Since we've launched TFC and have been conducting interviews with artists and industry folks alike, we've worked with and talked to quite a few artist managers. Add to that TFC's founders' past and present roles in the music industry. Collectively, we have a pretty long list of experiences with management teams and individuals.
Most of the time, the artist/manager relationship is a seamless experience. But you must have the right fit. The manager must understand the needs, wants and goals of the artist...and the artist must respect and trust the judgement and (hopefully) experience of their manager.
So how do you choose the right manager? How do you even know if you're even at the level that you need a manager?
What if you're not an artist yourself but want to be a manager?
For those of you out there who are just beginning in management, whether it be helping a friend with their first step into the waters, or seeking out a new artist to offer your services to as an entry-level manager, we're going to give you some pointers on "to do and not to do's", along with breaking some common myths that you may hear from time to time.
We're also going to help artists and bands determine when is the right time to start working with a manager.
If you're reading this article, you're probably not managing a multi-platinum, award-winning, charting artist and vacationing in the Maldives...and if you are, as stated in a previous artcile ("Optimizing Your Pre-Tour Wallet"), you shouldn't be here, go back to the bus. Bieber needs some scheduling taken care of. Why are you sitting there?
MANAGERS IN THE MAKING: Myths & Tips
1. I'M GOING TO MAKE A TON OF MONEY MANAGING THIS NEW INDIE ARTIST! BY NEXT YEAR I SHOULD BE ABLE TO BUY A NEW CAR!
No. You're not. And NO you're not.
If you're looking into getting involved in the management end of the entertainment industry, we HOPE that you're doing it because you CAN'T imagine yourself doing anything else. Because you LOVE the "back-end-drive-you-crazy-no-sleep-referee-juggler-of-everything-zero-limelight" type of position. You're doing it because you LOVE to help something grow from the ground up, you're passionate about music AND business (especially that of the artist you want to manage), and you're more than willing to eat Ramen while you're building your business.
So don't begin this venture with the idea that you're going to be suddenly wealthy (you get a percentage of what your artist earns...remember?). So that artist must be making some money before YOU start making any money. Your college buddies that just started that indie band are NOT going to be able to pay you outright, and if you convince them they SHOULD, you are already a bad manager. If you want your artist to succeed, you should already be aware that the small amount of money they're making now needs to be put back into the band. On another note, if they're NOT putting it back into the band, politely bow out and find another artist. Your client spending their miniscule amount of door and merch money on beer is NOT going to get any of you anywhere.
2. I'M A BAND MANAGER! I'M THE BOSS! WOOHOO!
No you're not. They are.
"What?", you say.
That's right. The title of "manager" when referring to an entertainer does NOT mean you are suddenly CEO of all the rules and regs. Sorry to burst your bubble.
However, again, this is all on your terms as well. So look at it that way: if you're managing Skippy and Bobby's band of hooligans who battle with EVERY single suggestion you give them, why are you managing them? Your job is to understand the direction and career-path of the artist and make suggestions and do the business-related legwork to help them get there. And they should respect and value your input.
If you sought them out and asked to be a part of their team (yes TEAM...we're going to cover that in another blog.), then hopefully you've already done your research on Skip and Bob's hooligans and you're well aware that they are a hardworking unit who just need the guidance and help to put their talent in front of the folks it needs to be in front of.
3. I CAN'T BE A BAND MANAGER BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW ANYONE WHO'S IMPORTANT.
But you can. Get your go-getter-over-achieving butt out there and MEET people. If you've got what it takes to do the job, then you've got the personality to make those connections. (Look for another blog coming soon on how to meet the "movers and shakers"). You're at the beginning. Don't plan to stay a bottom feeder forever. It's your dream. Go be a bigger deal.
4. I DON'T HAVE TIME TO ANSWER THESE EMAILS. I'LL PUT IT OFF UNTIL LATER BECAUSE I HAVE A REGULAR JOB THAT PAYS ME REAL MONEY.
You're a bad manager. Get out of the game NOW please.
If you've committed to an artist to manage specific parts of their career, and you're putting something else FIRST, please let that artist go and tell them you don't have TIME do be an entertainment manager.
You CAN do it, you CAN juggle it, but you have to put your mind to it. If you aren't that type of person and you can't do that job, then you are not allowed to play and you are not allowed to sit at that table.
5. UNDERSTAND YOUR JOB AS A MANAGER.
You're main job is to be a voice for your artist, an advisor to your act and a handler of the day-to-day business activities of the band. You may be wearing many hats at once. You have to be good at working with people (both your act as well as the folks your act is entering into business relationships with). You need to have at least somewhat of a "business mind" but also understand the creative side of the industry. You should be constantly learning, seeking out new opportunities for your artist, and communicating with your artist. We'll have more about this in a future blog.
YOU'RE AN ARTIST: So you think you're READY for a manager?
1. WE JUST STARTED A BAND LAST WEEK! WE NEED TO FIND A MANAGER TO HELP US GET SOMEWHERE! WE'RE READY!
Stop. No...you're not.
Have you scheduled and attended your rehearsals to a tee?
Has everyone shown up consistently for at least a long enough period of time that you KNOW your band is solid?
Have you booked some of your own shows and BUDGETED your band's expenses, savings, etc.?
