There’s a lot of debate about the importance of a very traditional role in today’s music industry: the manager. As a musician, an important step in taking your music to the next level is deciding if you need a music manager.
Hiring a music manager is an essential part of building a successful career in music. A good music manager will handle most of the day-to-day business responsibilities of a music career, allowing you — the musician — to focus on making great music.
Even if you’ve only just begun your band, juggling the responsibilities of booking gigs, contacting promoters, and trying to get good press can take time away from what’s most important — your music.
However, choosing a music manager doesn’t always mean hiring someone with years of experience in managing other artists. Sometimes the best music manager is just a parent, friend, fellow band member, or someone who values the music you create.
As long as you choose a music manager who is willing to invest their time and energy into supporting your artistic vision, you’re on the right track.
Here are 11 reasons why you need a music manager right now:
1. To Be Your Coach
Like the coach of a sports team, the main goal of a music manager should be to help you, the musician, be the best you can be.
Similar to how a coach draws plays and helps athletes improve their game, a music manager can help bands and musicians navigate the music industry and make smart career decisions.
Imagine for a second, if a sports team didn’t have a coach. Even if there’s a clear team leader — someone like Michael Jordan, or Wayne Gretzky — the pressure of being a player/coach is an enormous distraction that could prevent the entire team from performing their best.
Let’s be honest, the music industry is a complicated, convoluted, and sometimes antiquated minefield that can be incredibly daunting for any artist — no matter the age or experience level.
But in the same way that a basketball coach would never be expected to go out on the court and make the game-winning shot, a music manager is not directly responsible for an artist’s success.
Also, many coaches have never won a national championship, and most music managers haven’t taken an independent artist from small clubs to stardom.
Experience can make the job of being a music manager easier, but it’s not always the most important thing. Commitment is really the main attribute any music manager should have.
Ultimately, for musicians to succeed in today’s music industry, a music manager is an essential part of building a brand and handling the day-to-day business responsibilities of a music career.
2. To Help You Make Money
I’ve seen so many artists struggle to get paid by their labels or streaming companies, or they don’t know how to market themselves and their music effectively. The best way to make money in the music industry is through live shows, but most artists don’t have the connections and knowledge to do that well.
A good music manager will help you make money by:
- Negotiating good deals with labels, distributors, publishers, and streaming platforms. They know how much money each company makes per month and can negotiate better royalty rates for you than you could on your own.
- Helping you pick the right distributor for your needs (e.g., if you want physical CDs, vinyl records, or t-shirts). If you’re only selling digital downloads on iTunes or Bandcamp then it doesn’t matter who distributes your music because they’ll all take a cut of the sale price anyway (typically around 15% of sales revenue). But if you want physical CDs or vinyl records then it’s important that they’re distributed by someone who knows how to sell them at retail stores like Best Buy and Amazon.
- Getting people out to your live shows. Music managers often moonlight as booking agents who can help you get shows at venues, festivals, and even radio stations. They can also help you set up tours and organize your live show (e.g., hiring a band or DJ to play with you).
- Managing your career/business as a whole. This includes things like getting publicity for your music (e.g., press releases), negotiating contracts with labels, booking agents, publishers and producers.
3. To Schedule Your Time
Time is your most valuable resource, and many artists have trouble using it effectively. As a performer, you’re constantly juggling between putting in your time practicing and rehearsing, writing new material, performing at shows and events, promoting yourself to get more gigs, networking with other musicians and managers, and even spending time with friends and family.
You can’t do everything at once and still be a successful artist. So how do you decide what should take priority? And how do you maximize the results of your time investment?
You need a music manager to help you schedule your time.
A music manager is not just someone who books gigs for you – although that’s part of their job description! A good music manager will also help you budget your time so that you can focus on what matters most: developing your career as an artist or band.
A good manager can help you set goals and create a plan for achieving them. They’ll also help you prioritize tasks so that nothing gets left undone.
4. To Keep You Accountable
The best managers are the ones who can hold their artists accountable for their actions and help make sure that you stay on track with your goals, make sure that you’re meeting deadlines, and ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of what needs to be done next.
They’ll assist in keeping you and your bandmates on track with what needs to be done next, which means that everyone stays productive and focused on their goals instead of wasting time or working inefficiently.
They also make sure that all of the members of the band feel like they’re being taken care of and contributing to their success as much as possible.
A good manager helps artists avoid burnout, which is especially important for those who have day jobs or other commitments outside of making music (like full-time jobs).
5. To Help Motivate You
It can be hard to stay motivated when you’re an artist. You’ve got a lot of people telling you what to do and how to do it, but no one knows your music better than you do. It’s easy for someone who isn’t passionate about your music to make suggestions that aren’t in line with what will make it sound the best.
A good manager knows this, and they’ll never tell you that something isn’t right just because they don’t like it or don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve with it. They’ll always give suggestions based on what they think would work best for your music and your career as a whole.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t listen to feedback and advice from others. In fact, it’s important that you do. But it’s equally important that you don’t let other people make decisions for you.
