The artistic side of the music industry tends to get most of the attention.
But without the people working behind the scenes, some of the success stories you’ve become familiar with may have never happened.
And, even though some of these people may not be in the limelight, many of them have rewarding and lucrative careers.
If you thought all the money was in being an artist, you might be surprised. Most of the time, it’s the people handling the business end that make the most money. After all, it’s not unusual for labels to keep 80 to 90% (or more) of an artist’s gross revenue.
Getting a job in the music industry also allows you to be a part of the industry without having to be artistically inclined or talented. If you don’t play an instrument or write songs but want to be a part of the industry’s energy, you can still get your foot in the door.
Regardless of why you’re thinking about becoming a manager, here are the steps you need to take to get there.
What Type Of Music Manager Do You Want To Become?
When you think “music manager” what probably comes to mind is someone who’s directly involved in the careers of artists.
This is what is largely known as a music, band, talent or personal manager. Their responsibility includes creating a strategy for the artist and walking alongside them as they execute against it.
What other types of managers are there?
First, there are business managers. A business manager may not be as glamorous a career, but is nevertheless essential to artists, and it primarily involves bookkeeping. From tracking income and expenses to making payments, it would be your role as a business manager to manage and oversee an artist’s finances.
Second, there are road and tour managers. As you may have guessed, a road manager’s responsibility is to handle tour logistics. A tour manager is more directly involved in handling all the details of the tour. But for smaller, independent acts a road and tour manager are usually one and the same.
As for choosing what type of manager to become, there’s no right or wrong answer here. It largely depends on your skillset as well as interests.
Earning Your Credentials
Today’s music managers have more to deal with than ever before. So, getting hired on as a manager could prove challenging – especially if you have no experience. There’s a lot to learn, and you’re going to need to begin investing in yourself.
If you’re looking for a “quick way” to get started, you could become a manager for a small company, independent artist or label. It would be less lucrative than getting a job with a bigger company, but it could be a good way to start growing your resume. If you do well in independent scene, it should help you land better jobs down the line too.
Another way to get your feet wet without having to jump through a lot of hoops is to start your own company. If you take this route, however, you will need to hustle for your clients and ensure you deliver a quality service. You’re not going to build much trust with artists and other industry people unless you do a killer job.
But aside from starting your own company or working with independents, how do you go about gaining experience and credentials in the music management field?
First, you can go to school. Many schools have business management programs you can enroll in. If you happen to be near a university that offers such a program, and have the resources to invest in it, this can be a great way to not only acquire the knowledge you need to succeed in your career, but also a good way to network with others who are in pursuit of the same things you are. The main downside of schooling is that it can be quite expensive, and it may take many years for you to pay down your student loans.
Second, you can intern or become an apprentice. Are there any music management companies in your area? If so, see if they would be willing to take you on as an intern. At first, you might end up having to do a lot of grunt work for very little or no money, but eventually you will be trusted with more. It’s very hard to get a job as a music manager without experience, so don’t be afraid to work hard to move yourself up the corporate ladder.
Third, you can educate yourself. I happen to think this is one of the best ways to learn anything because you can learn at your own speed and even explore related topics to augment your knowledge. Granted, others don’t always trust your expertise as readily if you don’t have fancy pieces of paper on your office walls. But if you prove yourself though results, people will have no choice but to trust you.
How can you educate yourself? There are so many options. Consider the following:
- You can read relevant blog posts, articles, magazines and books.
- You can listen to relevant podcasts.
- You can take courses online or offline.
- You can attend relevant conferences, seminars and events.
- You can find mentors who are willing to share their knowledge with you.
- You can interact with other professionals at networking events and in online forums.
Fourth, you can take a multi-pronged approach and leverage some or all the above methods to gain knowledge, experience and credibility.
Becoming a music manager might prove difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as building your own business. If you don’t give up, and you keep gaining experience, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find gainful employment.
Understanding Revenue Streams
Understanding revenue streams is perhaps the most important aspect of being a music manager.
Why do I say that? Because managers are generally paid a 15 to 20% commission on their work. So, if the artists you’re working with generate no money, guess how much you’ll be making? Nothing.
I interact with artists all the time, as most of my work is connected to the music industry. I hear a lot of artists say things like, “nobody’s making any money in this, right?” And, “it’s so hard making money as an artist.”
