The Ultimate Guide to Music Management for Artists and Aspirants

music manager with band

The intricate dynamics of the music industry call for a guiding hand, be it for the artist aiming for stardom or the aspiring manager looking to build a fulfilling career. But what exactly does a music manager do, and how do you find or become one in today’s complex landscape?

This comprehensive guide serves a dual audience—artists thirsty for a champion and aspirants wanting to become an artist/band manager. We’ll delve into what a music manager does, why you might need one, and how you can become the best in the business. 

Whether you’re a tune-crafting newbie or a would-be mogul, read on for an insider’s look into the unsung hero of the music industry—the music manager.

Understanding Music Management On & Off The Stage

Whether you’re an up-and-coming musician or an aspiring manager, understanding the role of a music manager is crucial. For artists, knowing what to expect from a manager helps you form a constructive partnership. You’ll grasp how your talents can be showcased and your pitfalls avoided, leaving you free to concentrate on your art.

On the flip side, if you’re setting your sights on becoming a music manager, understanding an artist’s needs and expectations will make you invaluable. The best managers aren’t just business-savvy; they’re empathetic, anticipating an artist’s needs before they even vocalise them.

So, by looking at music management from both angles, you’re better equipped to navigate the complexities of the music industry.

The Role of a Music Manager

Music managers are integral to the success of artists and bands. From steering the direction of a musical career to navigating the complexities of the industry, a competent manager is indispensable. Yet, many artists and aspiring managers overlook the crucial role these professionals play.

Career Planning

A music manager isn’t just someone who books gigs; they’re a career planner. They work closely with artists to identify both short-term goals and long-term vision. Whether it’s deciding to go on tour or release a new album, the manager helps formulate a strategy to move an artist’s career forward meaningfully. Career planning involves choosing the right opportunities and making decisions that align with an artist’s ultimate objectives. This strategic outlook sets the stage for every other role the manager will take on.

Booking and Scheduling

When it comes to shaping a musician’s journey, a music manager is the unsung hero behind the scenes, especially in the arena of booking and scheduling. This role is a juggling act that involves more than just pencilling in gig dates. From planning recording sessions to locking in interviews and media appearances, the manager orchestrates the artist’s calendar with precision.

The art of booking is multi-faceted, requiring negotiations with venue owners, promoters, and sometimes other artists. It’s about more than just securing a slot; it’s about ensuring that each gig aligns perfectly with the artist’s career trajectory and brand image. An efficiently managed schedule is the foundation upon which opportunities are built and careers are made. Whether you’re an artist or a budding manager, understanding the intricacies of booking and scheduling is a game-changer.

Contract Negotiation

When you hear the words “rock ‘n’ roll,” contract negotiation probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. Yet, in the world of the music industry, a manager’s prowess at the negotiation table can make or break an artist’s career. This isn’t just about getting the most lucrative deals; it’s about securing terms that nurture long-term growth and creative freedom.

Imagine the scenario: Your artist is offered a record deal, and the excitement is palpable. But who ensures that the contract doesn’t include hidden clauses that could limit artistic control? Armed with legal know-how and a deep understanding of the industry, an artist manager will negotiate contracts that are as fair as they are favourable.

It’s not just about record deals, either. From merchandising agreements to tour contracts, the manager is the guardian of the artist’s interests, making sure each signature is a step forward in their career. Whether you’re the talent or eyeing a management role, mastering the art of contract negotiation is indispensable.

Female artist manager doing accounts on laptop

Financial Management

Let’s talk brass tacks: the money. We all know the dazzling allure of the spotlight, but without a solid financial foundation, even the most promising act can swiftly fade into obscurity. That’s where the manager comes into play, steering the financial ship through the turbulent waters of the music industry.

A manager is responsible for budgeting tours, recording sessions, and marketing campaigns, making sure the pennies stretch as far as they can without compromising on quality. They’re the ones scrutinising royalty statements, organising tax affairs, and perhaps even managing investments to grow the artist’s wealth.

