So, you've decided you need a band manager to help you out. Now what? Finding an artist manager is not the hard part—it's finding a good band manager that can be the real challenge. How do you find a music manager? Here's what you need to know.
Decide If You Need One Right Now
Before you pass go, ask yourself this question—do you really need a manager right now? A good manager can be a vital part of your music career, but they don't come for free. When you're just getting started, management may not be the best use of your cash. Before you go manager hunting, make sure you understand what they do and why you might need one.
Enlisting Your Friends
What do you need a manager to do for you? If you are looking for someone who can help you book shows, send out some demos for you, set up some digital distribution and so forth – in other words, if you're at the stage of establishing yourself – then you may already know your manager. Look around your circle of friends. Is there someone who knows something about the music biz, who's organized and loves your music? Bingo! The downside here is that this person may need to learn as they go, but the upside is that you'll have an enthusiastic manager working cheap – not a bad deal.
A manager has an extraordinary amount of influence over your career, so this is not an appointment you want to take lightly. If you don't know anyone who can serve as a manager or if you are past the point where you can work with a manager who learns with you, then ask around for referrals to good managers.
Ask fellow musicians, do some research to see who manages your favorite acts, ask promoters and bookers when you do your shows, and so on. If you are at the point where you need a professional manager, then you are at the point where you know people who can make these recommendations.
Approach Your Short List
Getting a manager interested in working with you is much like approaching a label, agent, or promoter. Your goal is to provide your prospective manager with a good idea about the kind of music you make and how far along you've come in your career on your own.
Be ready to provide your management prospects with:
- Music samples - not your whole catalog, just a few of your best songs that show off your sound and your versatility. You can treat this sample much like you would a demo you would send to a label.
- Press clippings, if you have any
Now, managers get inundated with pitches from musicians, so don't go calling them every hour, on the hour, the day after you send in your info. Give them a week or two, and if you haven't heard anything, follow up. Ask if they have received the package and if they need any more info. It is ok to follow up at respectable intervals until you get an answer (or the impression that you're not going to get an answer, which may happen sometimes). Just try not to come on too strong and be sure to respect the fact this person is probably busy. Patience is your friend at this stage in the operation.
Meet and Discuss
Let's say you send a package to a manager who is interested in working with you. Your next step is to have a meeting with the manager-to-be to discuss your goals and how they would be able to help you reach them. You also need to know the details of the financial arrangement the manager is seeking.
In addition to being sure that this manager is on the same page with you in terms of direction, you need to be sure that there is some kind of chemistry between you all. You may be spending a lot of time with your manager, and you all need to be able to have open and honest communication.
Sign a Contract
For your sake and for the sake of the manager, you should never enter into any sort of management deal without a contract. If you're working with a friend and you don't have the money for a lawyer, it's ok to work on a contract together that makes everyone happy. If you're working with a manager with more experience and they hand you a complex contract, get legal advice. Never sign a contract you don't understand, and never, ever, ever work with a manager without a contract.
Tips and Things to Know
If possible, when you get management recommendations from people, get them to make an introduction for you. Things will be a lot easier if you don't have to cold-call people.
It is important to have the same sort of music industry philosophy as your manager. If your manager is more experienced in the business than you, then you will be able to learn a lot from them. However, if, for instance, you're seeking chart music stardom and they're committed to the indie music scene, or vice versa, then the relationship is not going to work for either of you.
Remember that you are choosing a manager while they are choosing you. You don't have to jump on board with the first manager that comes along if you're not sure that it will work. A manager is almost like a member of your band - the best management relationships click on the professional AND personal level.
Before you approach managers, have a good idea of what you need from them. If you're trying to land a deal, then a manager who has lots of contacts at labels is a good choice for you. If you have a deal on the table and need someone to walk you through negotiations, then a manager with that sort of experience should be high on your list. Managers have lots of different styles, and some are more hands-on than others. Before you try to hire someone, make sure you have an idea of the job description.
When you're putting together information for potential managers, don't try to create a package that you think gives the "right" answers. Yes, you do want to put your best foot forward. However, if, for instance, you're a folk band and you're approaching a hip-hop manager, don't go out and record new verses for your demo. You need a manager who "gets" what you're doing and the only way to find someone like that is to give them an honest representation of your work. You'll find the right manager. Spinning things to try to match yourself to a particular manager is never a good call.