If you’re reading this article right now then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve come to the conclusion that you need a manager to help you take your career in music to that elusive next level. You’ve probably figured out by now that all the big acts have managers so naturally you want to do what they do.
“Not so fast twinkle toes”
I guess I’m a prime example. I have a manager and if I’m going to be completely honest the only times I’ve ever had any real success as a singer and songwriter have been when I had a manger to guide my career along. I do however, believe my situation isn’t very typical and to be fair, I might be an anomaly.
Unlike most aspiring music business hopefuls I never really spent much time actively seeking a manager or trying to join a band when I was starting out. I kinda ended up in this business by default. Looking back I think I figured the chances of me living in Jamaica and getting into the music business was so far fetched that it wasn’t worth the bother even trying.
I mean my songs were decent and I sang in key but I never thought of myself as ever having a chance at becoming an international superstar. That just wasn’t something that happened to ordinary people like me… or so I thought.
My time in the spotlight was relatively brief but I have to admit, I stand corrected.
Please don’t hear me trying to brag – I’m so not that guy – but I’ve had a shockingly great singing career (most shocking to me) especially since I was sure my life story was going end up somewhere completely different.
Having worked with independent and major labels for a number of years now I found myself in the unique position of “the fly on the wall” and I’ve seen some very interesting things. One of them is an ongoing rejection of singing hopefuls.
I’ve watched aspiring singers approach artiste managers, break out into song and get flat out rejected either right there on the spot or later on. It’s heart-breaking to watch but as time wore on and my level of experience grew I actually started to understand why this was so commonplace.
If you’ve been trying to find a manger for yourself for a while and you keeping hitting brick wall after brick wall, keep reading. I have a couple of insights below that will not only help you to understand what’s probably happening, but also increase your chances of finally getting that meeting you’ve been after.
1. You’re Too Much of a Risk
When an artiste manager or management company is approached by a potential act they’re looking for a few things to help them decide if this makes sense. If:
- you’re brand new with no track record
- Have no recorded songs for them to listen to
- Have no live performances for them to watch…
…then you’re simply not worth the risk… yet.
Now as I write this I can already hear the mumblings start to rise. I know what some of you are thinking right now:
“We might be the biggest act they ever manage but how will they know if they don’t even give us a chance? That’s so unfair!”
If you’re thinking that then you simply don’t get how this works but if you keep reading you’re about to.
The relationship between management, whether that’s one person or an entire team, and the artiste or band they manage is a lot more like a marriage and a lot less like the relationship between Cinderella and her fairy godmother.
For it to work you need to actually like each other AND have similar aspirations.
Once you’ve established this first milestone the next thing you need to understand is that a manager takes on a lot of risk when they sign a new act to their roster. If they’ve been in the business for a while and had success with other acts, they’ve undoubtedly done it through out-of-pocket expense and leveraging strategic relationships built over a number of years.
These relationships are far more valuable than any additional income a new act can potentially bring so they will protect them quite fiercely.
If they get the slightest hint that you might damage any of these relationships, not only would you put your own success in jeopardy but you would also risk the success of any other acts they manage.
Any good manager will do everything they can to make sure that never happens.
2. Nothing to Manage
A new act with no track record, no recorded songs and no live performance history hasn’t actually entered the music business yet. This is still just an idea so there’s nothing to manage.
In order for a manger to even consider taking on the risk of managing you they need to see what they’re getting themselves into first. This means you’ll need to find the means to record some music and at the very least showcase your singing ability. If you happen to be a songwriter, then this is an excellent way to showcase your talents in that area too.
There is an exception to this but before you get too excited realise it’s a lot harder. I’ll use a popular example to demonstrate what I mean.
When JLo decided she wanted to start a career in music she started from scratch in the music business but she didn’t start from scratch in any other area. By the time she was ready to start singing she was already an A-list Hollywood superstar.
I’m not too familiar with the movie industry but if her manager in that industry wasn’t able to help her with music, she would be able to find an artiste manager for her music career much more easily than you or I because a manger’s role in this case would mainly be to convert her existing movie fans into music fans.
Being an experienced and extremely successful actress would tell any artiste manager that she already understands she will need to spend a lot of time:
- doing vocal training and then eventually
- travelling all over to promote the songs once completed.
It’s a TON of work but she would understand it because there will definitely be parallels to the business she’s already familiar with.
Now having said all that she would need to choose her manager very carefully. Someone with a track record in heavy metal music probably wouldn’t be a good fit for her. She would need someone with relationships and connections relevant to her type of music.
3. You Don’t Understand the Music Business
There are a ton of misconceptions about how this industry works. I’ve had a family member get annoyed with me when I told her I wouldn’t be able to talk on the phone because I was working. She was young at the time so she didn’t understand that music videos weren’t based on reality.