You see, it’s a balancing act. Splurging on an extravagant music video might make a splash, but if it jeopardises the upcoming tour’s budget, is it worth it? The manager weighs these decisions carefully, always focusing on long-term stability.

So whether you’re an artist striving for longevity or aspiring to manage one, understanding the ins and outs of financial management is crucial. After all, talent might get you in the door, but financial acumen keeps you in the room.

Branding and Marketing

If music is the soul of an artist, then branding is the face and marketing is the voice. It’s how an artist is presented to the world and what sets them apart in a crowded market. The music manager’s role here is far from superficial; it’s strategic, data-driven, and creatively charged.

The manager works closely with artists to hone their image, ensuring it’s in sync with their music and message. From coordinating photo shoots to planning merchandise, the manager is the gatekeeper of the brand. But it’s not just about aesthetics; it’s also about capturing the essence of the artist in a way that resonates with fans.

On the marketing side, the manager oversees campaigns that get the music into as many ears as possible. They’re talking to labels, liaising with PR firms, and negotiating brand partnerships. This could range from conventional album promotions to viral social media stunts.

For those considering a management career or seeking one, this is a pivotal area to master. A killer brand and a savvy marketing plan can propel an artist from underground buzz to mainstream sensation. And guess who’s at the helm of that transformation? That’s right, the manager. So if you want to excel in the music industry, this is one area you can’t afford to overlook.

Crisis Management

In the unpredictable world of the music industry, it’s not a question of if a crisis will occur, but when. From scandalous headlines to tour disasters, a music manager has to be prepared for the unexpected. It’s all about damage control, and sometimes, transforming a crisis into an opportunity.

When the chips are down, a manager serves as the crisis communication hub. They’re the one speaking with legal teams, coordinating with public relations, and updating the artist. The goal? To navigate the stormy seas with as little impact to the artist’s career and public image as possible.

The role extends to preparing contingency plans for events that might throw a wrench in the works. Whether it’s a last-minute venue cancellation or a social media mishap, the manager has to have quick solutions up their sleeve.

For those interested in becoming a manager or artists seeking one, crisis management skills are invaluable. It can make the difference between a blip on the radar and a career-defining catastrophe. When the going gets tough, a good manager is the pillar that helps the artist stand tall amidst the chaos.

Part 1: Artists Looking for a Manager

Why Do You Need a Manager? (And When to Go it Alone)

You’ve got the talent and the drive, but the business side of the music industry can be a maze that’s tough to navigate on your own. A manager can serve as your personal GPS, guiding you through career decisions, booking gigs, and making sure you get paid your worth. But what if you’re just starting out and the idea of self-management is more feasible than hiring a professional?

Self-management, especially in the early stages, can offer a low-cost, hands-on learning experience. You’ll get a taste of what it takes to run the show, from booking your own gigs to handling your social media. For some artists, this DIY approach is enough to kickstart their careers. However, as things escalate, the limitations become apparent. Balancing creative output with administrative tasks can sap your energy and divert focus from your art.

That’s when a manager becomes invaluable. They allow you to concentrate on your music while they take on the nitty-gritty of your career. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship; they benefit from your success as much as you do. So, whether you’re self-managing or considering hiring someone to take the reins, understanding what a manager brings to the table can be a game-changer for your career.

How to Choose a Manager

The elusive quest for the perfect manager isn’t straight forward – and if you’re unsigned, the challenge ramps up a notch. Managers are often swayed by an artist’s existing clout, making it a bit of a catch-22. You need a manager to gain more exposure, but you need exposure to attract a manager. But don’t fret; it’s not an insurmountable hurdle.

Firstly, your network is your net worth. Engage with the music community, attend industry events, and don’t shy away from reaching out to people who might connect you with potential managers. Consider engaging with smaller management firms or individual managers who are looking for fresh talent to groom.