Have you played enough shows to know that you don't seriously suck?
If you answered NO to any of the above questions...do these things first and THEN think about seeking out management.
Then, when you can say YES to all of these...ask yourself: do you even have anything to actually MANAGE? Have you exhausted all of your own efforts (and those of each and every band member) to increase awareness of your band, network with local promoters and venues and start making at least some connections to the music industry. Are you being approached by folks who want to hire you? Are you actually starting to make some money?
Nobody worth their salt as a potential manager wants to (or is even going to) hand-hold or change diapers all day instead of building their own business as they build yours.
2. WE CAN'T AFFORD A MANAGER. WE DON'T MAKE ANY MONEY.
Untrue, to a point.
If you're honestly a musician or act looking for your 'lifetime manger', please PLEASE don't jump right into the very first person who says "I'll manage you and I'll ONLY take 10% of everything you make". Your best friend or Mom's cousin third-removed or that old college buddy may NOT be the best person to manage you, no matter how well-intentioned they may seem or how close you are to them...or even how much they beg you. Make sure it's the best fit. Do you see this relationship lasting beyond a certain point? Does this person want to be an artist manager for the long haul, or do they only want to help you get to the next level and then step aside? Or do YOU only want them to help you get to the next level and then step aside? Discuss, discuss, DISCUSS with your potential new manager.
Remember, only a FEW artists out there get lucky enough to post a killer viral video on YouTube and then get contacted by a well-known manager or management company with enough connections to shoot you to the Grammy's by next year. Statistics say that won't be you. So look in the right places for the right manager who has the HEART to help you build your company as well as the DRIVE and SKILLS to do it. Then build it together. There are many times a band or artist hits the big time with the same small "nobody" manager they started with who worked his or her butt off for the act. Why? Because they built a business together. They KNOW each others moves, likes, dislikes, wants and needs like nobodies business. They respect and understand each other, and they're both working for a common goal.
As mentioned above in the MANAGERS IN THE MAKING section, a manager shouldn't be taking your money this early if you're not even able to cover your own expenses with what you're earning from your music. In connection with that, if you're spending all your pay from shows and merch on beer, PAY YOUR MANAGER. It goes both ways. He or she will put in the time to push you to the next level, but you should be putting in MORE time to do the same. Ultimately, nobody (not even your manager) is going to do it FOR you. Work hard together, and when you "make it", your manager makes it.
How much should you pay your manager? The typical commission is 15%-20% of your gross income, plus any excess expenses. For a new, unknown act, 20% is generally the norm due to the amount of work that a manager will be putting into that act's career. For acts with an established track record of some sort and money coming in on a regular basis with a significant fan following, the manager usually will agree to 15%.
3. OMG! I CAN'T BELIEVE MY MANAGER IS MAKING ME DO THAT!
Making you do what?
Here's the thing: your manager shouldn't be making you do anything that you do not want to do. Your manager should be suggesting and guiding, and if needed, explaining the reasons behind the suggestions. Communication should be easy and open, and you should always be open to your manager's ideas and advice. But ultimately, you have the final say in what you believe is best for your band and your artistic and career goals. If your manager is telling you to "take off the jeans and wear short shorts and a tank top so your muscles show", and you're not into that type of thing in any way, don't think that the title of "manager" means the same thing it means in the regular work force. Please make sure that you are on the same page with your manager BEFORE you enter into a business relationship with this person.
You shouldn't even ever be in a "tug-of-war" with your management over creative or business decisions. For the most part, you should always be on the same page. Your manager, in turn, needs to understand that part of their job is to suggest ideas that they believe will be good for your career (and well as discourage ideas that can be harmful), along with helping you make the connections you need in order to push your career up to the next level.
If those suggestions given to you by your manager are continuously being turned down and refused by you, it doesn't necessarily mean that either party is 'wrong or right', it just means that the two of you have complete differences and shouldn't be teaming up to take over the world together.
4. WHAT YOUR MANAGER ISN'T
In addition to not having to be a glorified babysitter (you should be mature enough to have your personal and professional life together prior to ever dreaming of needing a manager for your career), your manager is not necessarily your booking agent, although he or she might help you secure some gigs. He/she is not your investor. They are not your boss, but rather your business partner to a large extent. Don't expect them to book you, finance you, or organize your side of the company while you idly do nothing. Some managers will throw a little money an artist's way if the artist has an opportunity and can't afford to take it (and you should always repay them, of course). That's your manager investing in his or her own career as well as yours. Just don't "expect" it if it's not already in an agreed-upon contract, preferably separate from your management agreement. Do your part, and make sure they're doing theirs. Understand the manager's role before stepping into a contract with anyone to assume that role.
Keep in mind, if you sign a contract with a management team or individual and then decide to just "quit", you will be held to the terms of your contract and you SHOULD be. Be responsible. Be an adult. Know what you want before you do it, and fulfill your part of the deal. Chances are this individual has sacrificed a lot of money and time for your career and you owe them the courtesy of being a man/woman of your word. If not, you may end up in court. Which is never fun.
Okay kids...enjoy the ride! We love to see you kicking ass, so keep doing it.
As always, any suggestions or added facts and ideas are welcome in the comments!
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