Sometimes, you just want to throw your hands in the air and tell someone else to deal with all the hard stuff, am I right?! You want to be able to turn to someone when you need advice, call on them when it’s time to strategize, and just know that someone out there has your back. For many artists, that means having a manager. But here’s the kicker—it’s not always the right time to bring one on.
Sure you may be wrestling with all of the above feelings, but just because you want a manager or feel like you need a little help doesn’t mean you’re actually ready for one. Here are five things to ask yourself next time you start to wonder if you’re ready for a manager.
Why do you want a manager?
This might seem like an obvious question, but you want to be really truthful with yourself when you ask it. A lot of emerging bands seem to think they’re going to hire a manager when they’re struggling to do anything themselves and the manager is going to just do it all for them and then (and only then) when they get rich and famous they’ll pay the manager fairly and everyone will live happily ever after.
So ask yourself: why do I want a manager?. If it’s simply because you’re struggling to get your own press placements then the answer isn’t to bring on a manager. It’s to hire a publicist or learn how to properly run a DIY PR campaign. If you’re struggling to put together shows, talk to a booking agent. If you don’t understand your taxes, call an accountant. A manager is there to help you when you have something to manage, not to do all the work you should be doing yourself. Which brings me to…
Do you have anything to manage?
If you want to bring on a manager, you should probably have something that needs managing. Now, there are a lot of people out there just dying to get into the management field who will work hard for the bands they believe in, helping them with everything I just listed above—and if you find that team member and hit it off and you’re both getting what you need out of it, then awesome! But you don’t ever want to be taking advantage of someone’s time. When you’re not making any money, it’s not really reasonable to enlist someone’s help and offer to pay them 15% of nothing. It’s also not reasonable to think in terms of “well if they’re good at their job they’ll be able to get me all these things and then they’ll make money.” That’s not how it works. The best manager in the world can’t get you press or gigs or label interest if your music sucks, you’ve burned all your bridges around town, or you suck at social media.
So ask yourself: Do I actually have anything to manage right now? What is actually happening in our band life that we need help with and is it something another person is going to be able to do?
What are you expecting them to do (that you can’t do yourself)
This brings us very nicely to the question of, what is it they’re going to do that you can’t do? As I mentioned, it doesn’t matter how great a manager they are, if you’ve created an obstacle for them (like alienating all the local venues or refusing to use social media because you want to be mysterious) it’s going to make it very difficult for them to accomplish anything.
So before you bring someone on, ask yourself how they can build off what you’ve already created. Because truthfully, that’s what they’re there for. They aren’t there to do all the work for you, they’re there to build off the existing creation—and they can only work with what you provide them, so be sure that before anything else, you’re giving them something to work with.
What can you offer them?
I know, I’ve flipped the script here! But think about this—why does a manager want to work with you? Great music or talent aside, go deeper. What is it about your band that they’ll connect with? What (beyond the music) will resonate with them? And financially speaking, what can you offer them? If you’re making a decent amount of money, a percentage might be totally fine, but if you’re struggling to bring in money and you’re asking for a lot of help upfront to get things set up, you might want to agree on a monthly retainer.
What’s the long game?
Finally, this brings to the big question: what are your goals? What is it you want out of this career? “To be famous” is not an answer and neither is “to sign to a label.” Those are all results of the career you create. Before you bring anyone on your team, you need to be really clear on why it is you’re doing what you do (to make kids feel less alone, to make enough money to be able to donate 10k a year to a charity of your choice, etc) as well as what you want your career to look like.
Now, it’s ok for this to change over time, in fact, it should. But you want to have a rough idea of what your future looks like, so that you can make sure your manager 1) can get behind it and 2) knows what it is they’re working towards. Helping build the career of an artist who wants to sign to a major label and tour eight months out of the year is going to look a lot different than building the career of an artist who wants to play the festival circuit in the summers but primarily just write and record the rest of the time. Ask yourself what you’re going for, and then find someone who can get behind that and help make it happen.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.