It can be a real struggle to know what to do next.
There you are, you’ve created an incredible piece of music and you can’t wait to get it into the world. You know your music is good, but somehow, every time you release a new song, it’s kind of a flop.
You’ve tried the things you’re told can help— post to social media, connect with fans, or play lots of shows. Yet somehow, you never quite break into the level of success you’re hoping for.
It’s all starting to feel a little overwhelming, isn’t it?
So, maybe you start to think “what I really need is a manager.” Because what you want more than anything is someone to help you make your career what you know it can be. Someone to believe in you, to fight for you, to just give you a little bit of help. And so you start looking… and looking… and looking.
It turns out, as much as you want a manager, they might not want you.
If you’ve found yourself in this spot, or perhaps you’re in it now, you might be wondering “what’s going on?! Why won’t they talk to me?!” and the truth might be as simple as, you’re not actually ready for a manager yet.
While managers have been viewed as a cure-all to indie artist woes, the truth is, they’re not always the solution. But knowing all of that means knowing what a manager actually does—and if they’re right for you.
So, what does a manager actually do?
The manager of an up and coming indie talent and one of a major label star have different roles. As such, their roles even for indie artists will vary— there are a few things they do, and a few they definitely don’t.
At the core, a manager’s job is to manage what you have going on (see how that works?) So it’s not to book your shows for you (though some will help with that). It’s to help you find the tools to do it yourself, hire a booking agent, advise you what venues might be a fit, etc.
It’s also not their job to do your social media, your press, or get you on a festival. It is their job to be a liaison between you and your marketing person, publicist, and promoter of the festival. It is their job to advise you on opportunities and constantly point you in the right direction.
In a nutshell, their job is to help you find other experts and help you put the pieces together. But it’s not their job to do all the work for you.
Are you ready for a manager?
There’s an old saying that goes:
How do I know if I’m ready for a manager?
The manager will find you.
And that’s largely true. While there are a lot of managers just getting their start who are looking to partner with indie artists also getting their start (and that can be a fantastic partnership), if you’re looking for someone with years of experience and connections, odds are they’ll already have heard of you and they’ll be looking for you.
How do I get manager-ready?
For a manager to take interest in you, you need to show strong potential and that you have a project worth investing their time and energy into. Remember, most managers work off a percentage of what you make through your merch, shows, etc. If you’re making $100 a month, it doesn’t really make sense to expect a manager to come in and be willing to get paid 15% of that (fifteen bucks!) in exchange for countless hours a week of hustling your career for you.
A manager wants to work with a band that not only shows talent, but also shows promise. That can demonstrate they’ve been willing to work hard to build their band to where it is, and now just need some help with the next steps and connections. These are the bands that have put in the time to consistently post engaging content on social media, to play out and bring out a decent draw through their efforts on social media, flyering, and networking. It’s the bands who go that extra mile for their fans by creating unique merch, putting on special exclusive shows, or communicating with them on socials (which builds a loyal fanbase). It’s the artist who recognizes the business side of the industry and embraces it.
That’s how you get a manager’s attention and it’s also when you know you’re actually ready for management—when you see that the business side of this industry isn’t some great hindrance but actually, your greatest strength.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and the THRIVE Mentorship program—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.