Want To Know What A Big Time Manager Says To Indie Bands?


This past Saturday I caught the Building Your Team panel at the ASCAP EXPO at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The panel included entertainment attorney, Josh Binder Esq., artist manager, Marcus Grant from The Collective, business manager, Sean Welch, and A&R rep Walter Jones from Sony/ATV Publishing.

They discussed what they look for in a client, when artists are ready for representation and how to build the team.

The sentiment that sums up the entire talk came from the artist manager, Marcus Grant, when asked how artists can get his attention. He said:

“If You’re Not Selling Tickets and T-Shirts, You Don’t Even Matter.”

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “how do I get a manager.” But the simple answer is: you don’t find a manager, a manager finds you.

Grant also revealed the hard truth to the room full of musicians:

“You’re not going to get a record deal by asking for a record deal.”

Believe me, I understand how frustrating it can be to think you’re ready for representation only to be greeted by cold shoulders and silence.

But that should not be discouraging, it should be inspiring. Inspiring to get better.

Can you sellout a club in your hometown? Or a club in any town? Are you getting hundreds of thousands of plays on YouTube, SoundCloud or Spotify? If not, then why do you think big players in this industry are going to care about you?

They want to know that you are proven. You don’t have to have the full package set in stone, but you have to be making some waves somewhere.


Having a million twitter followers doesn’t mean anything if only 100 of them are actively engaged. If that’s the case, “you just have a lot of spies,” Grant joked. But it’s true. You don’t need Lady Gaga #littlemonsters engagement, but you need some influencing power that will get people to actively go out of their way to proselytize for you.

“When You Create A Business, People Will Come To You”
– Marcus Grant, Artist Manager, The Collective

You have to be killing it in at least one area of your music career before people will pay attention. If you want to work the YouTube angle, then model successful YouTubers, get high quality video up every week and start to build a solid subscriber base. If you want to work the Twitter angle, then study up on building a Twitter fan base and ENGAGE. If you’re a DJ, take over SoundCloud. If you’re working the grassroots, live scene then sellout your local venues and become the biggest band in your scene. Start touring and building a real ticket buying following.

Once you’re at a level where things are starting to happen, then people will take notice. If the right people aren’t taking notice (while things are actually happening), then it may be time for you to hire an entertainment attorney to get you in the door with a manger FIRST.

But don’t take the first manager who says yes. If the manager takes the meeting then she’s obviously interested. Ask her what she can do for you. What are her 3 year and 5 year goals for you. What tours does she see you supporting? What producers, labels, publishers or booking agents does she see you working with?

Remember, the gut check is the most important check before hiring anyone on your team.

Depending on the manager’s vision, she can start bringing others onto your team, like an agent, label, publicist, publisher and business manager. These people can manage the macro side of your career.

But you need to also have either a personal manager, a “best friend manager,” or yourself, to micromanage all of the day-to-day duties to build and sustain a career in the modern age of music.

“It’s up to me to build the story. I’m not promising you anything. My job is to build the best bridge to get you wherever you need to go.” – Marcus Grant, Artist Manager, The Collective

19 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “You’re not going to get a record deal by asking for a record deal.”

    In other news: The Earth is round.

    • Willis

      What artist wants a record deal these days?

  2. Artist Manager

    He wouldn’t have said it had he not been asked that question by his clients and artists seeking representation. It may be obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how many artists actually do ask how they can get a record deal. I get that question ALL THE TIME.

  3. TuneHunter

    Folks on the picture look depressed and hopeless! …I am not surprised.

    There is no reason for events and expos to deliberate on current status or developments in the music industry.

    Music industry is in the final stage of inferno.

    The biggest problem we face is the fact that legal and powerful arsonists are in cahoots with music custodians and occupy charred remains. This prevents rebirth of fair to all monetization and arrival of 100 billion dollar industry.

    • Nina Ulloa

      That’s it folks, let’s shut down the music industry

    • Fred

      Whenever I see the human side of the music industry, I realize that there are people in there, and it’s not just faceless corporations. And to realize that they are struggling is…………… strange.