When you do find potential candidates, dig deep. Research their track record and ask for references. A manager will be involved in nearly every aspect of your career, so compatibility is key. Make sure their vision aligns with yours and that they’re as enthusiastic about your music as you are. 

Lastly, always get legal advice before signing anything. You want to make sure the contract serves both parties fairly. After all, a poor choice in management can stall your career faster than a dodgy chord in a live set.

In short, finding a manager as an unsigned artist isn’t easy, but with determination, research, and a bit of networking, it’s entirely possible. Just remember, the right manager can transform a raw talent into a polished gem. Choose wisely.

musician signing contract

Artist Management Contracts: What to Look For

When it comes to putting pen to paper, many artists feel like they’re tiptoeing through a legal minefield. Let’s be straight: contracts are a labyrinth of jargon and clauses that can make or break your career. But fear not, there are key elements you should focus on to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

First and foremost, scope out the length of the contract. How long are you tied down for? A contract for an eternity might seem great when you’re on a career high, but what happens if things go south? Likewise, too short a term may not give the manager enough time to fully invest in your growth.

Next, look at the financial terms. What’s the commission rate? And is it based on gross or net income? These can significantly impact your earnings, so it’s crucial to hash this out up front. 

Now, onto exclusivity. Does the contract specify the manager’s role in relation to other professional engagements you may have? You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where your manager is preventing you from taking other opportunities that come your way.

Termination clauses are equally important. Under what conditions can either party exit the contract? A clear exit strategy protects you from being bound to a manager who isn’t delivering, and vice versa.

Lastly, seek legal advice. It’s non-negotiable. Having a solicitor who specialises in entertainment law review the contract can save you from pitfalls that you didn’t even know existed.

In essence, your management contract is more than a business agreement; it’s a partnership that can shape your musical journey. So take the time to understand it inside and out.

Looking to find out more? Check out our article Understanding Artist Management Contracts.

indie band with red flag

Red Flags and What to Avoid

Navigating the management landscape is far from a walk in the park, and it’s easy to get drawn in by promises of fame and fortune. However, some warning signs should set off alarm bells, and here’s how to spot them.

First up, avoid managers who promise the world but can’t show a track record of success. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want to be an experiment. If they’re promising arena tours within six months but have never managed a band before, tread carefully.

Beware of managers who are eager to sign you without due diligence. If they haven’t spent time getting to know you, your music, or your career goals, it’s a sign they’re not truly invested in your success. It’s not just about the contract; it’s about the fit.

Next, be cautious of vague or overly complex contract terms. If you’re unable to understand the contract, even after it’s been explained to you, it might be intentionally obfuscated to trap you in clauses that don’t favour you. 

Keep an eye out for financial inconsistencies. Any manager who asks for a large sum of money upfront is likely not legit. While some management deals involve initial costs, these should be transparent and reasonable.

When the sirens go off in your head, listen to them. Red flags are a protective mechanism alerting you that something isn’t quite right. Spotting them early on can save you from a world of heartache and legal woes.

Tips from Industry Experts

Gathering insights from those who’ve been around the block can give you an edge in your search for the perfect manager. We’ve collated pearls of wisdom from seasoned artists, established managers, and other industry insiders to guide you on this critical journey.

