

People who have major personal issues do this job. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t need to be in this business. I tell singers, “The only time you don’t act is on stage.” In life, we act all the time. We have to cover and protect ourselves. We need to impress. Onstage, we don’t need to act because the so-called character protects us. We can finally be ourselves, and we need that because we’re all a little sick. Sick meaning we have unsolved problems that are a part of us. Our job is to use these problems in our performances. This is when we are real.

In your blog post “Dream the Impossible Dream,” you discuss how careers are not determined by the type of voice, but by the type of person behind the voice. Can you elaborate on that?

What I am talking about is the importance of accumulating knowledge and life experiences. When I talk to singers and they have to portray a killer, I know they’ve never killed anybody, but I want them to bring their own personal experience to the character. You have to bring your personal life and your own inside thought, feeling, life, etc…I’ve never killed anyone but, I’ve had the desire to kill somebody. That’s what I call an equivalent. What you are is more important than your voice.

Let’s be honest, we have thousands of singers on the market. Too many. How many have a truly exceptional voice? Maybe one percent. What is going to set you apart is who you are, and what you bring as a person to your character, to your performance, and to your audition.

Think of a painter. A painter has brushes and colors. Its not important that he has those tools, but what he does with them. For a singer, the brush is the music and the colors are the words. It’s what you do with them that counts. When I ask singers if they’re prepared, and they tell me they know the words and the music, I tell them that’s not being prepared. That’s having the brush and the colors. Being prepared is what you do with it, who you are inside, and how you bring it out. You need all that to make a difference.

How do relationships with managers work?

At Uzan International Artists we are always honest and unfortunately that is not how all management companies function. Companies send us their season and they ask if we have people to audition. We send them names and let choose who they want. If a company is looking for a Scarpia, we aren’t going to suggest just one person; we’re going to suggest everyone who’s available for the role. Sometimes they even trust us to send who we want without an audition.

How would someone know if they’re ready to sing for you?

A singer always believes they are ready and if they believe they are ready, they should send their materials. If you don’t believe in yourself 100%, do something else. They should, however, be prepared that not everyone will accept them. Some singers are the opposite. They postpone. They spend years in young artist programs. Then what? Some people go to Europe for three years, then it’s ten years, and then it’s too late. It’s hard to find the right balance and the right moment.

You should also talk to your teacher to see if you’re ready. Some will tell you you’re never ready, because they want to keep you as long as possible. It’s difficult. I personally think you are ready when you believe you are. Then you can start. If you do three auditions in a row for managers and they tell you, you aren’t ready, go back to the drawing board.

If you don’t get management, can you contact those same managers again? How often?

Yes. Always. I’ll tell people, “You aren’t what we’re looking for right now, but if you are still interested in join us, come back in one year.”

You have to be proactive, but that doesn’t mean you should write notes to companies. I don’t like singers who spend their time on Facebook writing notes. It’s not professional and unacceptable. Being proactive means to exist. I tell singers to never go three months without contacting us. I want to hear from you every two weeks. I want to know people are interested in their own careers and in a relationship.

Thank you Mr. Uzan for your vast insight and information into management. Are you ready for management? Check out UIA and ask for a consultation!