Do you want a manager? Most artists will say, “Yes, of course!”, but the question to ask is whether you really need a manager. Be honest…and usually the answer is: I don’t need a manager…yet. The groundwork needs to be laid by you. Have you figured out who you are as an artist, what your live show is all about, and created some sense of branding? These things take time to develop and usually your fanbase develops along with this. This in turn usually attracts the attention of the music industry. We are a pretty chatty bunch and typically talk about what new acts we are into. So, without further ado:
How busy are you really?
Are you overworked and missing opportunities or are you just tired/bored of doing certain tasks? I frequently hear artists say they need a booking agent, but usually the reason I get is that they are tired of booking their own shows. Obviously this is an inefficient approach.
A good manager can augment your career and take a lot of the business side of things off your plate, but they aren’t going to devote all of their time to updating socials, sending out email blasts, updating your website, etc. (at least in the early days). It’s a team, so everyone has to pull their share. However, if you’ve built yourself up to a point to where you legitimately can’t handle everything on your own then, hey maybe you do need a manager. There’s also a good chance that if you’re at that point then someone in the industry is already aware of what you’re up to.
Don’t Sweat the Socials
Yes, it’s 2016 and obviously an online presence is super important. Because of this it may seem that everyone pays attention to social media numbers, but this isn’t always the case with managers. I know plenty of artists with under 1,000 Facebook likes who have legitimate managers working hard on their behalf. It’s more about the music and the story. If an artist is progressive and doing something great musically then the industry will begin to notice. It is still important to have a .com and with turnkey products that are available these days there’s really no excuse for an artist not to have one. Also, don’t buy social followers…it doesn’t work. If you have 90,000 Twitter followers and 1,000 Facebook likes something is fishy.
Live Show Matters
99.9% of the time it’s a deal breaker if an artist is bad live. A good manager will work to build out the rest of the artist’s team with a booking agent, record label, publisher, etc. All of these potential team members are going to want to see the artist live. A booking agent deals with live music all day, every day, and they’ll be out the door within 10 minutes if the artist can’t deliver. This also puts the managers reputation on the line…too many whiffs and people stop replying to emails and coming out to shows. Touring can also be a huge revenue stream for the artist and their team. The live show has to be spot on.
No Manager is Better Than a Bad Manager
This is extremely important, as usually there’s no shortage of people who are not qualified to be an artist manager looking to “make you a star.” *eye roll* This goes for any artist in any part of the country. Management deals typically pull commission for almost every part of your revenue stream, and some in perpetuity (read: forever). There’s nothing worse than signing a bad deal and losing 15-20% of all of your revenue to a slime ball.
Never pay a retainer for an artist manager, there should be no upfront fees. As mentioned above, managers work on a commission model, which incentivizes them to generate revenue for you. If you’re new to the game then the manager should believe enough in the project to operate without any significant revenue in the early days. It’s a building process for everyone.
A bad manager on the other hand, can do some serious damage. They are your window to the rest of the industry. All parties reach out to your manager for approvals, they talk with your agent regarding touring strategy, the label about album cycle assets and marketing, and so on and so on. The point is that your manager is involved in every part of your career. You should want someone professional and experienced to handle these interactions.
So you got a manager, now what?
Congrats…now get to work! Your job as an artist is just beginning. Please don’t be the person who sits around on the couch and asks the manager what amazing things are happening today/why aren’t they happening today. You’ve defied a few odds and got a professional, trustworthy, hard-working, person in your corner and it’s up to both parties to approach everything as a team. Managers who start working with artists when they aren’t making any money are doing so because they believe deeply in the project. This isn’t saying to not hold the manager accountable if you don’t hear from them in a week, but they also need some space to work. Remember, it’s a team!
Daren is a ReverbNation CONNECT Manager based in Nashville, TN. He began his management career in 2008 at Marathon Music Management where he handled digital marketing duties and tour management for a small roster of songwriters and mainstream rock artists. After leaving Marathon Music, Daren spent 3 years at Red Light Management’s Nashville office, handling day to day duties for 3 Doors Down and von Grey, as well as working collaboratively with Red Light’s management team on a roster that includes Lady Antebellum and Dierks Bentley.