Artist Management: When Do You Need It?
Posted by bwd_promos at Feb. 3. rd. with No Comments
There are a lot of misconceptions about what an artist manager does, and there are several types in the music business. I won’t go into all of them in this post. Most of them you won’t need until you’re touring and making some heavy cheddar anyway. The two primary types are the personal manager, and the business manager. Most artists who are trying to get their careers off the ground are usually looking for a personal manager.
Many artists look for managers before developing anything to manage. The more developed you are as an artist, the better your chances are of attracting a good manager’s interest. There are however, some of the major misconceptions about artist managers and what they do. Here are a few:
1. Managers should invest lots of money into the artist? It’s not a managers job to pay the costs for your recording projects, travel, or promotional material. While it’s not uncommon to find a manager that’s willing to pay for the needs of an artist, they are not obligated to. Some managers feel that dropping cash to help their artists become successful is a worthy investment. Because this is not the manager’s role, he or she will usually make an agreement with the artist that this investment be repaid once the artist starts making money. This is outside of 15 to 20 percent commission managers already receive from the artist’s earnings. This commission is usually but not limited to, performances, merchandise sales and in some cases, money advanced by record labels. It’s rare that managers make agreements to receive percentages of the artist’s song publishing or writing. You should avoid these types of agreements if possible.
2. Another misconception is that managers should have lots of experience in the music business. While this is definitely an asset, it’s much more important that you have a manager that’s willing to hustle hard for you and be ambitious about learning the parts of the business that he or she doesn’t know. Your manager should be someone you have a tremendous amount of trust in because they will play some part in every facet of your music career. This is why it’s not uncommon to see artists with relatives as managers. Sometimes they are the best choice. Other times–not the best choice, for obvious reasons.
3. Managers are not attorneys? Unless your manager has an entertainment law degree, it’s not wise to have them negotiating contracts that can affect you for the rest of your life! Get an attorney to look over any complicated contracts.
4. Managers are not publicists? Publicists handle your PR (public relations), expand your visibility and help develop a marketing strategy for you. Good managers will do some of this for you until you’re signed or able to afford a professional publicist. However, you can hire one that offers both positions.
5. Managers are Talent or Booking Agents? Strictly speaking, a manager does not get you work (a/k/a “procure employment”), However, most new bands have the expectation that if they do not have a booking agent, a manager will get them shows. This is a problem for the manager, because anyone other than a licensed booking agent (which usually means licensed by the State where they reside) is not supposed to book shows. There are a lot of reasons for this, but think “casting couch” and some will become clear. It is also true that a booking agent is a specialized employment agency, and employment agencies are highly regulated. Even so, it is not unusual to hear that managers are booking “pump priming” shows, usually at clubs or festivals for low or no performance fees, in order to showcase their band for agents. This can go on for a while, including after the band is signed to a major label.
Another reason a manager is not a booking agent is that most booking agents are “franchised”, meaning that they have signed an agreement with the American Federation of Musicians or possibly other unions. That franchise status is very important because without it, the agent will not be able to book union members—which is essentially all touring artists. The franchise agreement has limitations on how much commission the agent can charge, usually 10%. Managers charge more.
6. Managers are not tour managers? Most managers do not go on tour with their bands, at least not for all of the shows. They do not hump gear, they do not settle or argue about the value of towels (usually), they do not drive the truck, van or bus. They may have done all those things in other lives, but they do not do those things now.
7. Managers offer Career Advice? Personal managers typically will say that they give career advice. Of course, they do much more than that, but given the things they don’t do, you can see that if you think of “career advice” in the very broad sense and then you add in shopping a record deal, booking agent, publishing deal, setting up co-writes, finding a producer and negotiating the deals for all of these people in concert with your booking agent or lawyer, you begin to get the idea.
The personal manager often—and usually—comes up with most of the marketing plan for your band, then runs interference to make sure that all the people involved can actually execute that plan on time and in concert as a team. You could call this an “uber product manager”—a manager of managers. The better the artist’s personal manager is at that, the better off the artist should be.
It a nutshell, good managers want to minimize the chaos that can surround an artist so they can concentrate as much as possible on their music. Good managers are a trusted foot in your rump to make sure you make it to your appointments on time, and make sure that everything you need is there before you arrive.