How to Raise a Child Star
The first rule of parenting: Everyone thinks their child is a superstar.
But if that actually is true, and you do have a unique talent living under your roof, then watch out. You have to start thinking about how to develop that talent, how to support their career - and how to pay for it all.
Now there is a book to get you through the process. New York City-based entertainment lawyer Steven Beer just released "Your Child's Career in Music and Entertainment," about how to navigate the choppy waters of child superstardom.
After 20 years in the business and helping to launch the careers of Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, Beer took up the task when his own son, Max, was cast in a touring production of Neil Simon's play "Lost in Yonkers".
Reuters sat down with him to discuss what to do - and what not to do - when your kid is about to take over the world.
Q: Everyone thinks their kid is talented. How do you know if they are really something special?
A: Talent is not enough. There has to be an 'It Factor,' that breaks through in a competitive market. And they have to be a self-starter, to be prepared and responsible enough to rehearse without parents having to badger them. Those are the things you are looking for.
Q: If a child starts getting offers, what should parents look out for?
A: Parents are typically so flattered that they don't think clearly. So they should sit down with a good attorney to explain and negotiate it. For an artist just starting out, a manager might ask for 20%. But 15% is a good middle ground, and 10% is what we strive for. And you always want a shorter term.
Q: What costs can parents expect in developing their child's career?
A: The biggest cost is training, like high-level vocal or acting coaches. It is also very expensive to travel, whether it is to Midtown Manhattan for auditions, or to the West Coast for TV pilot season.
Every March you have countless parents and young artists moving to residences in Studio City, California: They fly out there, rent an apartment, rent a car and pay for meals. Those are costs you really need to consider, because they are substantial.
Q: What are some creative ways to finance all that?
A: The trend these days is to access development dollars through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Those didn't even exist a few years ago.
If you have a good audition tape, and people start to get excited about it, then fans will start to fund you. In return you might give them a DVD, or a CD, or a backstage tour of one of the child's productions.
Q: How important is writing down a budget?
A: It is essential. It may seem like this is just a passion, but this is a real business. So you have to write down a business plan, estimate expenses and set up a timetable.
If a parent has to stop working, that is another financial element to be considered. Sit down with an accountant and figure it all out. At the end of a certain period, you have to make a business judgment about whether or not it makes sense.
Q: A lot of stage parents see dollar signs when it comes to their children. What exactly are they entitled to?
A: There are plenty of examples where parents just helped themselves to their child's revenues. Some of that may be justified, in terms of the up-front investment dollars that they get reimbursed for.
But that money really belongs to the child from the get-go.
Q: What do most parents do wrong in this situation?
A: They do many things wrong. Mostly it is because they lack experience in these areas, and have no objectivity. When it is your kid, it is so easy to lose perspective.
That is why I strongly urge parents to work with experienced professionals as a sounding board. It is treacherous terrain, and they need to make sure everything is being done in the child's interest.
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