How to Become a Music Manager
How to be a music manager is a question frequently asked by people who are interested in the field of music management. Of all the careers in the music business today, the music business management career is simultaneously the most demanding (“why aren’t you doing more”) yet sometimes the most under-appreciated (“well, anyone can do that!”) in the eyes of many in the music community. This can be attributed mainly to the fact that in today’s D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) era the role of the music manager is often seen by some as that of simply the “musician’s helper” as opposed to “career architect” as it should be.
If this is the case, why would anyone want to be a music manager or start a music management company? The answer lies in the potential for rewards and satisfaction that can be achieved when a manager marshals together the necessary resources and connects with the right artist at the right time to execute the perfect game plan that results in success. The path to success, however, is littered with those that have tried ahead of you and failed; so if you are interested in the field of music management you have to enter it with your eyes wide open and equip yourself with whatever knowledge you need to succeed.
Before you focus on how to become a music manager you need to ask yourself what ‘type’ of manager you want to be. There are several types available, including:
• Personal (or music, band, talent) manager - the one most involved in the actual day-to-day career strategizing and plan formulation and execution with the artist,
• Business manager – mainly handles the ‘books’ of the artist (income and expenses, making payments on the artist’s behalf, taxes, investments, etc),
• Road manager – handles all the logistics of a tour while an artist is on the road. On larger tours, a tour manager coordinates all the various road managers involved with the tour and generally manages all the details of the tour itself; while on smaller ‘independent’ tours the road and tour manager are often one and the same.
Once you’ve decided which one of the various managers you’re interested in becoming, you’ll have to determine how you’re going to go about getting the knowledge (or ‘background’ education/information) necessary to enable you to do your job competently. Unlike earlier times when much of what a manager had to think about was shopping for a label, recording an album and then going on tour; today’s managers have so much more to deal with (and therefore to need to know), including how to reach fans directly, song licensing, brand partnerships, sponsorships, social media strategies, creative financing, independent publicity and marketing, etc.
As far as getting information goes, there are several ways to go about getting educated, including:
• School - several universities and colleges have music business management programs that may be of interest to those that have the money, time and geographical access. Search online for information on which institutions offer music business management programs or courses you can take either on campus or via online learning.
• Books / Self-study – if you don’t have the access to funding for college or university, another option is to purchase some of the various books available on the topic of how to become a music manager and/or studying much of the material available online in the form of blogs, articles, forum postings, newsletters, etc. You can also attend music business conferences and/or seminars in order to get valuable information from the various panelists and establish connections with attendees and sponsors.
• Apprentice / Intern – another way to get a music manager job is to spend time interning at a management company. Jobs in music management are difficult to get without a track record, so working behind-the-scenes inside a company allows you to gain experience on the job (which could lead to a job at that company or provide you the experience to start your own company) as well as enable you to develop contacts within the company itself and also with people who the company does business with.
In reviewing how to be a music manager, an important thing to keep in mind about music management is that a manager gets paid a commission (usually 15% - 20%) based on their artists’ earnings. If your artist earns $0, your commission is $0. Therefore, you will need to make sure you have the music management knowledge and information necessary for you to be able to generate substantial income for your artist – and therefore yourself – from multiple sources (including recordings, licensing, publishing, merchandising, touring, brand partnerships, crowdfunding, endorsements, sponsorships, donations, subscriptions, etc) prior to taking on the task of becoming a music manager.
You will also need to evaluate how much time you have available to devote to the task of music management since your (and your artists’) chances of success are directly related to how much quality time you put into the job. You will likely need to have another source of income (i.e., another job) to pay your bills in the meantime until such time as enough income is being generated by your management-related activities to sustain your lifestyle. You will need to make sure you have enough time to create and execute a winning game plan with and for your artists as well as maintain constant communication with the artist in order to evaluate, fine-tune, and adjust the plan where necessary.