I’ve heard a number of stories recently from bands around the topic of band managers. Whilst there are a lot of good bands managers out there, unfortunately these stories haven’t been the most positive. Most musos I know do want some form of management for their band. But it can be hard to know how to find a good manager or when the best time is to bring someone on.
Firstly, I’m definitely of the opinion that you should never bring on a manager to do things that you could do yourselves. Many emerging bands fall into the trap of bringing someone on who simply ends up alleviating some of the workload. They end up helping with the booking of local shows and organising the day-to-day activities of the band and this is a huge waste of resources.
A lot of people are still of the opinion that musicians should be concentrating on the music only. To them I’d say NOPE and would politely like to welcome them to 2019.
Being a band nowadays is so much more than writing and performing music – especially when you’re first starting out. Perhaps when you are bigger and wildly successful you will have the luxury of taking a step back from the business (yet you should always have a firm handle on it for reasons many music bios will elaborate on), but for now, being across all aspects of your BUSINESS is a must.
One band I know found themselves in a five-year contract with someone who, to be honest, really hasn’t done anything to move the needle forward in their careers. Yes they’ve gotten bigger support shows and a few gigs overseas, but these things were nothing they couldn’t have just done themselves and this guy was charging them a management fee AND fees to cover unnecessary and extravagant expenses (nice hotels and staff – I mean who needs a staff to manage an unsigned band). You can imagine as well that when the band cottoned on and asked to see the financials, he wasn’t exactly forthcoming.
Another band worked with a manager for over a year who’s main job seemed to be to help the band book shows. Because the manager was working on commission the band over-played and after 12 months, they were no bigger than where they were a year ago when they were riding solo. This is a lesson on getting someone who is savvy enough to know that playing live is a) not the main way to cultivate an audience and b) not the only way to earn money as a band.
When you’re a local band that wants to eventually turn your passion into a full-time income – especially if you’ve been around a few years – it’s so easy to get caught in the trap of agreeing to work with people who promise you the world. Or even just someone who can help with the workload! But it’s worth holding out until you’re sure this person can get results.
It was my understanding that managers should always work on a commission of 10-20% and that makes sense to me. It keeps everyone accountable and if the band makes money, the manager makes money. But obviously if you are looking to have an official contact in place, please check your local laws in relation to pay because obviously I don’t anyone getting in trouble. Some info for my Aussies can be found here.
But don’t sign ANYTHING until you have a legal professional review the contract. How many times have you heard this statement or read it in biographies? I know I have a million times. But temptation can be a bitch and many of us are desperate to succeed. But trust me, the expense of a lawyer will be well worth it in the long run.
So how do you find a manager? Well, you don’t. Since managers work on commission, when they see you’re making waves in the scene, they’ll come to you. How do you know you’re making waves? Well, you’ll simply be on the radar of the music industry (one kind of feeds into the other). The heavy scene is small. If you’re cultivating an audience or are doing something truly special that has the potential to be successful, the right people will know.
How do you know if you’re ready for a manager? Well, this is a decision that must be made by the individual band. I’ve seen bands take on awesome managers within the first 6 months of their careers and I’ve seen bands wait many years before working with the right person. At the end of the day, as long as you are finding the right individual to manage your band (they are well-connected and can do things for you that you can’t do yourselves) and they are truly invested in your success, that’s all that matters.
The thing is, we are so lucky in today’s digital age to have more control over our careers than ever before. We’re not waiting to be ‘discovered’ (although was that even a thing?), we have the power to go out and not only record killer music ourselves, but connect with our audiences without some of the gatekeepers of the past, like labels.
One thing for sure is that the manager should NEVER be managing a band’s social media (yes, this happens). Your socials are a key tool in building relationships and trust with your followers online. In turn these things are what turn followers into loyal and lifelong fans. I talk about this a lot in my book Social Media Shredder which you can grab now on amazon here.
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Until next time, stay heavy. x