When a manager has a conversation with a potential client they’re looking for a couple of things including but not limited to:
- Actual talent
- Industry knowledge or a capacity to learn it
- Great work ethic
If your songs are crappy and you sound like nails on a chalkboard then you’re clearly a losing proposition. It’s also important to know what YOU are getting into or you’ll be a nightmare to work with.
Managers are busy. They’re in business to make money as quickly and easily as they can. If you start to show them signals that you’re going to be difficult to work with or require too much hand-holding then they’ll simply move on to the next act knocking on their door.
For those of you with kids, here’s an example to demonstrate this point:
- You tell you 10 year old to wash the plates they just used
- You end up having to tell him 4 times because he can’t seem to draw himself away from the episode of Power Rangers he’s watching
- He finally gets up and starts washing the plate, cup and spoon he used
- He uses half a gallon of soap, leaves an enormous puddle of water on the floor and still ends up leaving stuff stuck to the plate
- Next time he uses a plate, cup and spoon you end up washing it yourself because you need to leave to pick up your other child from karate class and you don’t have the time to teach him how to do this properly right now
Time and resources are very expensive in our industry so a manager would rather work with someone who either already knows what they’re doing or who has the right mindset to quickly learn how to just get it done.
Instead of teaching you the importance of doing interviews and showing up on time, the manager would prefer to spend the time doing what they’re good at like scheduling these interviews and leveraging their relationships to get you more exposure etc.
If I could give you one piece of advice to help solve this problem it would be the same advice that I received that helped me a ton:
“Read books on how the music business works”
By regularly reading the articles on this website you’re already on the right path but here are a couple of options to start with:
- “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by Donald Passman
- “The Billboard Guide To Writing & Producing Songs The Sell” by Eric Beall
- Download the free Music Business Roadmap to help you get a quick 30,000 ft view of the music industry so you can quickly see what you need to be working on right now. HINT: It’s probably not what you think
4. You Don’t Know What a Manger Even Does
Contrary to what you might have read in gossip columns and social media threads, an artiste manager’s job is NOT to rob the artiste and then run away. They are actually an essential part of a successful career.
Here are just some of the things a legitimate artiste manager does:
- Market and promote the music created by the artistes on his/her roster
- Negotiate deals with independent labels that they believe will be a good fit for the act(s) they manage
- Plan a strategy to get the most relevant and profitable exposure for the act(s)
- Hire producers and band members (if applicable)
- Find and hire music video production companies
- Seek out and secure endorsement deals
- Liaise with booking agents to secure live gigs that increase the act’s fan base and either directly or indirectly generate income.
Now these are merely some of the official duties typically performed by a manager. In many cases they do a whole lot more. You’ll see managers shop for clothes, buy homes and even hire attorneys and accountants for their artistes because they feel compelled to protect their investment who has now become a close friend.
The unfortunate thing is that all too often the relationship can sour and the manager can be left “holding the bag” as it were.
5. They May Not Have The Capacity To Take You On Right Now
Even if you have everything in place it’s a real possibility that you simply have bad timing. A manager can really like you and even be excited by the idea of working with you but for any number of reasons they can’t right now and it’s nothing personal.
The good managers are usually in high demand and they can only take on a certain number of clients at a time. If they already have a full roster it won’t matter how many boxes you tick, they simply won’t be able to take you on at the moment.
Don’t get too disheartened though, because a “no” now doesn’t necessarily mean “never”. It’s always a good idea to maintain these relationships because you never know when you might cross paths again and be able to collaborate in the future.
Something else to consider is the specialization of the manager in question. If they’re not skilled in your particular genre of music then they probably won’t be a good fit for you anyway.
One of the most frustrating positions to be in is to be signed to a management company who is so busy with their other, more established acts that they don’t have a moment to spend on your career. Going elsewhere isn’t always the best option in these situations either.
If you have a good relationship with management, something I highly recommend, and you know deep down they really are the best option to manage and grow your career then just be a little patient.
There’s plenty for you to do anyway. Continue to record and do live gigs. This will be essential for when your big break does finally come.
“Preparation and success go hand in hand”
The relationship between artiste and manager is symbiotic. One is pretty useless without the other and, on the flip side, when the right collaboration takes place it can end up creating something far greater than they could have ever imagined on their own.
Here’s a short interview with Craig David’s manager, Colin Lester that I think explains it nicely.
It’s both parties jobs to push the other beyond their comfort zone while simultaneously making each others job as easy as possible.
If you haven’t found a manager for your band yet then hopefully what you’ve learned in this article has shed some light on the subject and given you some steps to follow.
Of course if you have questions and/or comments please fee free to add them to the comments section below…