  1. Trust is Paramount: A strong foundation of trust is crucial in any manager-artist relationship. Trust your gut feeling when meeting potential managers.
  2. Clear Communication: Industry veterans stress the importance of clear, open communication. Whether it’s about career goals or contract terms, make sure everyone’s on the same page.
  3. Shared Vision: Make sure your manager understands and shares your artistic vision. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your manager is pushing you towards a genre or style that doesn’t resonate with you.
  4. Financial Transparency: Several experts recommend insisting on financial transparency from the get-go. Know where the money comes from and where it’s going.
  5. Vet Thoroughly: Don’t hesitate to do background checks. Ask for references and actually call them. Research their past work to ensure they have the credentials they claim to have.
  6. Negotiate Terms: Remember that almost everything is negotiable. Don’t just accept the first draft of the contract. Get legal advice to understand what you’re committing to fully.
  7. Don’t Rush: More than one industry professional pointed out that good things take time. Don’t rush into an agreement because you’re eager to get things moving.
  8. Be Your Own Advocate: Especially for unsigned artists, knowing the basics of self-management can be a massive asset. Some experts suggest managing yourself initially to understand what you’ll eventually need from a professional manager.
  9. Networking is Key: Don’t underestimate the power of a strong network. The best recommendations often come from within the industry, so tap into your contacts for advice and introductions.
  10. Be Realistic: Lastly, align your expectations with reality. As one seasoned manager put it, “I can’t make you famous; I can only make you busier.”
musician shaking hands with potential manager

Part 2: For Aspiring Managers

Skills You Need to Succeed

Embarking on a career in music management? Kudos for taking the plunge into one of the most dynamic, but also challenging, sectors in the entertainment industry. Success here demands a well-rounded skill set, so let’s break down the essentials.

  1. Business Acumen: You’re not just managing an artist; you’re managing a brand. Understanding the basics of business, from finance to marketing, is imperative.
  2. People Skills: You’ll be the mediator between the artist, record labels, publicists, and so on. Exceptional interpersonal skills are a must.
  3. Negotiation Savvy: Whether it’s hammering out a record deal or securing prime festival slots, negotiation is a daily part of the job. Sharpen those skills to get the best for your artist.
  4. Attention to Detail: Contracts, riders, tour logistics—the small stuff matters. A minor oversight could cost your artist big time.
  5. Resilience: The music industry is rife with rejection and setbacks. A thick skin will help you persevere when the going gets tough.
  6. Organisational Prowess: Juggling tour dates, studio time, and media appearances require serious organisational skills. If you’re not a planner, become one.
  7. Adaptability: Trends change. Platforms evolve. Being adaptable ensures you and your artist stay relevant.
  8. Tech-Savvy: From social media algorithms to digital distribution, a keen understanding of technology will set you apart from the rest.
  9. Creative Flair: You might not be the one on stage, but a creative touch will help in everything from promotional campaigns to resolving conflicts.
  10. Legal Know-How: A rudimentary understanding of contracts and intellectual property can go a long way. When in doubt, consult an expert, but basic knowledge is a must.

Develop these skills, and you’ll not only be ready to tackle the complexities of managing an artist, but you’ll also set yourself up for a fulfilling and long-lasting career.

How to Get Started as a Music Manager

While the rewards of artist management can be immense, breaking into this highly competitive field demands dedication, savvy, and often, a guiding hand. Many find that working alongside a seasoned mentor is the golden ticket to mastering the ropes. Now, let’s dig into how you can make your mark.

  1. Education and Training: A strong educational background in music business, management, or a related field can make you more appealing to artists and record labels alike.
  2. Networking: This business thrives on connections. Frequent industry events, join professional organisations, and make your presence known.
  3. Intern or Assist: The old adage “experience is the best teacher” couldn’t be more relevant here. Secure internships or assistant roles to gain practical, on-the-job training.
  4. Start Small: You’re unlikely to manage a platinum-selling artist right out of the gate. Cut your teeth with local talent and gradually work your way up.
  5. Build a Portfolio: Document your journey and successes to show potential clients your value. This is your professional showreel; make it impressive.
  6. Understand the Market: Constantly update yourself on market trends, social platforms, and legal changes. Knowledge is power in this gig.
  7. Set Up Shop: Having a dedicated workspace adds a layer of professionalism and helps keep you organised, something your future clients will surely appreciate.
  8. Legal Formalities: Know the ins and outs of contracts and licenses. Don’t underestimate the importance of legal backing; consult with professionals when in doubt.
  9. Find Your Niche: As you get more comfortable in the field, you’ll notice specific markets or genres where you shine. Specialising can make you a more attractive manager to prospective talent.
  10. Go the Extra Mile: Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed in this business. Whether it’s burning the midnight oil to secure a gig or negotiating your way out of a tight spot, your tenacity will set you apart.

