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Music manager

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Title: Music manager  
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Subject: Paul McGuinness, Peter Grant (music manager), Richard Cole, Danny Sugerman, Rod Smallwood, Liberation Transmission, Paul Rosenberg (music manager)
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Music manager

For human capital manager in an organization, see Talent management.

A talent manager, also known as an artist manager or band manager, is an individual or company who guides the professional career of artists in the entertainment industry. The responsibility of the talent manager is to oversee the day-to-day business affairs of an artist; advise and counsel talent concerning professional matters, long-term plans and personal decisions which may affect their career.[1]

The roles and responsibilities of a talent manager vary slightly from industry to industry, as do the commissions to which the manager is entitled. For example, a music manager's duties differ from those managers who advise actors, writers, or directors. A manager can also help artists find an agent, or help them decide when to leave their current agent and identify who to select as a new agent.[2] Talent agents have the authority to make deals for their clients while managers usually can only informally establish connections with producers and studios but do not have the ability to negotiate contracts.

Music managers

A music manager (or band manager) may handle career areas for bands, singers, and DJs. A music manager may be hired by a musician or band, or the manager may discover the band, and the relationship is usually contractually bound with mutual assurances, warranties, performances guarantees, and so forth. The manager's main job is to help with determining decisions related to career moves, bookings, promotion, business deals, recording contracts, etc. The role of music managers can be extensive and may include similar duties to that of a press agent, promoter, booking agent, business manager (who are usually certified public accountants), tour managers, and sometimes even a personal assistant.

Manager's contracts, however, cannot license those responsibilities unto the manager in the same way a state license would empower the agent to do so. Therefore, conflicting areas of interest may arise unless those are clarified in the contract. That said, a manager should be able to read and understand and explain a contract and study up on the long-term implications of contractual agreements that they, the bands, and the people they do business with, enter into. Before the manager enters into an agreement with the band, their relationship may be regarded as competing for interest; after a good contract is signed, their interests, obligations and incentives are aligned, and the interest in success is shared.

Responsibilities of a music manager are often divided among many who manage various aspects of a musical career. With an unsigned act, music managers may assume multiple roles: graphic designer, publicist, promoter, and handling money and finances.[3] As an artist's career develops, responsibilities may grow, and because of their percentage agreement with the band, the manager's income may grow as well.

A music manager becomes important to managing the many different pieces that make up a career in music. The manager can assist singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists in molding a career, finding music producers, and developing relationships with record companies, publishers, agents, and the music-loving public. They should carefully consider when certain contributions have been made which would also entitle them to cowriting credits, Executive Producer credit, or Producer credit should they become involved in songwriting, financing works, or actually producing demos and recordings, and should carefully know these jobs and these fees should be considered either as separate from the contract, in addition to the contract, or as free to the musician as clarified in emails and the contract.

The duties of an active music manager may include supporting the band's development of a reputation for the musician(s) and building a fan base, which may include mastering and launching a demo CD, developing and releasing press kits, planning promotional activities, creating social network identities for bands, and booking shows. A music manager may be present during recording sessions and should support the artist during the creative process while not interfering between the artist and the producer, but musicians may also find valuable feedback in the extra pair of ears and this should be carefully considered as well. The manager may gain access to a recording studio, photographers, and promotions. He or she will see that CD labels, posters, and promotional materials appropriately represent the band or artist, and that press kits are released in a timely manner to appropriate media. Launching a CD with complementary venues and dates is also a music manager's responsibility.

Early on in an artist's career, the different facets of management and marketing fall upon either the band itself or, if they have one, their manager. Because the band or artist is relatively unknown initially, promotion, booking, and touring are minimal. A new music manager begins by establishing a clear understanding of what the artist(s) want. This can be accomplished through either a written or verbal contract. A music manager's first task is to solidify all artist development aspects and then concentrate on product development.

Management Strategies

Despite the dominant presence of digital media in the music industry, there are many typical strategies that even the most modernized managers must adhere to in order to reach the managerial goals effectively. Most of these trick-of-the-trade strategies are employed to establish and maintain connections with booking agents, promote the activities of the artist, and manage finances in order to optimize the artist’s ability to book gigs, establish a fan base, and ultimately bring in revenue from their work, respectively. In this day and age, the role of the music manager is very versatile and demanding due largely to the increasing importance of modern technology. It is because of this modernization that managers must also be very flexible and creative in order to adapt to the changing industry while still managing to efficiently reach their goals.

Booking gigs

Among the more traditional responsibilities of music managers are booking and promoting gigs for their artist(s). One of the most important steps a manager can take to accomplishing this is building strong venue relationships. When dealing with a smaller local act that is not necessarily well known, it is crucial that the manager puts a lot of time and care into catering to the venue’s needs rather than simply saying, “hey, can you guys hire us?” [4] A manager is much more likely to at least establish a friendly, professional connection with a venue’s booking agent by demonstrating that he or she has done a reasonable amount of research on the venue and that the manager’s artist will be an asset to the venue’s performance reputation. Even if the venue is unable to hire the act right away, the manager’s diligence will be appreciated and stand out among the wave of generic mass emails sent by bands begging for gigs from every venue in their area. A general outline of a booking contact strategy can be describe in four steps:

  • 1. Get familiar with the venue’s calendar
  • 2. Look for "holes" in the schedule
  • 3. Make sure your [artist’s] music is a match
  • 4. Target that specific show in your e-mail pitch

This four-step strategy to establishing a venue relationship stresses the idea that “when you approach them [the venue] in a way that helps them out, you’ll see results. If you constantly spam them wanting to play dates that are already filled on their calendar, than you will never be taken seriously”.[5] Once a gig has been booked, the manager can utilize the venue relationship by asking the booking agent to refer two or three other venues for him or her to approach.

