As the music industry has regained health in the last few years, there have been more artists than ever before. Likewise, there have also been more managers than ever before – some which are making their mark without having extensive prior industry experience and upon success, are encountering huge amounts of responsibility and decision making power.
We all need to start somewhere and it’s great these opportunities can be accessible to individuals of any age regardless of their tenure in the industry. Nonetheless, being a top manager requires proficiency (and often times excellence) across a very diverse set of skills:
This is not just the relationships a manager has today, but his or her ability to cultivate and grow relationships in general.
It’s imperative a manager has a significant network in order to move the needle for their artist. However, if the manager doesn’t have one yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t be successful – what’s even more important is how they treat and interact with others – Clearly articulating the artist’s vision, being accountable, and expressing gratitude go a long way.
You don’t need to know every higher up (or any for that matter) at Spotify, Live Nation, etc. When I started managing Krewella, I didn’t have these relationships, but I did have a group of young aspiring creatives and future executives from my college network. We would bounce ideas off each other at all hours of the night. You can learn from the perspectives of individuals at any level.
Most importantly, a manager must be able to connect with artists. Artists need their managers to understand their vision and know the right moves to grow their career. There is rarely a business relationship in music more significant than the one between the manager and the artist. The best managers are capable of visualizing the artist’s future, supporting them in creating their best art, and guiding their business decisions to create a sustainable long-term career.
2/ Overall industry knowledge and experience
It’s important for a manager to know how things work and how they have been done in the past so they can write their own history. Regardless of how much they know about the industry, a manager can always utilize rookie smarts – Yes, it is possible in the short term that the less one knows, the more innovative he or she may be. However, over time, experience usually reigns supreme.
It’s important to have an interest and education on what’s going on in order to navigate the industry – The music industry RUNS on information. It’s critical to get it, whether from books, Billboard, or conversations with mentors and friends. Many brand new managers don’t have a large knowledge base, especially when it comes to deal structures, team building, and navigating large scale promotion, simply because they haven’t had the experience yet.
If you sense this may be you, having a great lawyer, agent, and business manager on your artist’s team can support you in making up for this weakness, while you pursue your strengths of connecting with the artist and growing their career.
Whether it’s building an artist’s brand or pushing their music, managers are more responsible than ever for handling the marketing. In fact, some young artists believe marketing is solely a manager’s task, as opposed to that of a record label or promoter.
During the piracy era, labels cleaned shop and laid off many people previously responsible for these activities. Simultaneously, the DIY era was upon us, artists could build their own brand vision, convey it to their fans via social media, and even create their own artwork and videos. As the person right next to the artist, managers, who had previously relied on labels for most marketing and promotion activities, now had the tools to grow their artists’ careers at their fingertips.
Major labels may not always be the first to execute a new marketing tactic or strategy, and in their defense, a simple tactic will likely not make a difference to their bottomline. But great managers consistently seek growth hacks to tell their artist’s story because it could be the difference in jumpstarting their career or a new campaign.
4/ The vision to build a business
Being a manager is a very entrepreneurial profession. While they are not mutually exclusive, there is a difference between breaking an artist and building a business around them.
There are lots of artists with buzz whose teams never develop hard ticket followings, don’t control their own fan data, or execute a strategy that focuses on long-term revenue streams. It takes a lot of small wins (the singles and doubles!) to build a great artist.
In order to have a great career, the art must speak for itself, but it often requires a tremendous vision around the business too. Managers are often tasked with communicating the plan to the entire team and building the bridge for the artist to communicate their vision to the world.
The role of the manager is a delicate balance between catering to an artist’s immediate needs and simultaneously having a perspective for the long-term vision, turning it into a plan, and executing it. But this is the role of the manager. With all the intricacies of culture and the internet, it is a role that is becoming more complex by the day. There is always something new to learn and that is what makes it exciting.