An artist manager is a huge part of a successful career, especially for the independent musician. The right manager can build connections that will open doors to opportunities beyond your wildest dreams. They can help you find the right team, and steer the business of your music to new frontiers. Famous managers like Tommy Mottola, Clive Davis and Scooter Braun have used their ears for talent, business savvy, and networking skills to build multi-billion dollar empires with the likes of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Justin Bieber. The allure of this type of success often leads musicians to ask the question: When should an artist hire a manager?
Hiring a Manager Too Early
Hiring a manager too early can easily crush your hopes of a successful career. This is because when you hire a manager too early, you’re more likely to choose the wrong one. When starting out, most artists want a manager because they’re afraid to do the hard work of networking, pitching themselves and reaching out for opportunities. They get frustrated with non-music activities and think: “I need a manager to do this for me.”
Enter – the bad manager. This could be a sleazy music industry scam artist, or even your best friend who enjoys hanging out with your band, but isn’t as serious about his goals as he should be. They offer to take the boring tasks off your hands so you can focus on the music. The only problem is, they don’t really know what they’re doing. You hire this person at a 15-20% commission rate to handle tasks that you should be completing yourself, and find that you’re getting the same results as before. Or even worse, you’re not getting results at all! To make up for the loss of earnings, you’re working harder than ever before. This type of situation is what leads many musicians to quit before they ever see any meaningful career progress.
Hiring a Manager Too Late
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the super indie artist. You know, the one who brags about doing everything themselves. They record their own music, book their own shows, design their own graphics, and the list goes on. You name it, they do it. While it’s great to learn skills that will help you advance your music career, there are two things that will always be true.
- You’re only one person, and…
- There are only 24 hours in a day
The time you spend doing things you aren’t great at (ie: the things a potential manager could excel in) is taking away from the time you can spend doing what you’re truly gifted at — making music. I’m not saying you should JUST make music and not be a part of business decisions. Every artist should be involved in the day to day business of their career. But if you aren’t comfortable delegating tasks, you’re going to spread yourself too thin. You’ll end up missing out on money or opportunities simply because you were too busy to take them on.
So… When Should an Artist Hire a Manager?
When should an artist hire a manager? We asked artist manager Mike Luna of MOON Management this question in episode 9 of the Music Business Dreams Podcast. His answer: “When the business aspect of your career is interfering with you being able to make music, that’s when you need a manager.”
“When the business aspect of your career is interfering with you being able to make music, that’s when you need a manager.”
It’s that simple. Most artists who are clamoring for a manager simply haven’t put in the time and effort required to be taken seriously. It’s not enough just to make good music anymore. You have to be willing to market and promote yourself to new audiences, take risks and conduct yourself like a business owner. This will often mean doing work you don’t like, such as updating a website or sending cold e-mails to bloggers. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. The more you do it for yourself, the easier it gets.
Once you start to build momentum, the right manager will reach out to you. They’ll see your passion and drive, and offer to come help make your vision for your career come true. And because you’ll know what it takes to run a successful career, you’ll be much better at judging character. You’ll be able to decide which manager is right for you — another step in the most important journey of your life.
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