A great music manager has the ability to take an artist’s career to heights that could not be achieved alone. A music manager is the most important part of an artist’s immediate team, having the connections to open doors to an agent, record label, publisher, lawyer etc.
There are lots of different ways that you can find yourself catching the attention of the right music manager, and the music industry is always on the lookout for hot new talent.
The most important factor when seeking a music manager, is that they must love your music. The right music manager should be as passionate as you are about your artistic vision, and believe your music needs to be heard by the masses.
Who Is a Music Manager?
Music managers have a number of admirable traits. Most notably a burning passion for music and a strong business brain; matched with an entrepreneurial drive. Good music managers possess excellent organisational skills, and are of course great networkers- having contacts across the music industry.
The role of a music manager isn’t to simply undertake mundane admin jobs such as keeping on top of emails and artist finances. Whilst these are some of the responsibilities, an experienced and valuable music manager has the insight to devise a successful long-term strategy to truly develop and nurture the career of an artist. A good manager will know how to turn an artist into a commercially viable product, and in turn profit off its success through commission based return.
Finding a good music manager is not an easy task. But if your music is inherently special, and you have established yourself by proving that you can build a fan base, then you have a good chance of being approached by top music management.
Music Managers Are Always Looking Out For New Talent
Music managers are always scouting for artists with significant potential that they feel can develop into successful acts. Managers nowadays look largely online to see where there might be buzz around emerging talent.
The numbers of streams on digital distribution services such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube are strong indicators for whether or not people are paying attention to an artist.
Music managers will also want to check out artists in person to see what their live show is like. They will want to see how the music translates live, and what the natural ability is like of the musicians involved in a project. A manager won’t want to sign an artist that sounds great on a record but can’t pull it off live.
You may not need to be at your peak to catch the attention of the music industry. You might not have every piece of the puzzle together. But a music manager must see enough potential in your music to be willing to invest significant time, energy and resources into building your career, on the basis that you will eventually be making them money.
Managers Work On A Commission Basis
As an artist, you need to understand what is in it for a suitable music manager. Managers won’t work simply out of the goodness of their hearts. Working on commission basis guarantees that they only make money if you generate income.
This structure means that managers are rewarded for their efforts and successes, and therefore it also means that they need to believe in a band enough; that it will grow and become a widely popular and successful act.
You won’t be expected to be making serious money just yet, and of course it’s a music managers job to build your career to the point where you can generate income. With this in mind, you can expect a manager to put in months of their time in for the potential rewards that lie ahead.
What Exactly Are Music Managers Looking For?
A Complete Package
Music managers are looking for artists, bands and singers with talent. Their dream signing would be an artist that is the complete package. By this I mean, an artist that can perform very well, has a unique sound, writes great songs and has a memorable identity.
Evidence of Growth
Music managers will also want to see evidence of growth before committing to invest serious amounts of time and energy into developing an artist. Evidence can be shown in many forms. Music streaming statistics and view counts on YouTube are good indicators for an artist’s growing popularity. Merchandise sales, social media engagement and an ability to sell tickets for shows are all evidence that an artist is on the right track.
A music manager will also want to see that an artist can consistently write great songs, rather than be a one hit wonder and consequently a quick flash in the pan. For the longevity of a career, an artist will need to continually write inspiring and creative material.
Drive To Succeed
Lastly, managers will want to invest their time and energy into artists that have a good attitude. They love to see bands and singers that have a burning passion for channelling their art, and have the determination and drive to succeed.
Top Tips For Finding A Music Manager
Hone Your Craft
In order to maximise your chances of drawing the attention of music management, spend as much time possible being the best musician, songwriter or lyricist as possible, so that you can really impress big players in the music industry.
Get Yourself Out There
Put yourself out there both online and at live gigs. Presenting yourself to a wider audience is essential in order to truly be seen and heard. Make sure you are best prepared and ready to deliver killer performances both in the studio and on stage, as the competition for the limelight is seriously tough.
Invest In Quality Content
This includes recordings, promotional material and videos to promote yourself online. It’s easier than ever to capture high quality recordings in a home studio, and the quality of virtual instruments has never been higher. No longer is it necessary to spend obscene amounts of money to make excellent studio quality recordings that can impress.
Prioritise Building a Fan Base
If you have the patience, and you are able to establish yourself as an artist correctly, eventually you will naturally find yourself in a position to benefit from having a manager on board to assist you.
Red Flags To Watch Out For
Music managers will all have different music tastes and skill sets. Whilst they may all share the same underlying traits and business acumen, they will all work slightly differently and have their own methods for success. But there are some very obvious red flags to watch out for when you are seeking out or being approached by a manager.
Some music managers operate with a retainer, which guarantees them a monthly salary despite your growth, successes and failures. This is entirely to the benefit of the manager and not to you. You will be expected to keep up these repayments in exchange for your manager’s services. Avoid managers that work on a retainer basis. It’s not in their interests to work hard for you, plus it’s a financial burden on yourself.
Management contracts will generally have what is known as a sunset clause, which protects the manager in the circumstance of being dropped after their hard work and successes for you. This is often a fair provision, requiring a repayment of a percentage of earnings over a length of time. Always have a management contract looked over by a music attorney or lawyer to make sure it is fair to all parties.
Has Little Or No Experience
If an artist manager has little to no experience and claims they can do great things to bolster your career, proceed with caution. If they have no proven track record their decision making could be detrimental to you as an artist, and it may take you even longer to reach your goals.
Too Many Artists On A Roster
Be wary of working with a music manager that has an extensive roster of artists, as you will find they will fail to make time for you. The ideal working relationship will require daily communication and frequent phone calls to keep on top of progress. A manager with too many artists to look after will struggle to deligate his or her time effectively.
Top music managers can identify gaps in the market, and will have the vision to know how to best promote you as an artist. This doesn’t just mean your music, but also your image, style and brand. In other words, a manager will have clear ideas on how to market you in today’s highly competitive music industry.
To be a captivating artist in the modern age of music streaming, a manager should have the initiative to know how to help an artist to stand out from the crowd, by helping to forge a brand’s longevity through captivating means of promotion such as music videos, band promos, artworks and in other ways to help build an authentic connection with fans.
There are different avenues to finding the right music manager, but if you are doing everything right; honing a unique sound whilst building your brand effectively, you will eventually find yourself meeting people who can open the right doors and help guide you towards your goals.
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A note about the writer: Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 14 years experience. Since completing a Music Degree at the University of Westminster, Gideon has been touring with metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his advice at Drum Helper, a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.
Header photo by Flavio Gasperini on Unsplash.