Artist Managers: who needs them and what do they do?

Most new artists manage all sides of their career independently when they’re starting out - from making the music and securing gigs to distributing their songs online. Juggling both the creative and business sides of the industry is a lot to handle alone, which is why a manager is usually the first business partner that a new artist needs. The manager’s role is broad and differs from case to case. It’s their responsibility to take care of the business affairs, help the artist to excel creatively, develop a strategy to take their artist’s career to the next level and crucially monetise their artists career. Most importantly, a good manager has to truly believe in their artist’s talents.


Kate Bond, from the artist management team at Oddchild Music, describes her role as handling most of the decision-making so her acts can concentrate on writing, recording and performing great music. “There’s so much artists need to do, and sometimes you’re like ‘I just wanna make music’. The manager’s job is to make that a little bit easier. My day-to-day role is different depending on the artist – it’s never the same. My overall job is to be the voice of the artist, so that I can help them make better decisions, or the decisions that they want to make, and to reach their goal.” 

WHEN SHOULD YOU HIRE AN ARTIST MANAGER?

There’s  a point in an artist’s career where they need advice, support, direction. An artist can turn to a manager when they need to consult with someone they trust and who can manage their finances and business when it gets too busy for them to handle alone. Most established Artist Managers usually take a 10-20% cut off their artist’s revenue, but if there is no revenue, then nobody gets paid. Considering that, there’s still potential “win big” and high returns as an independent artist, the manager’s cut is quite low. With a well executed strategy that includes publishing, live bookings, merchandise, sync, streaming and monetisation, a successful career is definitely possible.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND AN ARTIST MANAGER?

Friends
It’s not unusual for new artists to recruit a friend or aspiring music professional as a manager at the start of their career. In these cases, the manager’s passion, resilience and belief in the music can make up for their lack of experience.  When it comes to the legal stuff, the job is usually based on a gentleman’s agreement, on the understanding that a more formal contract will be signed after a certain period of time. Both parties benefit from the arrangement: the artist might be lucky enough to get a dedicated manager for free or a much lower cost if that person is new to managing, this way the manager gets to cut their teeth in the industry and build an artist from the ground up. 
Management Agency
More accomplished acts, or ones with a bigger budget, can reach out to specialist management agencies for representation. Agency managers are likely to be working with a few artists at the same time. Generally speaking, the larger the agency the more artists the manager will probably have on their books. Artists working with an agency will benefit from the manager’s industry experience, resources and established networks. In return, the artist usually pays the manager a commission from their total revenue, which would be the industry standard 10-20%.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF AN ARTIST MANAGER

Managers working with a new artist usually perform all the tasks necessary for developing their act alone. Once the ball starts rolling, it’s up to them to bring the specialists on board while they oversee all areas: 

Securing gigs 

A new manager will act as a booking agent, sourcing and securing shows for their artist to perform at, or even organising gigs and tours themselves. 

PR & Promotion 

Getting an artist’s music supported by media is a job on its own. Managers will be involved in creating opportunities to gain exposure both on and offline. This involves reaching out to relevant media sources and publications, or working alongside promoters. 

Music copyright & licensing 

Managers will handle the licensing of songs and collection of royalties. It’s their job to make sure the music has the correct copyrights and their artists are being paid if the music is being played. These responsibilities may be passed down to a collection society such as PRS, and a music publisher once the artist is more established. 

Artist development 

Managers work very closely with their artists on a personal level. As well as finding business opportunities and ways to bring in revenue, they often have a hand in helping their act to grow artistically as well. This might mean sourcing studios for them to record, or connecting them with the right people, streamlining their lives to make it easier for them to concentrate on the music, or being a critical ear and source of feedback before the music goes out into the world. 
Learn more about the role music managers play, including whether you need one, at our Industry Takeover seminars and our partner, the Music Managers Forum (MMF). 
Find out more HERE.

Words: Melinda Neunie