Melissa Ferrick

Melissa Ferrick has had a self-proclaimed “backwards career.” She signed to Atlantic in her early 20s and opened for Morrissey; now she’s recording her music on her own little record label and doing a lot of door deals.

In the meantime, she’s moved from William Morris Agency to ICM to booking herself.

Currently, she’s back to an agency, Fleming & Assoc., and plans to stick there. Her manager, Jim Fleming, and agent, Adam Bauer, work under the same roof.

It’s been a long time since Pollstar has featured a veteran artist on our cover; Del McCoury is possibly the last one to get some ink. In both cases, there’s a rebirth, or maybe even a birth, if you will. In a few weeks, Ferrick will be touring with a band for the very first time, and she’s increasing her fan base in the cities she visits.

Not only is her reinvention complete, it’s documented in a movie she’s made called “Decade,” which features footage of her career. It is expected to debut at film festivals next year.

“It takes me from backstage with Doug Morris and Danny Goldberg when I was on Atlantic to me being on What Are Records, and then me opening my own label,” Ferrick told Pollstar.

It covers shows with Paul Westerberg and European footage, but not one single song beginning to end.

Ferrick was encouraged to put together the film from all of the footage she’s collected over the years.

“The first agent I worked with was Jonny Podell when he was at William Morris. I love Jonny Podell, and I worked with Jonathan Levine as well. I signed at ICM with Brian Greenbaum, who worked with Jonny when Jonny ended up over there,” she reminisced.

“I remember the day I went to ICM. Jonny had just signed this band, and you know how he is. He’s like, ‘This band is going to be huge!’ And I said, ‘What’s their name?’ He goes, ‘They’re called Green Day!’ It was awesome.”

Around 2000, Ferrick found herself acting as her own agent, but she would call Fleming & Assoc. every time she was in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“I called Fleming for five or six years,” she said. “I knew that was the agency I wanted to be with because they had artists like Dan Bern and Ani DiFranco, and they had people who had careers and were edgy and demanding and didn’t use their inside voice. That’s where I wanted to be.

“Jim (Fleming) took a couple meetings with me. He didn’t sign me, didn’t sign me, didn’t sign me. But that’s how they are. They take their time and make sure it’s a group vote. … A lot of people who’ve left don’t seem to tour as much; I also looked at that. I told Jim, ‘Once I’m here, I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be here for 20 years.’ It’s that kind of place; it’s a family.”

Melissa Ferrick

Fleming & Assoc. divides its agents by territory, but Ferrick eventually insisted she work with Bauer coast-to-coast.

“I’ve been with agencies before that have split up regions by different agents and, as an artist, I just find it easier to deal with one person. There’s less problems interpreting what’s really going on. It’s like, who’s your friggin’ agent, you know? It’s so hard to get an agent these days, so saying, ‘Yes, I’m with Fleming and Adam Bauer is my agent’ is really empowering.”

“It works well,” Bauer told Pollstar. “I’ve done that with a couple of our artists. … She’s actually very realistic. She goes in for a lot of door deals. She’ll sometimes turn around and say, ‘You know what? I can make more money if you give me x-amount of the door and not even a guarantee.’

“And every time she puts her foot down in the direction she wants to go, she’s generally right. I’ve kind of given up arguing with her unless it’s an unknown promoter or something I’m not necessarily comfortable with.”

Ferrick is a record label exec now, although she says she won’t sign anyone other than herself until she learns from other people’s mistakes. She is also working with Jim Fleming in an artist/manager relationship, and she admitted she’s matured from the days when she locked horns with former associates. She offered advice for the newbies.

“The first thing is, any manager you want to work with should never demand you sign a contract,” she said. “I think the idea is that sign-ups for a couple years will make somebody work harder; I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think the artist has to work the hardest, always.

“And maybe I’ve got life experience to know that it’s OK to try other people’s ideas and have them not work. Sometimes it would only be OK if my ideas didn’t work. I can be right or wrong, but you can only be right.

“Allow everybody to make mistakes and not just fire them,” she continued. “The great thing about the music industry is you can make a lot of mistakes

because the song is still there.

You can still show up and make your money at the door. That’s something I’m blessed with.”

Booking Agency Fleming & Assoc. Adam Bauer 734.995.9066

Management Jim Fleming 734.995.9066

Record Company Right On Records 978.270.9151