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You Don’t Find A Manager, A Manager Finds You

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I’ve never had a manager. Don’t take this as I never wanted one. I made it the goal of 2008 to find a manager. I didn’t find one that year (but I did open for Ben Folds). I’m still self managing my career (and help manage other bands as well).

I’m not saying I’m better off. Or worse off. There’s no way I can know that. I have friends who have succeed far beyond my level of success with a manager and friends whose bands have broken up with a manager. Having a manager is not a mark of success (neither is a record deal). These can be little victories, sure, but the moment you turn little victories into marks of success is the moment you become complacent and hand over your career to people who don’t (can’t) care about your career as much as you do.

 The moment you turn little victories into marks of success is the moment you become complacent and hand over your career to people who don’t (can’t) care about your career as much as you do.

A manager’s biggest asset is not being you. A manager talking his band up will get a much better response than the singer talking his band up. Even if the manager is the lead singer’s brother (Imagine Dragons).

Back in the day, I created an alias who reached out (via email) a few times on behalf of me when I needed to be taken seriously. However, I don’t use the alias any more. I got into a sticky situation with him (er…me…Bill…whatever) once. Another story. I don’t think having this fake manager alias worked or was worth it. Any club booker will take you, the band member, just as seriously if you communicate in a professional manner and if you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

You need to be kicking ass on your own BEFORE any manager will want to represent you.

A manager takes a cut of your career (typically 15-20%). So you’ll have to be pulling in enough to make it worth it for this potential manager to take you on. If you’re pulling in $1000 a month, you aren’t ready for a manager. No manager will (be able to) put in the time for $200 a month (20%). And you don’t want a manager who will work for $200 a month because they won’t do anything. No matter how much she loves your band, unless she is already a millionaire and just needs a passion project, she will not be able to devote the time necessary it takes to manage a baby band for $200 a month.

There’s no one way to find a manager. Andy Grammer’s manager “discovered” him while busking on the Santa Monica promenade (so the story goes) – actually Andy’s good friend who was kind of managing/helping him, told this manager who happened to be looking for a new client (his first) to check him out on the promenade. But the “discovered while busking on the streets of LA” is a much better story.

Finding a manager is about timing, being in the right place at the right time and, really, making it seem like you don’t need a manager.

No one wants to work with a band who seems to be struggling, but EVERYONE wants to hop on a speeding train.

If you don’t have your shit together online and off, then no manager will want to work with you. If your Facebook Page is outdated with tabs that aren’t functional with music you released 3 years ago of shitty demos and you only have 74 Twitter followers with all your tweets auto sent from Facebook, Instagram or Vine, they aren’t going to look twice.

You need all of your social media sites up to industry standards. You need your live show better than bands who are selling out arenas. You need to look like a band ready to take over the world.

Approaching management companies (or managers directly) rarely works. They want to DISCOVER their talent. If you cold call/email them it already reinforces everything they think about themselves: they are great and everyone, of course, wants to work with them. If they discover you then you will be their passion project (for the time being) and they will brag to everyone they know that they discovered you and will work much harder for you.

There are rare cases, sure, where managers will take on baby bands that have no income. These are typically big time managers who have a bunch of money making clients already. They have the clout to get you places quickly and one of their phone calls can be more effective than 100 of your phone calls/emails. These “clout” managers may spend 10 minutes of their day on you, but those 10 minutes can be extremely effective. “Hey Daniel, I hear the first opening spot on Mumford’s tour is available. I got this hot new band out of Milwaukee. They’re Mumford meets Adele. You’ll love them. I already sent you a link to a video that’s got over a million views. Hit me back in 5 when you watch this. Let’s get them on the tour.” Bam. Shit can happen like this.

The two extremes when it comes to managers:

1) The “clout” manager (as described above)
2) The young manager who has no experience but will KILL for the band and will scream at the top of every building (and to everyone she meets) how earth shattering her band is.

Ideally, your manager is BOTH of these. This rarely happens. It’s best to get a manager who is somewhere in the middle.

Whatever you do, don’t sign with a manager who is neither of these JUST to have a manager. I meet too many artists who love talking about their “manager.” “Oh yeah MY MANAGER is handling this. MY MANAGER is handling that.” Blah Blah. Unimpressive. I don’t care! If your manager really was handling this and that you wouldn’t need to tell me about it and I’d see it. And your manager should never be handling stuff you don’t know about. The moment your manager makes deals that you have no idea about is the moment your career becomes their career and you lose all control.

Don’t fret over not having a manager. A manager will approach you when you least expect it (and when you aren’t looking for one).

