In Conversation: Patrick Togher

In Conversation: Patrick Togher

In Conversation: Patrick Togher

Editor's Note: We recently had the opportunity to ask Artist Manager Patrick Togher some questions about what he does, and how young singers and instrumentalists can learn to better manage themselves. His answers are to the point, and extremely important. Let us know if you put any of his ideas into action! 

As a young singer, at what point in your career should you be looking into exterior management? 

A young singer should secure management as early as possible – any manager is better than no manager.  Don’t be discouraged – mangers/agents are notoriously picky about adding artists to their rosters.  Occasionally, an artist forms a loose association with a manager which then turns into full representation.

DO NOT make the mistake of thinking self-management will save you money.  It won’t.  Any artist who (voluntarily) manages himself has a fool for a client.

As a singer yourself, what attracted you to the role you now play as an artist manager? 

I was invariably fascinated by off-stage machinations to the point where I actually preferred ‘covering’ roles to singing roles.  Most unusual for an artist to say that, I know.

What are the key skills needed, for a young person interested in pursuing a career in artistic management?

Workaholism and shamelessness.

You should be a good talker and you should love artists.  If you are currently an artist, make sure that performing is ‘out of your system’ before stepping into the world of artist management.  Your role is to make others shine.

How has your background in professional operatic work helped, or perhaps changed your understanding of what your artists need?

It has been highly beneficial – but not essential.  Understanding the emotional vagaries which attach themselves to a) the process of performing; and b) surviving as a performer in this fraught industry has been of help to me as a manager and to my artists as clients.  However, I do think a love of the art form and a determination to champion the cause of the working artist are more important qualities for a career in artist management. 

What skills are most necessary to develop on graduating from a university degree in singing? 

Real-world performance skills.  A singer will learn an immense amount from each performing experience – large or small.  This is why folks like me have toiled to preserve the ongoing availability of performance opportunities for Australian artists.

How can we equip young singers to better manage themselves? 

Should a young singer fail to secure representation, he/she should:

  • try to form an association with an artist manager in the hope of future representation
  • spend their money wisely
  • pursue appropriate performance opportunities
  • try to ‘enjoy’ every musical experience rather than fret too much about the future
  • explore avenues for the procurement of a foreign working Visa e.g. through patriality etc.
  • talk to other singers…but be discreet.  NEVER disclose to another artist any terms or conditions which have been negotiated for you.

How important is the early development of business skills, not only for singers, but for all musicians? 

Important.  If sensible financial habits do not come easily to you, then attach yourself to someone who has the right instincts – parent, partner etc.

What would your advice be to singers putting together an audition package? What do you look for in your clients?

What I think of an artist’s abilities is less important than what those who write the cheques think.  First question I have always asked myself over the past 17 years – “will Moffatt/Simone/Hickox/Lyndon hire this artist?”

Always sing your party pieces – don’t ‘try things out’ in audition. Have 3 brilliantly polished arias. Choose arias from roles which you are ready to sing.  Create the character when you audition but neither overact nor move around too much. Stillness can be the most dramatic of moves. 

Oh…and anything you can snare of yourself on video…do so.

What sets apart a good biography and a mediocre one, for any instrumentalist or singer?

Look at my website – all our bios are written in a house style.  Interestingly perhaps, I use Wikipedia as a source for spellings of foreign works, capitalization etc. etc. E.G. Die tote Stadt and Le nozze di Figaro do not look right – but they are.  

What can young musicians do to improve their own biography writing? 

Create a template and follow it.  Limit your prose bio to one A4 page.