What is a stage parent?
We hear the term “stage parent” every day. Usually it is in the following context:
- That mom is a total stage parent!
- Stay away from that performer. You won’t want to deal with the kid’s stage parents.
- The kid’s stage parents think their kid is going to be the next Justin Bieber.
- The kid’s stage parents think they can do everything on their own, and better than anyone else can.
- The kid’s stage parents think their kid is going to make millions and get signed by a major label.
- The kid’s stage parents don’t recognize the value you add to their kid’s artist development.
- The kid’s stage parents put themselves and their young performer first more often than not, with little consideration or respect for others involved.
But what does the term “stage parent” really mean? Here is the Wikipedia definition.
“The mother will often drive her child to auditions, make sure he or she is on the set on time, etc. The term stage mother sometimes has a negative connotation, suggesting that the individual is prone to obnoxiously demanding special treatment for her child, or suggesting that the individual has placed inappropriate pressure on her child to succeed. Some believe that a ‘stage mom’ is vicariously living out her own dreams through her children.”
Every parent with a young musician is seriously involved in managing their child’s performance, practice, and engagement activities, so in this sense all parents are stage parents. There are, however, wide ranging classifications for stage parents with some considered accommodating and respectful, while others are considered high maintenance, burdensome, abusive, and self-serving. One entertainment lawyer indicated that she had to fly to LA for a parent meeting since the manager could not meet alone with the parents due to their obnoxious behavior. Another prominent artist management group out of NYC informed us they were dropping a young artist due to the fact the mother was a bully and outrageously abusive. The mother wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and expected the young performer to get booked with every interview or showcase presentation. In this case, she interfered with the management company so much that they couldn’t move in a positive direction. Nothing was considered acceptable and every gig booked required over a hundred pieces of correspondence. The scrutiny was on every level, from the smallest of details like photo cropping to the show production details. It required a team of managers to address all issues. With one issue, the mother saw a friend of the performer get her music on a local TV station, so the mother contacted us and demanded we have her child on the show that same day. This stage mom’s reputation carried with her and her young performer on both a regional and national level. Once the reputation is established, it is very difficult to reverse the damage. This young performer has not achieved the level of stardom they were after, but maybe once she is an adult and can work independently that will change.
In the Young Performer Showcase events, we have had parents push and swear at other parents in line waiting to get into shows, speak inappropriately to judges and show staff, and demonstrate poor sportsmanship openly by speaking unfavorably about other performers. It is shocking behavior that is not forgotten.
The stage parent stories continue on a daily basis and many are hard to hear. We hear from band parents across the country and, in some cases, have counseled them on the best way to manage tough situations. It is important to help anyone that is trying to help your child succeed. Being supportive, respectful, and realistic of the team you are working with will make it easier to achieve success. There are artists who simply are not contacted for gigs based on their parent’s reputations.
As Patricia Duffey, President of the Young Performers Club states, “managing a band is like managing a major corporation.” You have up to five sets of parents plus band members, and everyone has their own opinions and agendas. Arriving at a consensus on simple decisions can be a taxing and frustrating process. With twelve years’ experience in managing artists, we have experienced both highs and lows along the way with each and every decision requiring careful management. Bands break up because everyone wants to control and dominate the decision making and band development process. Below are some examples of this behavior.
- Band member wants to make all the gig and practice decisions.
- Band member feels he/she contributed the most to the project and deserves to be compensated more for it.
- Band member feels he/she is above needing to practice and attend all band sessions.
- Band members refuse to comply with management requests and are disrespectful in the process.
- Band parent feels the gig is not big enough for the band to do.
- Band members dominate decision making and don’t listen to other band member ideas and views.
- Band parent feels their young performer is better and wants to move more aggressively.
- Band member feels he/she can direct the band on the song choices and genre direction.
- Band member’s ego takes over and his/her vision is not in alignment with the band.
Without a manager overseeing the band development process, emotions and relationship challenges can interfere with progress. Bands should work together, and all that they do should be a collaborative effort. Band agreements are helpful in defining the expectations, management process, and overall relationships of the band.
People will promise you stardom for their own financial benefit, but all opportunities need to be thoroughly researched. If a management company tells you your child will get signed with a record label if you leave the group you are with and join their new group, you better have an agreement executed. This scenario happened with a young artist we worked with years ago, and five years later the young artist is still not signed. This happens all the time and you need to be very cautious. A new band we formed five years ago had band members approached directly by industry contacts after just one gig. While this is exciting, your excitement needs to be tamed and proper research needs to be done.
The Young Performers Club works with amazing parents. Some advice to avoid being classified as a “stage parent” that people will not want to work with follows.
- Be respectful and appreciative of each and every opportunity.
- Be open-minded and listen to all opinions, plans and ideas.
- Be helpful in any way you can, without interfering with committed plans.
- Be supportive of all other artists and refrain from showing jealousy over another’s success.
- Be considerate of all band members and others you engage with in the development of your young artist.
- Be professional and mature, and avoid showing emotion over insignificant details.
- Be low maintenance and well organized, having all important information maintained in an easy to find location.
- Be careful to not verbally attack other artists or artist development professionals.
- Be realistic and if the present situation is not meeting your expectations communicate your reasons directly to management. Gossiping with other sources versus providing direct feedback is very unprofessional and disrespectful.
- Be open with your opinions, ideas, and suggestions for ways to support the band or young artist.
- Be aware of the various artist management roles and don’t step on others’ toes.
- Be interested and responsive to management and others involved in the development process.
Industry professionals work with challenges every day, but if they can avoid working with a confrontational and difficult to manage stage parent, they will pass on working with some outstanding talent. Talent is only part of the equation for achieving success in the music industry as parent manageability is just as important. Supporting the artist development team is key in maintaining positive momentum, and negative interference will only delay progress and stir up emotions. Time is valuable and needs to be used productively at all times.