Look, we are all highly suggestible beings. No matter how headstrong you think you might be, if you hear the same things repeated over and over, there’s a good chance you’ll begin believing it.
If you buy into what others are saying about the lack of money in the industry, you’re probably going to give up before even trying. You must shut out the noise and begin associating with others who have a more optimistic outlook on things.
The global recorded music industry is worth roughly $16 billion. So, don’t tell me there isn’t any money in it.
As a music manager, you should be well-acquainted with revenue streams like:
- Touring and merchandise.
- Sponsorships and endorsements.
- Subscriptions and fan clubs.
- Brand partnerships.
- And more.
Artists may not agree with all the decisions you make, but for the most part, they want to be making more money too. So, if you can help them leverage their content and appearances to generate more revenue, in general, they’ll be happier working with you too.
Be Prepared To Work
Again, music managers generally earn on commission. So, if the artists you’re working with are making very little to no money, you make very little to no money as well.
Success in the music industry generally takes time and it rarely if ever happens overnight. The more time you can spend on an artist, the better, as you can help them earn more. The only problem is that you may not be able to sustain yourself on an income like that. Until the artist succeeds on a bigger scale, your income from music management will be limited.
So, more than likely, you will need other income streams.
When I first got started in business, my mentors told me to keep my day job and be prepared to work on my business on evenings and weekends.
Well, I didn’t have a day job then, and I don’t have a day job now. But their point was well-taken. If you’re serious about your business, you’re going to want to make time for it. Unless your business happens to take off in a hurry, you’re going to require an income to live off. For most people, that’s going to be the income they earn at a day job.
So, if you want to become a music manager, be prepared to work hard. You’ll essentially be working two jobs at any given point, or at least until the artists you’re managing take off.
Juggling two jobs isn’t the easiest thing to do, so plan well. Set aside time for your music management duties. Be prepared to work on evenings and weekends if necessary.
Qualities To Cultivate As A Music Manager
At times, a music manager’s responsibilities can easily surmount their job description. Don’t be surprised if you end up having to do more than you thought you would be doing when you first thought about becoming a music manager. Until your artists have a team assembled, it’s all up to you. They have no one else to lean on, and you’ll be the one guiding them every step of the way.
With that in mind, here are some important qualities to cultivate as a music manager:
- A thirst for knowledge. Keep learning about the music industry. Understand the role agents, promoters, labels and PR companies play in the industry. Stay up to date on best practices and trends. While you don’t need to know everything there is to know about music, it can be helpful to remain on the path of personal growth as you’re managing artists.
- People and communication skills. If you want to generate opportunities for your artists, you’re going to need to network, pitch and cold call. And, most of all, you’re going to want to be persistent and polite in following up with every person you connect with. If you aren’t good at communicating and networking with people, you’re either going to want to improve your skills or find another job for yourself.
- Focus. Since you’re going to be around your artists all the time, the temptation might be to hang out and party with them. Everyone needs the occasional breather. But don’t get carried away. If there’s work that needs to be done, work comes first. Don’t prioritize fun over work. Ensure your artists are healthy and make it to interviews, venues, sound checks and other appearances on time.
- An expansive skillset. Until your artists have a team in place, you will essentially be responsible for every aspect of their career. Early on, it’s quite likely that you’ll need to be handling tasks that would typically be the responsibility of PR companies, agents, labels and so on. Expect to be run off your feet.
- Neutrality. Don’t take sides. Keep the peace within bands, because without that, the bands may not have a future. It’s not your responsibility to decide what’s right or wrong. Everyone in a band should be able to come to you for advice, so don’t play favorites.
How To Become A Music Manager To Musicians Or Producers Conclusion
I’ve had artists ask me to manage them before. I certainly have the skills and knowledge to help them be successful.
But I knew the commitment it would require. Based on all the other responsibilities I had and projects I was engaged in, it simply didn’t make sense for me to develop an artist from scratch.
Nevertheless, I have a lot of respect for those who put themselves out there to build an artist’s career. And, as an artist I would be humbled if someone came alongside me and offered to manage me.
Being a music manager might not be easy, but it is fun and fulfilling. It can even become lucrative if you focus on the right things.
So, if you love music and helping others succeed, music management would be a natural fit for you.