Small business success #33: Thomas F. Parker, Parker Artists

Thomas F. Parker of Parker Artists

By Mark G. Auerbach

You’ve seen those scenes on stage, screen, and television, where an artist says, “Speak to my agent” or “Get my manager.” Did you ever wonder what an agent or artist’s manager does? In the entertainment industry, some artists’ agencies are huge operations with dozens of booking agents, publicists, and personal managers, who guide their clients every step of the way. In many cases, the role of manager and agent is performed by a small boutique company that handles a handful of carefully chosen clients.

Parker Artists, directed by Thomas F. Parker, has handled a select group of classical musicians and ensembles since 1990. Based in New York City, Parker provides management services, advice as to programming, repertoire growth, tour organization, and other services, and also helps his clientele secure bookings with orchestras, recital series, and other opportunities. The scope of services is tailored to the individual artist’s needs.

His client roster includes internationally renowned pianists Misha Dichter, Spencer Myer and John Novacek; conductors Donald Pippin and Kevin Rhodes, and The Euclid Quartet, Irrera Brothers Duo and The Hevreh Ensemble.

A native of Springfield, MA, Parker graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and then joined WTIC-FM in Hartford, CT, as a special producer and music director, where he won the prestigious Major Edwin H. Armstrong Award, administered by the Armstrong Memorial Research Foundation at Columbia University. In 1974, he moved to New York City to begin a career in artist management, and, during the following 16 years, he was associated with Colbert Artists Management, Sheldon Soffer Management, and Shaw Concerts, serving the last firm as vice president.

Out on his own

For Parker, the decision to start his own company was easy. “I was let go from my previous position as a VP with a (now-defunct) major firm in a “downsizing” process. My own firm was launched one month later,” says Parker.

“When I wondered what I would do after having been fired, I worried to my brother, an attorney, that I couldn’t afford my own office with its huge cash outlay for space, furniture, office equipment, etc. I had just entered into a major mortgage situation for a new apartment. He said, ‘From my understanding of your business, you need a pen, a calendar, a phone and one artist’.”

Experience was Parker’s key to success. “Before opening my own office, I had spent 16 years working for three major firms, allowing me to learn the business in all of its aspects (i.e. booking/representation, contracts, visas, taxes, accounting, PR, marketing, creative writing, etc.) and to work – and maintain professional relationships – with national and international cultural institutions.”

Parker is still a one-man show. “I’ve had an assistant or two, but learned that, in the length of time it took to instruct someone to do something, I could have the task accomplished,” he says. He admits that one of the toughest things he’s ever had to do is to fire an employee.

It didn’t take Parker long to decide he was cut out to run a small business, but he cautions, “Don’t do it to make money; do it because the work, itself, is your passion.  If you approach it with dedication and honesty, knowing that your reputation is the only thing you really have to ‘sell,’ the money will be there.”

Parker Artists website is a handsomely designed catalogue of his artists and their offerings, and Parker’s writing skills are imprinted throughout the biographies of his clients. He has a small imprint in social media as well. When asked about technology, Parker chuckles, “Last month, I acquired my very first mobile phone.  A friend welcomed me to the 21st Century, saying I had done it without setting foot in the 20th!”

When asked if he had any role models, Parker replied, “The late Harold Shaw, who had been for many years the ‘dean’ of classical artist management. He fired me, but I admired him greatly and revere his memory – and lessons,”

Parker is highly respected in the industry. He has given workshops and seminars for The Juilliard School, Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Aspen Music School, New England Conservatory, New England Foundation for the Arts and Connecticut Commission on the Arts; has been a panelist for Chamber Music America and the First American Classical Guitar Congress; and served on juries for Affiliate Artists and the Third Arturo Toscanini International Competition for conductors in Parma, Italy. In recognition of his services to Israel’s Campus Orchestra, he was elected in 1994 a charter member of that ensemble’s International Honorary Committee. In 2016, he was elected to the Board of Directors of New York City’s Musicians Foundation. He has twice been honored by the University of Massachusetts.

And that’s succeeding in small business…

For information on Parker Artists: http://www.parkerartists.com/

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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