Industry Insights: Dave Halchak
“Industry Insights” is a recurring feature on Wysidio’s blog highlighting music industry professionals and sharing their knowledge and experiences.
Dave Halchak is a booking agent, manager and musician based in Colorado. He is also currently the assistant talent buyer at Cervantes’ in Denver, the Aggie Theater and Hodi’s Halfnote, both in Fort Collins.
Halchak got his start playing in a band in high school, and when the band started playing real venues and bars up and down the east coast, he began learning how to book and manage them as well. After moving to Colorado in 2008 and playing shows in the state, he approached the owner of Cervante’s Masterpiece, Scott Morrill, about assisting him with booking shows, which slowly evolved into a full-time gig. At the same time, he began working with artists Tnertle and Rastasaurus, expanding on the skills he learned managing and booking his own bands.
If you’re looking to get your start as a manager or booking agent, Halchak says to simply ask around to find your first gig.
“Just start trying to help people,” Halchak said. “Start reaching out to people you know in the industry to see if they know smaller bands who could use help, or ask a friend’s band to be their assistant. Just get out there.”
On the flip side, if you’re a musician looking for representation, managers have to want to work with you too. Here’s what Halchak had to say about what he looks for when scouting out potential bands to manage:
“For me personally, I look at a band’s work ethic,” said Halchak. “It’s one of the most important things to me. First, I’ll check out their social media and website to see if they’ve got it together. Then, I try to go see them live. I always want to see a band live before moving forward with talking about managing or booking them, because it gives you a really good idea of the band’s energy and how they are perceived by an audience.”
“A lot of bands can sound great on an album or recording but they might not really deliver live. What I look for is if they have a strong inner drive as a group, like do they really want to make a living playing music…because it’s really hard work to make an impact in the music world. You’ve got to be very motivated. I ask them ‘What are your goals? What are you trying to make out of this?’ Finally, they need to be open and willing to work with someone and trust my vision for them.”
If you’re a band or artist thinking it’s time to hire a manager, make sure to ask the right questions to find the best fit for you.
“The industry standard for management is a 15% cut and booking is 10%, so it’s a bit of a red flag if someone is trying to take more off the top right off the bat,” Halchak said. “Some managers do take 20% ,but it’s something you would want to look into. Ask if they have a website and references from other bands. Treat it as a job interview. Tell them you want to hear feedback from another band you manage and ask if you can reach out to them.”
Trying to get some momentum behind your act is the hardest part of getting your start in the music industry, he continued, but you’ve got to just push through the rough beginning stages.
“I think a lot of bands in the beginning have trouble getting good gigs,” Halchak said. “It’s a double-edged sword because they want to grow their market by opening for national acts, but it’s also hard to get great support slots if you aren’t an established band. A lot of it has to do with how developed you are professionally.
“I think what’s hard in the beginning is just getting your name out there. You can have great social media presence but you have to be willing to put in the time. You have to build up name recognition over and over by just getting out there in front of people. You’ve got to have a package and market yourself, it’s a lot more to handle than back in the day when all you had to do was make a great album.”