One of the most interesting challenges as an indie artist is justifying the need for a manager. Of course, that single title holds many different meanings to artists. Some consider a manager as a booking agent. Some consider them as a networker to get them a publishing or label deal. Some see them as a road manager or publicist. Depending on what you’ve witnessed along the journey as an indie artist, a manager can wear many hats or serve as a specific role among other managers on your team.
In the summer of 2016, I decided to take an aggressive step and open a full service artist management division of my existing marketing company. Of course, having managed my own son, Spencer Kane, since he was 13 made the idea seem reasonable. After all, most of these blog posts were born out of my experiences with helping him in his entertainment career. But being a manager to a non-related artist is another undertaking. It’s not without easily comparable situations to handle, but when you’re assisting someone else achieve their dreams, you have to remove that family connection in some ways, and be all business. But at the same time, you need to set business aside and learn to be a family with them. Organic and healthy growth in the music business starts with the relationships you maintain. Managers are the first professional relationship an indie should acquire. So, on to my top 5 recommendations for considering a manager as an indie artist.
- THERE ARE ONLY 24 HOURS IN A DAY AND JUST ONE OF YOU
The most difficult path to figure out as an indie is how to best manage your time and skillsets. Sadly, hiring people when you’re not making a regular income is the last thing your brain goes to. This is sadly why most indie artists get stuck. They become obsessed with thinking they can handle everything with friends and family or on their own. While that works for a while, there are biases in the business that look down upon nepotism or self management when considering an artist for an opportunity. Learning to delegate time consuming aspects of your career to someone who is efficient in handling is an investment in your future success. TIME really is MONEY in this sense.
- CREATIVE PASSION VERSUS COMMERCIAL FOCUS
Many artists are very right brain dominant. That simply means they are very creative and with that tends to be the burden of being methodical and strategic about the business side of your career. When an indie artist discovers their best use of creative energy (studio time, on stage performing, writing music, etc.) they will be more capable of justifying a manager to handle the other details. This is the balance between creative and business. That’s difficult for most artists but a manager who understands the creative mind or process can be a valuable asset to take care of the stuff while you focus on the product... you and your music.
- MANAGERS ARE MOTIVATED BY MONEY, WHICH IS A GOOD THING
Obviously an indie artist is trying to earn a living or make money. Managers cost money. So where is the rationale to have one? Well, a good manager or management team see ways to earn money that you may not necessarily know or understand yet. They are supposed to know how to turn your brand and music into revenue. They are motivated to do that because if you make money, they make money. It’s a great symbiotic relationship. Some indie artists have been taken advantage of with managers who know people in the business. They either charge fees up front for their expertise or cut deals that leave the artist being the least amount of the spoils. Up front costs aren’t necessarily bad as long as the work the manager is performing is something you’d otherwise have to pay someone else to do. Things like booking gigs are commissioned jobs in the music business. If your manager happens to handle that for you, it’s worth paying them a fee for their time and effort. So don’t be scared by a manager who talks about money, they want to make a lot of it and that should mean you are too.
- MANAGERS KNOW PEOPLE YOU DON’T
Relationships in the music business are the reason why most indie artists find success. It’s rare that an indie just becomes known and earning an income without being attached to some kind of relationship beyond their inner circle. A good manager should have a track record and people to point to that you can trust are legit music success stories. Whether it be another artist they handled or even venue owners, labels, radio people, etc., a good manager can help and indie artist meet people and other artists they’d otherwise not have the opportunity to meet.
- MANAGERS ARE GOOD MEDIATORS
Most of the time an indie artist has to do all the negotiating to help them save and earn money along the way. Sadly, that leaves you to be the only leverage to finalize a transaction. A manager is a good middle person to negotiate and help mediate opportunities. Delegating a negotiation to a manager is often a powerful tool in getting better results than you’ve been having alone. It shows that your career is at the point of needing a manager, which is an initial impressive statement to music folks in the business. But more importantly, it separates you from the emotion and negotiating that can really frustrate you. Let the manager be the bad guy or good guy, depending on the situation.
To sum it up, managers are an asset to an indie artist. Good managers make good ambassadors and make good decisions that an indie artist can see in short order. Bad managers are typically looking to cash-in on an artist (exploit) and aren’t usually vested in the artist’s vision or ideas. They are easy to spot and hopefully you get references before you agree to anything with a manager. Slick talk and name dropping are easy for some music industry veterans who are looking to exploit and use an artist, so try not to get sucked into that flattery cycle. You’ll definitely regret it.