If you’re looking to evolve your musical career without a team — which is possible at the early stages of your career — you will likely still need the support of at least one person: an artist manager. An artist without a manager is like MacGyver without a Swiss Army knife…one usually doesn’t go without the other. So we’ll see in this article what artist management is all about: what a manager is for, how to find a music manager, and when you need one.
Historically, to be successful as an artist (even as an independent one), it has been necessary to have a strong team. However, due to monetary and other constraints, it can be difficult to find one (especially early on in one’s music career). Being a musician involves wearing many hats, and artists often find themselves doing a lot on their own. Because the music business is such a sprawling area — involving everything from touring to music publishing to songwriting to music marketing and publicity — many aspiring artists can be forced to work as if they are their own record-label.
So how do you understand the complex music ecosystem? How do you learn the ins and outs of…
- how to distribute your music on streaming services
- how to get a contract with a label (a major-label, like Warner Music or Universal Music Group, or an independent label)
- how to promote your new record and expand for fan-base?
- how to figure out licensing costs
- how to get gigs, tour, and make money on the road
It all starts with meeting artist managers in the music business.
At the beginning of your career, these professionals may not know you, so it will be your responsibility as an artist to meet contacts. As an artist, your objective is to ensure that the public — and professionals in the music business — can discover your music easily. So it’s important to make these contacts early on in your music career!
1. How to Find a Music Manager ?
Let’s put an end to a preconception right away: to find a manager, it is unfortunately not enough to post an ad and to interview a series of managers. In fact, most often, it is the manager who finds the artist. Since managers get paid a percentage of artists’ incomes, it must be a match from both sides.
Thus, it’s best not to view getting a manager as an “interview process” or the relationship as a simple “employer-employee” relationship. Instead, it is a partnership you create by working together to build your music career.
You will have to search for a manager who follows you throughout all of your trials and tribulations, who will continue to want to make you more visible because they believe you have what it takes to make it in the music entertainment business. In essence, they should be willing to fight for your success. Still, it’s important to never forget: they are a partner, not an employee.
It may seem daunting to start on all on your own… or it may feel exciting. No matter where on the spectrum you fall, you’ll still need to involve others involved in your musical journey. As an artist, you need to be comfortable soliciting help, getting feedback, and incorporating others’ opinions to help you succeed (as long as it doesn’t compromise on your vision and who you are as an artist). Knowing what you’re an expert in—and where you could benefit from someone else’s help—is as instrumental in music as it is in many other aspects of life.
For this reason, It’s important to build a network of contacts as quickly as you can; from there, you increase your chances of connecting with someone who is ready to negotiate to get a record label to sign you, to distribute your tracks on Spotify, to fine-tune your aesthetic and branding, and more.
By expanding your network, not only can you find a manager, but you also increase the number of people who can provide you with useful guidance. The more you get your foot in the door, the more references you’ll have. And the more references you have, the more proof you have to convince others that you’re worth investing in. Creating a network of professionals can be done on platforms like Groover, or they can be found at professional events such as festivals (e.g. MaMA).
What are some important tips to follow in contacting prospective managers?
- Take care in your communication to demonstrate your talent, and that you have promise. Even without a budget, you can do great things.
When contacting managers, it’s recommended that you…
🔸 Have an EP/album out, or ready, to show to prospective managers
🔸 Show through audio/textual/visual formats that your artistic project already has interesting roots that can grow into something truly special
- Scour social networks for the perfect manager. For better or worse, being an artist is generally a role where having a public presence matters. In particular, many artists, producers, artist managers, tour managers, etc. are Twitter users. This can mean that they’re accessible directly through Twitter, if you reach with a pointed request. We suggest sending your best EPKs (electronic press kits) to select people who appreciate your musical style, who you think you’d work well with, and who share similar goals to yours. We also recommend using Groover to get your music heard by professionals like artist managers without having to go through the more tedious process of sending unanswered DMs.
Groover allows you to contact the best media and music industry professionals, with a guaranteed response time within 7 days.
