The difference between a good or bad music manager can make or break your music career. So, it’s important to find the perfect manager for you. The process can be a bit of a minefield, but we’ve compiled a list of helpful dos and don’ts to get you well on your way.
What is a Music Manager?
A music manager plays an essential part in shaping an artist’s career. They are arguably one of the most important roles within your creative team. Music managers are involved with your day to day career, help to maximise your opportunities and handle the business side of things, enabling you to fully focus on the creative side. They should be well-versed in the music industry, be a great networker, and be very organised.
What does a Music Artist Manager do?
A music manager takes on a lot of tasks in an effort to execute your artist vision and goals (either set by yourself or with your manager). This can range from negotiating deals, presenting you to labels or publishers, arranging media shoots, having your music playlisted, getting you heard by tastemakers, securing press coverage, answering emails, managing your social media and more. The role of a manager will differ depending on what you need and what they can offer, for example, you may only need a manager for specifically business affairs, or for a tour.
How to Find the Perfect Music Manager for You
Don’t: Hire a Music Manager for the sake of it
As we’ve said in our earlier post on Building Your Team, needing a manager for what purpose, and when in your music career, is completely up to you. But don’t hire a manager just for the sake of it, or with the expectation that they’re going to change your career overnight. Ask yourself the question: “what do I need a manager for?” and if you have nothing to manage, no live gigs, no music, no social media and so on, what will they actually manage?
Do: Establish what you need from a Music Manager
Following on from the first point, why are you looking to hire a manager and what do you require from the relationship? You may have reached a point in your career where doing it yourself leaves you with too much to do and you need someone to step in, manage, organise and mediate things. Or, you’ve been self-managing and your own skills and expertise have taken your music career as far as it can go and you need a manager’s industry knowledge, contacts and music business skills to take your career to the next level.
Do: Make sure you are ready
To a potential manager, you’ll want to appear as an exciting prospect and worth investing time into. This is also a job for them, and they need to believe that your career can help pay their bills. Before finding or approaching a manager, put in the legwork first. Book as many live shows as you can, get your social media up to scratch, release good music, essentially everything you can possibly do to get your name out there to boost your chances of working with a good manager.
Do: Know where to look
There are several ways to find a music manager. You could look at music management companies, which are big organisations with more resources, often in house promotion and development teams. They’re not necessarily better than freelance managers, it just depends on what you need. You could also look for managers online through directories like The Unsigned Guide, or via social media such as LinkedIn or Instagram. We encourage you to get yourself out there and connect with managers in person such as at networking events, industry conferences and live shows.
Do: Ask friends and other artists for recommendations
Ask recommendations from your friends and fellow musicians who have hired a manager and have seen success. Then, reach out to any other artists your potential candidates have worked with to find out more information, how they’ve found their manager’s management style and how they’ve found the experience.
Don’t: Just settle with anyone
Don’t resort to the “something is better than nothing”, mindset. You may feel lucky that a manager is interested in you, but don’t just jump at the first manager that you find (unless of course, they are the manager for you). Rushing into a bad management contract could come back to haunt you. Instead, take the time to find and get to know a manager who is genuinely passionate about your work, understands your vision and has plans for you. A good manager looks out for your best interests and always has your back no matter what.
Don’t: Work with anyone without a contract
No matter how big or small your career is, make sure you have a contract with anyone you want to manage you. This will protect you both and make sure there can be no misunderstanding about the terms of your agreement. You don’t want to end up like Chance The Rapper and his (former, we can assume) best friend/manager Pat The Manager, who famously sued each other after their manager/artist relationship soured.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, but the main things to cover off in an agreement are:
• what they’re expected to do
• what percentage of your earnings they’ll get paid – 15-20% of your gross income is pretty standard.
• how long the agreement goes for. Again, it’s pretty standard for the period to be a year, and it can a good idea to put in a trial period of around 3-6 months to make sure it’s a good fit.
The above is simply information about contracts and should not be taken as legal advice. We recommend all artists consult with a lawyer before signing any contracts.
Do: Carry on putting the hard work in
Don’t hire a manager and expect them to single-handedly change your music career. You need to continue working hard, if not harder, doing the things that have made your career successful so far. It’s easy to get complacent once you have a manager but remember, you are now responsible for their salary too.
Do: Measure the success of your manager
It’s important to assess what impact your music manager has had on your career. Are things going well? Is your manager a go-getter and creating results? If you aren’t seeing any benefits after a while, you may need to consider other options. It’s a good idea to have a trial period (make sure you set the terms of this), with your chosen candidate before committing. After, either of you can decide whether to carry on or not, with no bad feelings.
Don’t: Be afraid to do it yourself
We live in a DIY world and if self-management works for you, then go with it! There are no hard and fast rules to making a successful career in music. An artist manager can definitely help to get your music career to the next level, but it’s not necessarily going to be the right thing for you, right now.
For more, read our full breakdown on Everything To Know About Music Managers and 5 things to ask someone who wants to be your manager.