The role of the music manager is shrouded in mystery and romanticism. Some managers become almost as famous in some ways as the artists they represent (think Scooter Braun or Brian Epstein) whilst others are unseen figures pulling the strings behind the scenes. One thing is clear, and that is music management is a complex and demanding job – the answer to the question of ‘what a music manager is’ is almost as deep as the role itself. In this blog, we’ll define what a music manager is, break down some of the tasks it incorporates, and take a brief look at why an artist might need a manager.
What types of music manager jobs are there? This is a broad question to answer; music managers come in lots of different guises and the job description for one manager is radically different from the job description of another.
When most people think of a music manager, they think of the traditional personal manager – someone who spends a lot of time with an artist and handles a lot of the day-to-day tasks to ensure that everything runs to schedule. This includes managing an artist’s calendar, making sure they have everything needed for the day and making sure they are in the right place at the right time.
There is also tour management where the manager is responsible for all of the logistics of the road – from ensuring everyone has hotel rooms sorted, to making sure equipment arrives correctly at venues, to making sure the tour stays on track financially.
Business management is the other large sector of managers in the music industry. A music business manager is concerned with the finances of an artist’s career – they ensure bills are paid, books are balanced, and taxes are correct. They often work with new investment opportunities and take care of everything down to managing the different revenue streams an artist might have. Business managers make sure that the income is properly collected and calculated.
Larger artists with lots of different, complex projects will often have multiple people who make up a management team, focusing on each of the above areas individually. However, most artists will generally have one manager that is responsible for everything. This includes the following tasks:
An artist manager is often the public representative of the artist – it is their job to manage incoming inquiries for an artist and pick out the opportunities that could be beneficial, as well as refuse the ones that might not be of interest. Obviously, an artist needs to trust their manager to make decisions on their behalf in these instances, and so being aligned on goals and values is very important.
Music managers also need to make sure that they assemble a solid team around an artist. This can be everything from choosing the right partners such as a record label, booking agent, and PR specialists – to finding other business opportunities like brand partnerships. For example, Paul McGuinness (manager of U2 from 1978-2013), was behind some of the most innovative and successful developments in U2’s career. He orchestrated their 3D concert film series, coordinated the U2 branded iPod range, arranged a lucrative sponsorship deal with Blackberry, and was to thank for the first-ever live-streamed concert on YouTube.
A music manager not only needs to seek out and arrange traditional (and non-traditional) partnerships, but they also need to liaise with the different parties involved to ensure that everything and everyone works together as planned.
Whilst artistic direction usually comes primarily from an artist, it is a manager’s responsibility to be the guardian of the artists’ creative vision, while also understanding the executable realities. They must coordinate the different stakeholders and often negotiate between different parties to achieve this. It might be that an artist has a specific vision for their creation, but a label or other partner wants to push in a different direction – the manager will often be the person who walks the line to find the best compromise that works for everyone.
A good example of this can be seen in the documentary for Genesis’ 2007 Turn It On Again tour when manager Tony Smith forcefully explains to a graphic production designer that the band’s vision for a graphic was not what had been delivered.
Managers in the music business often find themselves dealing with all the other little bits that make up an artists’ career – this can be as simple as registering new songs with the Performance Rights Organisations so the artist can collect royalties, to booking taxis to get from a hotel to a venue, to manning the merch stand at a gig.
Traditionally, a music manager’s role would be centered around finding the key partnerships that will underpin an artist’s career – a label, publisher, and agents. In the modern music era, with more and more artists going down the DIY route and establishing their own labels, and coordinating their own releases, managers find themselves working directly with distributors, record manufacturers, booking agents, and press to support the artists’ goals.
As an artist grows, a manager will often find they are less hands-on in the day-to-day things and more managerial, coordinating the efforts of a larger group of people.
A music manager’s salary is often a difficult thing to calculate, and it will also depend on how many clients they have.
Traditionally, a music manager will take a cut of an artist’s total income of around 10-15%. This makes them quite unique in the music business because they take their cut from everything rather than just a single income stream – for example, a label will typically take a cut of record sales, an agent will take a cut of ticket sales.
The key thing to remember is that the manager takes their percentage of the gross of the total income. So if artists earn £50,000 but their costs amount to £48,000, the manager is still entitled to a cut of £50,000.
More recently, a flat-fee business model for music managers has emerged where management companies charge a fixed fee – often starting around £400-£500 per month but growing depending on the manager – in exchange for management services. Obviously, this approach has pros and cons – it means the manager is guaranteed an income regardless of success so they can focus their efforts and attention on the artist and if successful, the artist is only committed to the flat fee. It could also be the case that there is less incentive for the manager to work hard for the artist, as they get paid either way! It’s worth doing research and working with a manager that is trusted, and with some proven experience where possible.
According to Billboard, a manager of a developing act could bring in $30k to $200k per year whilst the owner of a management company with several clients could net over $1 million a year depending on how much success they have. Of course, if the manager looks after a very successful artist, then they could earn a very significant sum of money depending on their income.
A career in music involves a huge amount of work. A lot of artists, especially in the early days, prefer to self-manage but in many cases, it makes sense to have a manager come on board at some point so that they can help artists navigate the more complex areas of the music industry. This also allows them to focus on the creation of their music.
A manager can help artists choose the best partners for their music – including agents, accountants, lawyers, event promoters, and pluggers – any other key figures that will help grow their brand. In the same way that a mastering engineer is valuable as a second pair of ears on a mix – a music manager can also offer a different, removed perspective that can help artists make positive decisions about their art and their career.
There is a level of credibility that comes with having some kind of representation which can result in more positive interactions with labels and agents than if artists are approaching them alone.
In addition to the other services Music Gateway provides, they also offer a high-quality music management service. Music Gateway’s managers can help to plan artists’ career strategies, offer advice and mentorship, as well as dealing with publicity and making industry connections – Music Gateway’s credo is ‘empowering creatives’, and they have worked hard to build a reputation as a company that supports artists, so their music management service is well in line with that ambition.
And they don’t do things by halves – Music Gateway’s dedicated artist managers have previously worked with the likes of The 1975, Joss Stone, as well as working for GRM Daily, Kerrang, Sony, and Ministry of Sound.
The great thing about the service is that artists are not tied in – the packages are tailored to the individual artist with commitments that run from 6 months upwards (starting at £325 per month) and include guidance, mentorship, and one-to-one sessions with industry pros. There is also exclusive sync representation and music promotions at special rates.
The right music manager can turn a good artist into a great one and really help build a sustainable and successful career. Equally, there are artists who want to remain more independent because that works better for them – artists like Chance the Rapper and Joey Bada$$ have made decisions to reject the traditional models of the music industry and self-manage the business side of their music. At the end of the day, it has to work for each artist and whether a music manager is right for them now or further down the road (or not at all) is totally down to each individual!
If you have songs that you want to share with the world – we want to help boost your career and get them noticed, including music publishing, music management, promoting your music, and improving your streaming presence!