    • Sourabh kishore

      Well, if you are already popular, you can manage your music business yourself; unless you need a manager just to give you an extended hand!! Perhaps, any fresh management graduate with good marketing skills can serve as your manager. You just need to set a process of online/other promotions that he will follow and get results. Consider these basic steps: set your own music website; create a basic eCommerce store (available at very cheap prices now a days), use PayPal as payment media (if you find it difficult to create a credit card-based POS), and advertise through SEO or Google Adwords!! If your music is worth, you don’t need any other promotions. Your fans will come to your site, play your songs (demo links to SoundCloud; similar to 1:30 minutes sample plays on iTunes; add YouTube channel if you can create some original or mere lyrics videos; requires added skills), and buy (if they love your music). TuneHunter rightly pointed out that the faces in the picture appear depressed. But does his mean music industry is dying? Or these are just managers refused by upcoming artists creating a buzz themselves in the new online music economy? Bottomline: It is only good music that matters today – fans are hungry for them – indie or megastar; doesn’t matter; and selling T-shirts and tickets will happen only when you can successfully sell from your OWN WEBSITE (a few call it: your own landing page)!!

  4. Fred

    Musicians can make more money from a relatively small number of engaged fans, than from millions of not engaged fans.
    These days to make money is all about selling tickets and apparel. I read somewhere “Joey Kramer doubts Aerosmith will make new album.” musicians used to make a lot of money by selling records, but not anymore. All money comes from touring.
    It seams like all the money and control went from labels to the huge concert promoters.

  5. c 4 charlie

    I dont know how I feel about what they said. It makes sense in terms of the “big record labels”, and I suppose I agree… but on the other side, i see local underground bands who somehow are getting picked up by local record labels, who are supporting them. And let me tell you, these bands arent even that well known or good. but once they get that support, they’re put on solid bills, at solid venues and getting real exposure. They dont putz around on youtube, or twitter or soundcloud.
    Which is interesting and dumbfounding.
    I’m talking about bands that are somewhat decent, but the songs are generic, stagnant and completely repetitive. their live shows are, meh. but they somehow manage to attract the attention of local labels.
    That I don’t understand.

    screw the big labels and asking for a record deal.
    how do you get into (what only seems like an incestuous-hipster-wasp click) these local labels?

    • Dane

      This is a great question. I see this myself but I am equally bewildered by it. I would not go so far as to say that these bands are “not good”. Most of them are really talented although probably not revolutionary. But yeah, how do little known bands with 2 songs up on bandcamp get these indie deals and online buzz?

      • i love+mike+love

        how do bands get signed to local tastemaker indie labels? the bands make friends with other bands on the labels and then become friends with the label owners. if a small indie label is going to sink $2000 into a release by an unproven artist, the label has to love and trust the people making the music.

        but keep in mind, getting a release out on a local tastemaker label and getting some “internet buzz” is not the same thing as having a career. most of the bands on those labels are making more money delivering pizzas than they are from their music.

        owner of a local tastemaker indie label

  6. Negative Nancy

    Yes, we already know none of you care about artist development. It’s okay, we don’t need you.

  7. Gordon Kaswell

    “If You’re Not Selling Tickets And T-Shirts You Don’t Even Matter”

    Really?! And all this time I thought musicianship mattered, or at least mattered the most. Silly me.

    I realize that the music business is a business. But when a band’s buzz is based primarily on marketing talent rather than artistic talent we get exactly the sort of sterile auto-tuned musical culture that dominates the USA at the moment. It does makes a few people a lot of money.

    And it’s stupendously boring.

    • GGG

      Not disagreeing with you, but I think the point of that statement is more ‘you have to prove yourself first to an extent’ as opposed to the old model of labels/A&R guys believing in a band. So whether you’re the greatest band in the world musically, or just some hot girls who know how to sell themselves, if you can bring 100 people to your shows without any representation, then someone will take you seriously. If you’re another of the infinite bands that brings 12 friends out on a Friday night, you can be amazing, but chances are everyone will pass.

  8. cdog

    Double thumbs up Gordon; exactly what I thought after reading. When are they just going to call it “The Marketing Business?”. I didn’t get into this to spend 90% of my time working out a strategy. If that’s the way it is I want nothing to do with it.

  9. Crooner

    Simply put, you have to be popular enough to be making it without major label support before a major label is interested. The sad fact is, by that time, you probably won’t want another hand in your cookie jar – at least not with the way things are today without physical media wide distribution meaning anything anymore.