If you’re an aspiring musician or semi-professional that’s looking to take your career further, you need a manager. But that’s easier said than done. How do you go about getting a manager in an industry that’s full of people or groups just like you looking to ‘make it’?
Difference between a manager and a record deal
To the bemuse of many, having a manager and a record deal are not the same thing.
A record deal, or recording contract, is an agreement with a record label where you make music for them to sell and promote. Some record labels will assign you a manager when you’re signed, but that’s not always the case. Similarly, some record labels won’t even consider working with you if you don’t already have a manager.
A manager is responsible for the business side of your career, including:
- Contract negotiation
- Venue finding and booking
- Guiding career decisions
- Setting up publicity opportunities
- Assisting with set lists
With a manager, you can focus on what’s important to you – making music.
Are you ready for a music manager?
Many musicians prematurely seek a music manager when they’re not quite ready so, if you’re going to do it, make sure you’re properly prepared. Ask yourself:
Do you have consistent work?
Like any industry, managers, agents and similar need something to manage and they want to see a return on their investment.
To be considered by a manager, you need to show that you have consistent work as a musician, which means ensuring you’re making a lease a few hundred pounds from gigs or merch sales, for instance, every month.
That way, prospective managers can see you have some level of demand that they can build on.
Is your image distinct?
There are thousands of musicians out there and managers don’t want to see the same thing again and again. Before approaching potential managers, make sure you have a solid image that’s in-line with your genre.
Do you have a fanbase?
Managers need something to manage, which means you need to have established some level of fanbase before they’ll consider you. Make sure you have a steadily growing social media following and that your music is on streaming sites such as YouTube, which will provide you with clear stats for how many people are listening to your music and watching your videos. Also, make sure you’re regularly playing gigs at recognisable venues and pulling in crowds, even if they’re small at first.
If the answer to each of the above is a firm ‘yes’, you’re ready to start approaching managers. If not, take time to work towards getting regular gigs, developing a fanbase and cementing your image.
What to prepare for a music manager
Before you start knocking on doors, you need to make sure you have something to hand any managers that are interested in knowing more about you. Put together a USB that includes at least a handful of professional studio recordings – ideally of your most popular songs. You should also include footage of live gigs, which will show them how you perform and your stage presence.
Finding a music manager
Now you’re ready to find a music manager, there are a few methods you can try.
Speak to other musicians
There’s nothing better than speaking to other musicians that have or know of music managers that they may be able to put you in touch with.
This doesn’t mean approaching their manager, but they may have a card for a manager that attended a gig and told them to get in touch when they’re further in their career, which happens quite often.
You can also consider business-minded friends that are not yet working as a manager but have the passion and sense to help you elevate your career.
Network with venues when you play
When you play venues, speak to the venue manager to find out whether they know any music managers that they could get to your gigs or put you in touch with. Smaller venues especially admire musicians that want to grow and that support their venue, so developing relationships could lead to a win-win outcome.
Cold call managers
Once you’ve asked around your immediate network, if you haven’t made any tangible contacts, it’s time to start picking up the phone and cold calling prospective managers to try and get a meeting.
You can find a list of managers with a straightforward Google search. You can also approach them via social media or email and then follow-up with a call, which can be more personable.
When calling a manager, be honest and upfront. Tell them from the get-go that you’re a musician and that you’re looking for a manager and enquire as to whether they’d be happy for you to send them some snippets of your work. Be sure to tell them of a recent achievement; for example, ‘I recently played X venue,’ or ‘I have just been featured in X magazine’, which will help to grab their attention.
If you have a record deal before approaching a manager, use it as your opener and provide them with details of the deal for consideration.
Many managers will simply tell you that they’re not currently accepting new talent, but some will show interest – after all, everyone’s looking for the next big thing
Before seeking a manager, make sure you’re ready, which includes having a distinct image, regular income and opportunities and a fanbase, however small. Keep playing live gigs. Record a handful of your best tracks professionally and put them on a USB, along with footage from your gigs and, if you have one, details of your recording contract. To find a manager, ask your immediate network, including managers for venues you’ve played. If that bears no fruit, cold call prospective managers, be honest with them and tell them you’re looking for representation and enquire about sending them snippets of your music or having a meeting. That’s where it all starts.