Building Your Artist Roster

In the world of music management, the cornerstone of your success lies in building an impressive artist roster. But this isn’t about amassing names like they’re trading cards; it’s about cultivating relationships and investing in talent that aligns with your expertise and vision. Early on, it can be tempting to take on anyone who comes knocking, especially when you’re keen to make a name for yourself. Yet, quality over quantity remains the golden rule.

Identifying emerging talent often involves frequenting local gigs, scouring music platforms, and relying on recommendations from your industry network. It’s a mix of intuition, timing, and good old-fashioned legwork. Each artist you add should complement the roster, opening doors not just for them but for everyone else you manage.

When bringing an artist into your fold, ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of expectations and goals. Contracts should be transparent and fair, establishing trust right from the get-go. And remember, your reputation is everything; word spreads fast in this tight-knit industry. A well-curated, diverse roster not only attracts more opportunities but also establishes you as a manager who knows their stuff. And let’s face it, in this business, that’s pure gold.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Management

Navigating the complexities of music management requires a nuanced approach that balances the hard facts with the softer aspects of human interaction. So, what are the do’s and don’ts that can make or break your journey?

Do’s

  1. Communicate Openly: Whether it’s good news or bad, clear communication is paramount. Keep your artists in the loop about their career trajectory, upcoming gigs, or any shifts in strategy.
  2. Be Ethical: This isn’t just good advice; it’s a requirement. Uphold the highest standards of integrity, because your reputation is your currency in this business.
  3. Know Your Boundaries: You’re not just a manager; you’re also a confidant and sometimes even a friend to your artists. But it’s crucial to set professional boundaries to maintain an effective working relationship.
  4. Stay Informed: The music industry is ever-evolving. Keep abreast of trends, technologies, and shifts in consumer behaviour. Adapt or become irrelevant.
  5. Be Proactive: Don’t wait for opportunities to come knocking; create them. Reach out to venue owners, engage with fans online, and explore collaborations that can elevate your artists.

Don’ts

  1. Over-Promise and Under-Deliver: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of potential deals or the buzz of a hot new track. Manage expectations realistically to maintain trust.
  2. Neglect the Business Side: Yes, it’s music, but it’s also a business. Slacking on administrative tasks like contracts, scheduling, and financial planning can derail your artists’ careers and your own.
  3. Ignore Personal Well-being: The high-octane world of music can lead to burnout. Make time for self-care, and don’t ignore the well-being of your artists.
  4. Become Complacent: Success is not a destination but an ongoing journey. Even if you’ve had a hit, don’t rest on your laurels. Always look for the next big thing.
  5. Micromanage: Artists are creatives who need space to grow and experiment. While guidance is necessary, stifling their creative process can be detrimental.

Final Notes for Artists and Aspiring Managers

In the dynamic world of music, the role of a manager is often the linchpin that holds everything together. Whether you’re an artist seeking a guiding hand to ramp up your career or an aspiring manager keen to break into the industry, understanding the intricacies of music management is crucial.

Artists, remember that a good manager can become an extension of your own aspirations, offering the logistical and emotional support that lets you focus on what you do best: creating music. But the responsibility is not all on their shoulders; you too must be proactive, well-informed, and communicative to ensure a fruitful collaboration.

For those aspiring to become managers, the journey may be challenging, particularly if you’re venturing out independently. While the hurdles are many, they’re not insurmountable. With the right skill set, a commitment to continuous learning, and perhaps a mentor to guide you, you can carve a fulfilling career shaping the stars of tomorrow.

To both camps, the message is clear: success in music management is a two-way street that relies on mutual respect, transparency, and a whole lot of hustle. With these guiding principles in tow, you’re well-equipped to navigate the thrilling, yet demanding, landscape that is the music industry.