[Editors Note: This article was written by Maddy Raven of Burstimo.]
Recruiting a manager for your band is a big step, especially as on average, a music manager is paid 15% – 20% of your income. You have to be sure they are adding enough value to your career to justify these payments. Even if you aren’t making much money now, you may eventually find more success and score a huge amount of revenue for the band/yourself – whether it’s from streaming, sales, live gigs and merch sales or a combination.
This can all add up quickly when you have momentum. So you must be sure that taking on a manager will help advance your music career. Here our three questions to ask yourself on whether it’s the right time for a manager:
1. What role does an artist manager play?
There is no fixed job description for an artist manager. Each artist has their own strengths and skills, so often a manager will step in to fill those skill gaps. Whether this is marketing, organization, strategy, music PR or they just write your artist bio.
Most often the management will take an organizational and administration role for the artist/band, while liaising with various parties like live bookers or music PR companies, and addressing any legal tasks that need to be carried out.
The manager is the project manager of the band. He or she is this person who needs to make sure every aspect of the band runs without a hitch. They also need to know all of the resources that are available to an artist, whether it is collecting royalties or using online platforms such as SubmitHub.
If you are an unsigned band, you need more than this – you don’t have a team around you to make things happen, which makes it an extremely difficult job. This is where your manager’s patience, skills and passion for the work are really put to the test.
If you are a signed artist, things can change, and the manager becomes the employee of both the band and the label. Their job is now to liaise with the label to make sure that the band completes all of the demands that they have. But not only this, they need to stick up for your band and negotiate with the label on the band’s behalf.
2. Who are artist managers?
There are three types of artist managers: ‘Friends and Family’, ‘Freelancers’ and ‘Management Companies’.
Friends and Family
This is the most popular artist manager: a person who believes in your music. They may not be a musician, but they have enough passion and drive to work for the band to make it work. It is their way of playing their part.
These people need to learn fast as they likely have no prior knowledge of the industry and have to get learning.
Freelancers are usually part-time individuals who have a little more experience than what you’d expect from friends and family. They have studied the industry or maybe even have a degree in music management.
My advice would be to be very careful with who you choose as a freelance manager. It’s very easy to set up a template website and talk the talk, but will they be able to deliver?
Being a music manager is an aspirational job, but when it comes to working as a manager and facing the difficulties the job comes with, they must have the experience to deal with delicate situations. A freelancer needs to be vetted, and you could even go as far as having a probation period within the contract to ensure that they are effective.
Management companies are where all of the horror stories originate. You have to be very careful not to sign with a management company that is full of good intentions at the beginning, but winds up losing interest in your project when someone else comes their way the following week.
A management company can add great value: existing contacts with record labels, a reputation, press contacts, and the ability to create a real buzz around you as an artist. Just like with the freelancers, you have to outline what they are going to provide for you, as a management company can be very demanding and time-consuming.
A lot of management companies will agree to invest money in your band, allowing you to employ music PR companies, live booking agents and create other online assets you may need.
Don’t grab at your first opportunity when a management company approaches you, be sure to look through the management contract carefully because you will be committing to this management team for at least twelve months. You want to be sure you are making the right decision.
Be sure to ask key questions to the management company such as past successes, their current roster, and the strategy for your career. If you are too afraid to ask difficult questions at this early stage, then it means you won’t have a healthy working relationship with the team.
Management teams with bigger artists or with past successes are not necessarily the best choices for you. Look for a management team who has had recent success, rather than relying on their roster from ten years ago to sustain their reputation. (This also applies to any music PR companies you hire, too.)
3. What character attributes to look for in your manager?
An artist manager needs to be organized and great with people, but most importantly they must know how the music industry fits together. Your manager needs to act as a consultant and strategist for the band, so it is important that they have a vision that is aligned with the rest of the band members and can drive the band towards that vision.
They also need to be able to cope well under pressure, with so many different personalities to deal with, deadlines and as musicians we all know how demanding we can be!