If someone tells you not to do something because it doesn’t fit with their idea of what success looks like for them (i.e., if someone says that they don’t think your music is good enough), then don’t listen to them anymore.
6. To Make Connections For You
If you want to be successful in the music industry, you need to know how to network and make connections. A good manager will know who to talk to and how to get your music heard by them.
A manager can help you make connections with people in the business, including other artists, managers, record labels, publishers, or even booking agents. Their job is not just about getting gigs for you; they also act as an agent for your career and promote your brand as an artist.
As an independent artist, you already know that it’s getting harder and harder to get the music heard by established industry players. But, you have to be extra careful and very intentional in your approach.
You need a professional advocate who can help you connect and make those important early connections – someone with a track record who knows how to get your music in front of decision-makers at the labels.
7. To Tell You The Truth
As an artist, you’re surrounded by people who want to tell you what they think you want to hear. You need someone who will give you an honest opinion on your music, your career, and your overall direction as an artist.
The most important characteristic of a good manager is honesty. If they’re not honest with you, then they’re not doing their job correctly. They should be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t work for your particular style of music, your image, and where you stand in comparison to other artists in your genre.
If they say something doesn’t work, then it doesn’t. If they tell you that the song is good but could use some changes, then listen to them and make those changes!
You shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not what they’re saying is true or not because if they can’t do their job correctly, then they’re not going to last very long anyway.
8. To Get You More Exposure
If you want your music to be heard, it is important that you have the right person promoting your music. You need someone who has connections in the industry and can make sure that your name gets out there.
Music managers are different from publicists because they do not just do press releases and send out emails. They have relationships with people in the industry, so they can get their artists on big shows and into big publications.
For example, if you want to play SXSW, then you need someone who knows how to get you into those types of festivals.
The other thing about having a manager is that it allows for more creativity when it comes to marketing your band or artist. A publicist might say “We need something new” or “I do not know what else we can do” but a music manager will think outside of the box and come up with some really cool ideas that are guaranteed to work!
9. To Negotiate On Your Behalf
The music industry is an ever-changing landscape, and navigating it as a solo artist is almost impossible. Music managers are the ones who can help artists get gigs and negotiate deals with labels, venues, and other artists.
A good manager will have contacts in all areas of the industry, from booking agents to record companies to radio stations. They know who to call when you need something done, and they know how to handle any problems that come up along the way.
If you’re an artist trying to break into the music industry, you need someone who can negotiate on your behalf. A music manager will help you find work and negotiate deals with labels and venues.
10. To Make You Look Good
The best managers can sell a product, a service, or even themselves. A great manager knows how to promote their clients in a way that makes them look good. They can make something out of nothing and turn a negative situation into a positive one.
They might be an amazing leader or have an eye for detail, but if they can’t make you look good, it’s not worth your time.
Here are some things to look for:
- They’re enthusiastic about your ideas and projects
- They don’t talk down to you
- Treat you with respect and engage in conversation about what they’re doing
- Help you understand what’s important and why it matters to you personally
- If they don’t have all of the answers right away, they admit it and find solutions
It’s tempting to think that just by having a manager, other people in the industry will take you more seriously. But unfortunately, if your manager doesn’t have a confident or professional vibe, it might do more harm than good.
Make sure that when the time comes to hire a manager, they’ll actually make you look good.
11. To Be Your Biggest Fan
The music manager is your biggest fan, and advocate. They are your personal cheerleader, hype man, and probably your best friend.
A good manager will always have your back, fight for you and stand up for you when you’re not there. They’re the ones who will take on your battles and make sure that everything is going well for your career.
No matter where in the world they are or what time it is, a good manager will always be there for you when you need them most. They’ll drop everything to help out if something goes wrong during one of your shows or tours!
They will have your best interests at heart. They’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that as an artist or musician, you’re putting out great music that people want to hear and enjoy listening to.
When should an artist hire a manager?
The best time to get a music manager is when the business aspects of your career begin to interfere with the creative aspects. If you’re spending more time calling venues, pitching to labels, and emailing magazines, than you are actually writing songs and playing music, that’s when you need a manager.
A manager should be a buffer between the artist and the outside world. The job of the artist is to create music; the job of the manager is to take care of everything else.
How much does a music manager cost?
A standard management fee is usually around 15% – 20% of your earnings. This can be negotiated, but it’s important to understand that this percentage is a baseline. Another way managers earn money is by taking a percentage of any deals they negotiate for their artists — whether it’s touring contracts or recording contracts with labels or publishers.
How do I find a good music manager?
Ask around. If you have friends and family who work in the industry, ask them if they know anyone who can help you find a manager. Or maybe you’ve come across someone else in your travels who seems to be doing well for themselves with their music career. Ask them if they can give you any advice on how to go about finding a manager.
All photos in this article were taken by Yohann Libot.