By doing this, the manager is tapping into the local network of venues and he or she can now approach more venues with a mutual connection, making the manager’s pitch appear more legitimate and professional since the referral represents the artist’s previous experience in the domestic music industry. Going off of referrals from an established relationship is a savvy way for a manager to find venues that will certainly host the appropriate type of music for their artist, gain more recognition from the local concert-goers, and consequently lead to the likelihood of a higher turnout for the artist’s gig at the venue that gave the manager the referrals (yet another way to demonstrate the artist’s value to the venue). Within the more traditional realm of responsibility for the music manager, it can be argued that building and maintaining relationships with venues is the most important aspect of networking, booking and indirectly promoting an artist’s gigs.

Internet strategies

As technology has advanced over recent years, the music industry has consequently undergone a drastic change in the way it operates. This industry-wide shift has its pros and its cons: On one hand, the internet serves as an incredible platform on which anyone can showcase their talent and potentially build a fan base. On the other hand, the presence of millions of people attempting to do so makes it more and more difficult for any one person to stand out, and the reality of file sharing and illegal downloading makes the financial aspect of music much more complex. Regardless of one’s opinion on the connotation of the road that the music industry has travelled down, a music manager must nevertheless be flexible enough to keep up with the changes that the industry undergoes.

“The sale of pre-recorded music has diminished, but there’s so much more that’s going on. You can’t focus on what’s not working when there are so many other opportunities. There are more opportunities for music than ever before”.[6] Social media has proven to be one of the most useful tools with which artists and managers are able to build a fan base and promote future shows, releases, etc. Social media is all about “getting and keeping people’s attention”, as we can see in Brian Thompson’s strategy of “Music Marketing with Social Media in Only 30 Minutes a Day”.[7] Thompson suggests that bands/managers take just 30 minutes out of each day to tend to the artist’s social networking pages in an effort to keep their current fans talking and interested while simultaneously reaching out to other potential fans.

Unlike Thompson, however, not everyone is so optimistic about the role of social media in the music industry. In his article, “Why Music Won’t Be Saved By Social Media”, Wes Davenport suggests that the role of social media in the industry “has been grossly inflated”.[8] In the article, Davenport quotes Jon Ostrow saying, “Social media is a conversation tool – that’s it”, acknowledging that there is potential for sparking conversation and building a fan base, but suggesting that social media does not necessarily live up to the potential for success that people in our modern culture seem to give credit.

Case Study: Lady Gaga

In an article titled, “Case study: Making money from music” by Martin Kupp, Jamie Anderson and Joerg Reckhenrich, the effects of technological advances on the music industry are recognized, analyzed, and utilized through an online marketing strategy that led to the incredible success of Lady Gaga. Troy Carter of Coalition Media signed Gaga with the intention of making her into a star with the help of some clever marketing. Recognizing that digitalization was the cause of the almost 33% decrease in the music industry’s total revenue between the years 2000 and 2007, Carter decided to find a way to use digitalization to his advantage with his newly signed artist. Coalition Media, with the help of marketing company ThinkTank Digital, invested large amounts of time and money into developing Lady Gaga’s global presence through social media.

They set up many interviews with online bloggers, established a large following on Myspace through “constant news updates, as well as exclusives, interviews and special features” and Gaga personally handled her Twitter account, building a very personal connection with many of her fans. This strategy demonstrates the massive success that skillful online marketing can produce. The article focuses on Coalition Media and Lady Gaga’s utilization of the “Four E’s”: Emotions, Experiences, Engaging, and Exclusive. By personalizing her online activity, creating an experience, engaging, and providing exclusivity to her fans through social media marketing, Lady Gaga was able to achieve incredible levels of success with her music career.[9]


Striking a tentative compensation agreement that can be renegotiated after three or four months is recommended, and the rate of pay is generally based on commissions of 20 percent or more of performance and commercial incomes [4]. This amount depends on the level of development the band or artist is at and the experience, networks and resources of the manager. (The less developed the artist and more experienced the manager, the higher the commission.) The artist or band should never agree to circumstances that cannot be terminated or negotiated within a short period of time.[10]


Managers usually secure the services of a professional photographer while the artist is recording. Different 8x10 pictures of the artist can be used for websites, CD labels/jackets, posters, and the press kit. Cost for high quality shoots vary from $500 for a basic shoot to thousands for several looks. Photographers are not expected to cover material cost. It is important that the manager obtains an agreement upfront confirming license to use the images which will cover the uses necessary, in addition to high resolution digital images on CD. Managers are also advised to have photographs taken before CD designs or artwork goes into production. Managers are also responsible for hiring additional staff when necessary.

External links

  • Manager commissions & payments in the music business


  • ShowbizLtd Music Agents List
  • Music Industry Managers Article
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