When you embark upon a career in music it can sometimes be difficult to know if you’re getting things right and you can feel quite alone and daunted by decisions to be made. A good manger is someone who knows what you’re doing before you do, an employed confidante who will guide you to where you want to be. A manger should be one of the first members of your team you acquire (and please don’t forget that you should always consult a lawyer before signing a contract with anyone, including a manager).
But … only a manager could tell you who your manager should be. So allow us to help you work it out with some questions you may want to ask.
1. Who have you worked with previously?
It’s always good to gauge a perspective employee’s level of experience (remember that however exciting it is to be picked up by management, they work for you) before you take them on. This is not to say that a manager with absolutely no experience is a bad thing. Sometimes the best and most successful manager will be a friend who is enthusiastic about you as an artist, passionate about music, organised and driven.
2. How do we split the money?
Even if there’s no money to speak of at the moment, you need to have this conversation so everyone’s clear and you know how much of your earnings will go to your manager. Managers generally get paid on commission, commonly around 20%. But 20% of what? If you write songs, are they going to manage you as a songwriter and so take 20% of songwriting income? What about gigs? Merchandise? There are no right and wrong answers, and in the early days everyone’s likely to be helping out with everything, but make sure you talk about it. Doing that at the start avoids awkward conversations and unpleasant surprises later on.
3. Why do you want to manage me?
This is key. The answer to this question will probably determine whether or not you work together. If the answer is full of enthusiasm for the sort of music you are doing, the way in which you want to make music and your philosophy about music, then you have made an ally.
4. Where do you see this going in the future?
Be wary of false promises and yet do not be pessimistic. Just listen to where this manager thinks you could end up and if it matches with where you feel that place would be then this is very good news. They should have ideas about how they would promote you, get you a live agent and ultimately get you signed and selling records. That’s the aim isn’t it?
5. How are we going to get there?
It’s all very well promising the world but how is it actually going to happen? A good manager should have a good, proactive plan. There should be plenty of ideas about gigging frequency and location, merchandise, how to approach labels, where to record, when to record, how and when to distribute, how to build fan base, and all with agreed roles and goals. These are the most exciting and important conversations you can have in your career so cherish them. Like when you get married or buy a house, the same is true of finding a manager – don’t make any decisions until you’re sure, and when you meet the right one, you’ll probably know.
For more on this see Artist Management – Decoded.