- Don’t overlook your “first fans” (that is to say… your loved ones). If the most important quality to succeed as a manager is to be 100% involved in the project, it may be interesting to think about who around you might fit the bill of being your manager. If you were asked to name your biggest supporters right now, it’s doubtful you’d mention anyone you hadn’t met. So it’s important to consider those close to you: is there someone who already has a track record of supporting you who might be willing to help you in your journey? Only this kind of person is likely to train on the job as you evolve.
However, there are also downsides to working with those you already know. The first is that they may not have the requisite expertise—or their expertise may be commensurate to yours in the same areas. It’s also possible that they’re too nervous about jeopardizing the relationship to help you branch out and try new things. Because a manager is a partner, you and they have to be comfortable with disagreements and willing to work together to figure out what’s best for you. It’s important that if you are nervous that your personal relationship will suffer or be at stake from such a partnership, that you talk through it in great detail with them, or choose not to pursue it. Only you can say for yourself whether mixing personal and professional relationships is likely to be a benefit or a cost.
Looking for a music manager? ⬇️
2. What profile to choose for a successful music manager?
Before looking at the different possibilities available to you, remember the essential criterion for finding the right one: a manager must believe in you 1000%. The personal investment that the job requires is so intense that they must have absolute faith in your success. They have to “sell” your musical project to a lot of different people and must therefore know it inside and out.
Do you feel like you’re at a turning point in your music career, and that it’s time to get help? There are several types of managers who can help you. We explained at the beginning of this article that you need to develop very eclectic skills to be a good manager. So, you’re going to have to first take a moment to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. By assessing where you most need help, you can find someone who complements your skillset (and vice versa). We recommend trying out the roles and responsibilities an artist manager takes on to understand what you will be able to handle and the skills you will be looking for in your future manager.
Another essential criterion to take into account is the size of the manager’s network. One of the missions you will entrust to them will be to develop your professional network, so if they already have a solid one, it will save time. Inspect their presence on social networks, for example. If they are already an active manager, it’s a good sign, and it can be interesting to explore their current roster of artists to understand the types of artists they support (and how they support them). Having “done your research” on future managers won’t just help you pick the best manager; it’ll also ingratiate you to them if you’re clearly familiar and excited by their past work.
3. What does a music manager do for an artist?
As a kid, did you ever dream of performing on the stages of giant areas? In your head, being a musician meant creating music and playing in concerts, not sitting around coldcalling others. Of course, this is what many still think being a musician is—all the sheen of a “cool” profession with none of the legwork of what actually being an artist entails.
But the reality is a big slap in the face: royalties paperwork, legal paperwork, distribution, digital communication, concert booking… help! It’s very time-consuming, you need to have knowledge in very diverse fields, and have a good understanding of many different professions. On top of that, you have to create a solid network of people in the field… which takes considerable time and effort.
A manager will help you manage these various obstacles. Ideally, they will take care of as much as possible, so that you can concentrate on your art. You should view your manager as your number one partner. The ideal sidekick, the one who helps set up the strategy for your career. They are the ones who will be instrumental in developing your professional network. When they don’t have a required skill, they’re the one who will find the right person to handle it and/or add to your team. They can navigate music promotion, negotiate with potential labels or tour operators, and understand how to utilize streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud to get your music to the right ears.
Not having a manager is not impossible, but you will be wasting time on a lot of burdensome concerns. Don’t forget that asking for help is not a bad thing. Nobody succeeds alone.
4. When should you integrate a manager into your artistic project?
There’s really no exact answer. We’d like to say that the earlier the better, because the sooner you have someone to help you with management, the sooner you can concentrate on making music.
But in practice, it’s worthwhile to do a bit of work on all these tasks yourself. It will allow you to better understand the skills required for the job on the surface, and therefore it will help you to identify the best possible manager for you and your music.
We haven’t discussed the monetary aspect yet, but that is of course an important part of hiring an artist manager/future team. Since a music manager takes a percentage of your income (usually 10-15%), things can become complicated if you’re not generating any or very little revenue. For this reason, looking to personal relationships for a potential first manager — at least in the short-term — if you’re not able to offer a significant financial incentive upfront.
When you hire a manager will depend on who you ultimately hire. And we recommend working with someone who shows promise, professionalism, and belief in you.