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based DIY musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. Follow him on twitter: @aristake

 

**an earlier version of this article stated managers typically take 10%.

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Comments (20)
  1. hippydog

    If your not already managing your own band (and handling all those little painful details), then putting some newbie in charge (usually just a glorified groupie or friend) is extremely dangerous..
    and lets be honest, in most cases you might call them a manager but in reality they are more a gofer.. (unless they have some real skills that you dont)

    I have to believe a good manager can be trained, but the catch22 is most artists dont have any more experience then the “newbie manager” themselves.. and thats where the danger lies..
    IE: at least if you fail on your own you come out with some experience, if you fail because of a bad manager you just come out with nothing..
    my 2 cents ;-)


    Reply
    1. R.P.

      How can someone else with no experience in “managing” train someone to be a manager? smh.


      Reply
      1. hippydog

        Exactly, (I agree) but as was mentioned, sometimes (actually many times) bands use “The young manager” which might be a friend or family member as their first manager..
        and sometimes thats the only option you have (besides taking everything on yourself)..
        my point was to be aware that if thats the direction your going in, be aware that they are not actual managers and could do more harm then good..


        Reply
  2. Yves Villeneuve

    Makes sense.


    Reply
  3. tippysdemise

    10% is more typical of a booking agent and not a manager.


    Reply
  4. @mattadownes

    Typical management commissions are 15 to 20%, some are higher if additional roles are taken (legal, finance management, publicity, etc.).

    I’ve yet to see a deal that is 10%. I guess this could be possible, but in reality that percentage is closer to the agent and/or attorney on the artists team.


    Reply
  5. MAJOR CLIENT MANAGER

    @mattadownes is correct. Commissions are 15 – 20% (with 20% being the norm now as the role of managers have diversified and taken on new meaning)

    25% is not uncommon either, if that manager is building a client from the ground up and also acting as a major financier

    10% are booking agents fees and most management contracts contain a provision which state booking fees commissions are not to exceed 10%

    Attorneys typically range from 5 to 10% (some can be higher depending on duties)

    –ARI has made a “FEW” points that are valid, however the whole of this post doesn’t apply to what ‘finding’ or not ‘finding’ a manager entails –


    Reply
  6. Yves Villeneuve

    ???

    A little stoned, are we! You’ve already admitted you are a regular pot smoker.

    You keep avoiding being direct. A sure sign of everything you said is BS or delusions. Clue: You lied about the apparent test you did on my twitter profile.

    You have a bad case of feeling powerful and important. Btw, I didn’t see the movie, read the book or Wikipedia entry.


    Reply
    1. Yves Villeneuve

      Sorry, wrong article.


      Reply
      1. hippydog

        Which makes the “pot” comment extra funny ;-)


        Reply
  7. Passman Reader

    This is covered in full by Donald Passman in “All You Need to Know About the Music Business.”


    Reply
  8. Jughead

    10% is not normal Nashville—15% of gross is the standard. Also, I see established managers taking broke artists with no gigs all the time because they believe in them. Find them songs and co-writers, bankroll showcases, etc. But, they often also take some publishing.


    Reply
    1. Eric

      thats because its not normal anywhere. 15-20% is standard


      Reply
    2. vk1drums

      If there are managers that will support broke artists and/or groups in Nashville, I’d like to speak with them, Jughead.


      Reply
      1. Jughead

        Well, hit the street and start talking to them. I’m not doing your work for you.


        Reply
  9. Eric

    Manager’s fees are usually 15-20% not 10. 10 is what an Agent takes.


    Reply
  10. stephen Aristei

    @mattadownes & MAJOR CLIENT MANAGER are both right ! Why would you write an article without properly researching it…? How do you expect to be taken seriously if you repeat and write crap? Reading this makes me especially sad because I am looking to this publication to becoming one of those that could fill the void that Billboard is creating by becoming a consumer mag ! Why don’t you do some real research and write an article that will be helpful and shared by many……! Speak to a few “real managers”…guys who are really in the “trenches” every day….Hey have you checked out the litigation concerning the miss use of the CA labor law?….If it does not pass, a lot of acts will suffer………If you want to check it out, please feel free to contact me on FB……Make it real or go home….The business is filled with “wannabees” who don’t do the work and don’t do the research and will “never bee” because of it !


    Reply
  11. Dan

    For young artists and bands I think a good way is a combined management
    by one parent and and someone from “the biz”. I see/hear quite a lot of
    successful such combinations, if the parent can skip his/her own
    (often nostalgia oriented) musical taste.
    .
    Combined talent and music chart channel, supports talents and young artists
    from all over the world (composing, sound, general strategies etc)
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ScandinavianSingers


    Reply
  12. diamonique corey

    I want a manger to make me famous.


    Reply
  13. diamonique corey

    I want a funny manger and let my boy friend come.


    Reply

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