In today’s “Do-It-Yourself” culture of music production and music careers, many artists, bands and musicians are confused about whether or not they actually need a Manager.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you probably do, but it may not be in the way that you think.
And it may not even be time for that yet.
Don’t throw your hands in the air – hear me out!
Are You Ready For A Manager?
First thing’s first – Are you ready for a Manager? How would you know? Well, in all honesty, it’s easier to know when you’re not ready for a Manager than it is to know when you are. That may sound confusing but it’s actually rather simple. If you’re not sure, answer these questions:
- Have I developed an image?
- Do I have actual music or a product to sell?
- Am I prepared for live gigs?
You could ask a bunch more, but to make it simple, let’s just start with those. If the answer to any or all of those questions is “no”, then there’s really no reason to have a Manager – there’s nothing for them to do. Nothing for them to manage. Why pay someone to manage you if you’re not going to be receiving any income from what they’re supposed to be managing? Does that make any sense?
But wait, Ender! Don’t I need a Manager to help me prepare for live gigs? Don’t I need a Manager to help me develop my image?
To those things I say “no”. It’s fine if you want a Manager to help you round-out or focus your image from something you’ve already built, but you want to have something already in place. And you surely don’t need a Manager to help you prepare for live gigs – you need a Manager to help you get those live gigs. And you may not even need one to do that yet!
In truth, just starting out, don’t make anything having to do with a Manager your goal. You need to start at a grass-roots level – building your brand from the ground up. And you should always be handling your own promotion and gig searching from the get-go – that’s how you develop your own image and your own voice. It’s also how you learn where you need a Manager, and where you don’t.
Okay then… so when exactly do I need a Manager?
When Do You Need A Manager?
At a certain point in your development, it will become difficult to handle all this business-type stuff (promotion, finding gigs, starting relationships with sponsors and the like) while still creating your product (the music, the image, the brand etc). When you find that you’re spending more time on the business and less on the art, that’s when you need a Manager.
Now, there’s two ways to look at this. In the traditional sense, artists typically want a Manager who is in with the industry, who can talk the talk and walk the walk. You know, a “real Manager”. One that will pluck you out of obscurity and get you signed with a big label. But I would argue that if you have to go out looking for one of these, then it’s the wrong time for that. If anything, you want these types of Managers coming to you. If that’s not happening – and let’s be realistic, it likely isn’t – then let’s talk about the other way to look at this.
Much in the same way I described the concept of a Producer for a small, indie act still developing its music and its sound (something I will touch upon sometime in greater detail) you can easily enlist the services of someone who can act as your Manager.
In other words, a Manager doesn’t need to be some big-time industry veteran that can score you a record deal. Your Manager can be someone you know, trust, and can represent you to the outside world. And if this person has the time to make phone calls and book you gigs, you’re heading in the right direction.
How Can I Be Practical About The Manager Process?
So rather than get tied up in the BIG stuff you would expect a Manager to do for you, let’s get practical. Here are some of the really important, really realistic and really practical things a Manager would need to be able to do for you.
- Make phone calls to create business connections, land gigs or otherwise promote you, and follow up on these connections and opportunities as needed.
- Receive phone calls on your behalf and act as a representative for the band.
- Offer you trusted feedback on your art.
- Help you develop some kind of a business plan or promotion.
- Act as an accountability partner.
- Anything else you can think of that takes time away from you working on your music.
Of note here, this Manager does not have to be an expert in any of the above stuff. Yes, it would help if they are comfortable on the phone and know how to talk to people (they are representing you, after all), but the most important thing here is that they know what it is you want, and genuinely have your best interests in mind. If they meet those two must-have criteria, then you can build on it.
How Can A Manager Be Like An Accountability Partner?
I wrote an article about what an accountability partner is and what he or she does, so I won’t go into too much detail about it here but, as far as I’m concerned, for your Manager to double as your accountability partner (someone who ensures you’re accomplishing the goals you’ve set for yourself) is imperative. Don’t depend on your spouse or a family member to do this – they are too invested in you emotionally. And you’re not likely to take them as seriously as you might think. Your Manager needs to be someone who can push you, and whose opinions, suggestions, and recommendations you will take seriously. If you just brush off this person’s views, he or she isn’t going to make a good accountability partner, and therefore will not likely make a good Manager. I highly recommend reading the above-linked article to learn more.
What Should My Manager Not Be?
Though I could go on and on about what a Manager should be, I will give you a final word about what your Manager should not be. If you’re in a band, your Manager can not be a relative of any member of the band (or someone that’s close like a relative). Even if that person has your entire band’s best interest at heart, there will always be resentment and an assumption that this person is really only in the end looking out for their own. It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not.
The music business is tough. Band members will always end up going through a period where it’s difficult to trust and depend on each other. A family-member Manager is fuel for a terrible fire that you don’t want to be lighting within your group. Your Manager must be someone who can be objective about you and your common goals as a unit, not subjective to any one or two (or a combination) of your membership.
If you’re a solo artist, a family-member Manager is not the worst thing in the world but I would consider going an alternate route for the same reasons I mentioned above about accountability partners. This is a business relationship, first and foremost (and I would argue, only), so you need to look at it like that. If you’re bringing a friend in, that’s okay, but again, make sure you all understand this is business.
Why Do I Need To Draw Up An Agreement?
My last word of advice – friend or not, draw up an Agreement. Keep it simple. So-and-so will perform the following duties in exchange for this or that. The “this or that” can be up-front money (if you have it), percentage of CDs and merch and/or door or tickets sold, other perks – whatever works for your situation. The most important thing here is that the Manager’s duties must be listed so that expectations can be properly set and so that no one is confused about what is supposed to happen.
Set it up for one year and see how it works. If you learn some things weren’t working but some things were or could be improved upon, change the Agreement terms accordingly the following year. Don’t lock yourself into a way of doing things for five years that ultimately doesn’t work. You’ll know in the first year if something (or, heck, someone) is going to work. Be professional, no matter what this person’s relationship is to you.
And always, always communicate. This isn’t an “us against them” game (you vs your Manager), this is an “all-in”, “us against the world” game. You’re on the same side. Act like it.
And make sure that whatever duties you give your Manager, and whatever specifics you give your Manager to act upon, your entire band agrees to them – you can’t have one or two band members making the decisions and going to your Manager to implement strategies, whether against the will of the others or behind their backs. You’re tanking your own career if you do.
Let’s Sum It Up
If you can handle your business duties yourself, you don’t need a Manager yet.
If you aren’t being approached by “real” Managers (as pseudo-defined above), don’t ever go looking for them. They need to feel you are their potential asset, not the other way around. I say this because, for one thing, these are big deals and you need options. Don’t go throwing money at someone who doesn’t see any value in you. No matter how much they try to convince you otherwise.
If you find yourself handling the business end of your career to the point that you can’t create enough, it’s time to consider a Manager.
Your Manager can be a friend, someone you trust, and who can act as an accountability partner. However, they should not be a family member or someone nearly as close to any given members of the band. They should consider all members equally, and in fact view the band as one unit.
Whoever you decide upon and whatever you decide they should do, get it in writing. Offer something in exchange – that’s just the professional thing to do.
As always, I’m not going to pretend I know everything or that my advice is iron-clad. So don’t be afraid to give me your feedback below or offer your own advice about the importance of Managers and whether or not (and when) you really need one.
Also, have you tried anything like the above? How did it go? Have you tried something entirely different? Did it work? If not, why? How? Don’t hesitate to share below!