On Sunday, June 4th Andrew Leib (of Red Light Management) and I are hosting a day-long workshop called What Does a Manager Do and How To Get One.
Grab Tickets here. Use code “DMN” for 10% off.
I will be interviewing 6 top-level managers, one on one, to discuss what they do on a daily basis, what they look for in potential clients and how they make their artists more money and advance their careers. You can signup for the live-streamed workshop (from anywhere in the world – or attend in-person if you live in LA) here.
I sat down with Andrew to dig through a few of these topics and pass along some of his knowledge.
What is an artist manager?
A manager is someone who handles the day to day business dealings on behalf of an artist or band. The artist is in charge of creating the art and usually has an overall vision for the project, but it’s the managers’ job to take that vision, map out a viable plan, and execute it. A manager is also kind of the ring-leader of the business. Meaning agents, lawyers, publicists, business managers, promoters, labels, etc. don’t make substantial moves without conferring with the manager since their word is as good as the artist themselves. Artist management is one of the most personal jobs in the music business.
When is an artist ready for management?
Everyone is different, but here’s some things I look for: From the moment you started the group, you took it seriously (while having fun, of course) and put real thought into everything. The music is refreshing, well written, and produced with intention. People other than you should be talking about your music… like, a decent amount. There should be the beginnings of a cohesive brand that makes me feel something when I listen to the music, look at your photos, attend your shows, and check out your merch. I want to see you in my newsfeed on Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, etc. I want to go to local venues and see your poster on the wall. You can sell out a 400 cap venue in your local market and have a couple of small tours under your belt that you booked yourself. You feverishly e-mailed some decent blogs or hired a publicist to get some solid press from local and national music outlets.
When I look at small and mid-size regional festival line-ups, your name pops up a couple of times in super tiny print at the bottom.
Are managers necessary in the New Music Business?
Yes. Especially as the industry shifts towards a more entrepreneurial, artist-centric business. If an artist is truly on the trajectory towards success, they simply don’t have time to read contracts, loop-in with local promoters, manage the merchandise operation, etc. while creating art and being face of the band. With so many moving parts and different teams, you need someone who is solely dedicated to maintaining and developing your business. And ultimately, the manager is a buffer between the art and the industry which is absolutely necessary. I may be a bit biased though!
How could a musician go about getting an artist manager when they’re ready?
Here’s one way… make a list of ten bands whose careers you’d love to have in a couple years. Be realistic. Go to the contact page on their website or Facebook and find a management contact. Most managers live in LA, NYC, Nashville, Austin, Chicago. After you’ve worked your ass off to create a buzz at a level where you can play a great show in one of these markets, shoot a quick e-mail to one of these mangers that includes your music, accolades, recent developments, social links, etc. and an invite them to the show with a +1. Play a weekday around 8pm. If you’ve really put in the work to create a competitive profile for yourself as an artist or band both artistically and professionally, at least one of the ten managers will come check out the gig.
Maybe they sign you on the spot. Maybe they don’t sign you. Maybe they can’t sign you but help out as an advisor and point you in the right direction.
Managers are always looking for talent in some shape or form – it’s what we do. The key is being prepared to deliver when you get in front of the right one.
How did you get into artist management?
I’ve always loved music. I got accepted to Drexel University’s Entertainment and Arts Management program which required students to complete an internship during two of our summer breaks. At the time, I was infatuated with the Midwest jam band Umphrey’s McGee and sent a cold e-mail to their management explaining who I was, my experience in music thus far (which was minimal), willingness to work hard and learn.
Vince Iwinski and Rachel Lowen of UM management said they were interested and asked to meet in NYC at a UM gig for a quick in-person screening. I excitedly agreed, headed up to NYC, and sealed the brief backstage interview. After working hand-in-hand with a boutique management company for 3 months, I knew 100% that I wanted to work in artist management. It was definitely an eye-opening summer. That internship remains to be one of the most fun and enlightening experiences of my life – complete validation.
Shortly after returning to school, I decided to hit the ground running by asking Philly-based indie rock band Cheers Elephant for an internship. They replied, “sure, but who are you interning for? We don’t have a manager, label, agent, etc.” Right then and there I became their manager.
I slowly taught myself the ways of management and dove headfirst at developing their career. We eventually got to a place where they had gigs all over the country, a few short tours, small TV and film licenses, lots of good press, and a real following. With this group specifically, I felt like a 5th Beatle and eventually became really close with the band and their crew of friends. It was definitely a warm welcoming into the world of artist management.
How did you get the job at Red Light Management – the largest management company in the world?
After some years in Philly, Cheers Elephant and I decided that California was the move. A group of about 15 people made a mass exodus out to Southern California with no real plans except to just go for it. My plan was to do any job in the music industry while managing on the side. I’ve always wanted to work at Red Light Management and saw they were hiring. My second day in LA, I got an interview with industry legend Mark DiDia and convinced him to take me AND Cheers Elephant in addition to being his assistant. From there, I grew into larger roles with artists like Counting Crows, Corinne Bailey Rae, 3 Doors Down, and Miyavi. Eventually, I moved over to Jonathan Azu’s team (who will be in the workshop), now working on Emily King, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Lecrae, Tunji Ige, and Luke James.
What do you do on a daily basis?
It varies; mainly lots of e-mails. Talking and meeting up our artists, marketing shows, updating social media and websites, managing calendars, fan relations, merchandising, and lots more. All while strategizing on what’s to come and analyzing what just happened.
What do you look for in potential clients?
First would be the craft itself. Great melodies, lyrics, musicianship, and production really that really resonates with my taste. Next would be the singularity and uniqueness of the project. I’m always turned on by artists that are carving their own lane musically and aesthetically. Lastly, I like to see there is something happening, even if that something is on a small level. They’re playing out and trading shows with other bands, making DIY music videos, curating monthly showcases, creating a community around their music, getting press, etc.
Their efforts end up being a reflection of where and how they see themselves when it really starts rolling.
Why should people attend the workshop on June 4th?
You can only learn so much from a textbook or article. The most important knowledge I’ve gained over the years is from real life experience and talking to others. Sometimes, it’s just a few key inspirational words from a person who’s really living it to set you on the path towards success.
That being said, access to these people can be the hardest part which is why this workshop is worth your time. All of the guests are active and successful managers that have lots of knowledge to share.
It’s definitely a great opportunity and may be that exact thing you need to get fired up.
Any advice for aspiring musicians and managers?
I said it earlier, but community is key. Make friends with everyone you can and contribute / partake in the music community. Enjoy the process- it’s not supposed to happen overnight. That’d be a pretty lame story.