Managers vs Artists
The music business is a crazy place. It is a field based on selling art and is an industry with all of its own regulations. In many cases, the artists are not experts in the business-half of things, they are experts in creating art. This is the great divider between artists and the land of success that they want to get to.
The “business” half is the gateway from doing music as a hobby to doing music as a career, and sometimes it’s best to let someone else handle that side of things. As an artist, you may not have the knowledge, skills, or even the desire to “manage” yourself. So hiring a manager might be best. But when is the time right? How much does it cost? Can you do it yourself? Let’s talk about it.
What Exactly Does A Manager Do?
Your manager is your mediator. They stand in for you on all fronts when it comes to the “business” side. They are not to be confused with “booking agents” or “consultants” etc. Your manager isn’t directly responsible for booking shows for you or finding gigs. What they would do, though, is to handle the negotiations for payment, royalty splits, agreements/contracts, and for getting the proper outside help needed when needed.
Managers are the ones who will manage your schedule for you, though may not be the one filling the schedule up. Your manager may fill other roles, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that your manager is strictly a manager.
Your Manager As A Mediator
Your manager will work directly with booking agents, tour managers, merchants, radio stations, other artists managers, or literally anyone else who might have some business relation with you as an artist. Your agent might be actively seeking gigs for you and will coordinate with your manager to schedule everything so you don’t get double booked. Your manager may work with your tour manager to work out where you will be going and where you will stay in each city or book flights etc. Your manager might work with merchants to figure out what items to make and work out logistics and design etc.
Your manager doesn’t do most of these things, but they act as a hub in communication with the people who do all these things and are then your one point of contact who knows everything you need to know about everything going on. They also work out royalty splits on songs with features or if you are a feature on someone else’s song. They work out what you would get paid upfront as well as royalties. A good manager takes the stress of the business side completely away from you so that you can just focus on your relationships with the other artists and creating art.
How Much Will This Cost Me?
Managers are basically contractors who work directly for you. They can be hired or fired but only as specified in your contract. But, just like anyone, they also have to get paid to pay their own bills. How they get paid may differ from one to another.
A common way managers get paid is by percentages of anything your “brand” makes while under their management while others may charge by service and stand in as your manager only as needed and charge you each time you use them. Some might work as cheap as $20 per hour and some may require $100 per hour or more. It will be hard to find any two managers that work the exact same way or charge the same thing. However, depending on how each manager works, they may or may not work with you at all depending on if they think they stand to make any money from working with you. So sometimes, it’s all about where you are currently and it might not be time for a manager yet.
When Is It Time For A Manager?
It’s time for a manager when either a) you have something significant already going on for them to manage, or b) you have the money to pay them upfront to build you up to a stronger point. If you are just starting out you may not have enough going on yet for a manager to take you on if they are getting paid by percentages of deals.
If there’s nothing yet going on for you they have no way to get paid working with you. That can be a barrier because then you have to figure out how to be successful on your own to get things rolling in the beginning. That can take a long time as you go through learning as you go and making mistakes along the way.
The best way to get started is to dedicate yourself to paying a manager or consultant hourly or by each service to get you going down the right road. You should seek management the day you decide to be a music artist but you need to be prepared and willing to pay for their help from day one.
Finding A Good Manager
Finding a good manager is both easy and hard. Meaning, it’s not very hard to find other people’s managers because all you have to do is look up that artist and you will likely find their manager or an email address that is being managed by their manager. But it might be harder to find one for yourself.
The first thing you could do is to do a Google search for “artist management your city” or “talent management” and see if there are any management companies in your area. If you don’t have any luck in your area with those searches then the next step would be to look up the professional recording studios in your area and check with them to find out if they have had any interactions with any artist managers locally. Lastly, you can do a search on LinkedIn.
In a last-ditch effort, if there aren’t any reputable managers in your area, then you may want to get your most “business-minded” friend to consider helping you. At the very least, a manager will just make sure you are not getting into bad agreements and they will negotiate things for you and make sure that your contracts say exactly what was agreed to. Maybe your first task and only task to your stand-in manager is to research and find you a real manager who will then take the reigns. Your friend may even accept payment in beer for finding you a great manager!
Is A Manager A Must?
Absolutely not. Some people are completely the personality type to be their own manager and to be effective. These skills can be learned also. If you have the business fortitude to handle negotiations and to commit to doing your own paperwork, scheduling, etc, then you will do fine in the beginning managing yourself. However, if you try to manage yourself and are not effective then you will only be slowing your success down.
It will take some soul searching and honest self-evaluation to decide if you want to be your own manager. If it is something you take an interest in and if you can handle negotiations with other artists without ruining the tie then get yourself going just long enough to get a basic presence in the industry with intentions of getting a manager when more is going on for you.
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I'm a music producer in Dallas, TX who produces under the name Anthony King Recordings. I pride myself in composing music that I love as well as helping other artists to produce their records when they have a song ready to record.