Ok, lemme paint you a picture:
You’re an independent artist. You have been honing your craft over the years – writing songs, recording at home, playing shows at the local club or bar or school – and people seem to like you! Oh yah…and that YouTube video you made of your most popular song is getting a lot of views. A friend has set up a show in nearby-big-city and you’re very excited. You’re going to play it, and intend on playing many more.
Your show goes well. You go home, put your songs onto a CD you burn yourself, and start selling copies for cheap…or maybe put your music on Bandcamp and give it away there. A blog (woo hoo!) contacted you to find out more about your music!
So you go on a mini-tour. You drive yourself. You handle your finances Yyou handle selling your merch. You had to contact the clubs to book yourself. You have to call in advance to make sure everything is still a go. You show up and work with the technician, do a sound check, sit back stage until it’s time to play, play, and people like it.
A local band act asks you if you want to go on a bigger tour as their opening act. You accept. The next two months…you’re on tour!
At no point in this process should you ever consider needing a manager. Why would you? You’re doing everything yourself you get all the money! What can a manager offer that you can’t do, with their 15% take of everything.
- A manager can help you focus on your music, your songwriting, and recording so you don’t have to worry about business
- A manager will do all those phone calls for you, they can book and confirm shows, and might have some knowledge to help negotiate a bit more money for you
- A manager can…erm…manage your money, your merch sales, your costs
- …a manager could even drive the car so you can relax!
These are all, of course, dependent on the kind of manager you get. The main goal of having a manager is to handle the business so you don’t have to. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be aware of the business and learn all you can, but there’s a difference between awareness and the time wasted ‘doing.’ A good manager loves organizing a tour, helping get you a deal with a publishing company to make some dough, writing out grants with you (so long as we still have them here in Canada!) so you can get to a studio and record an album outside of your bedroom.
Do you need a manager? No, of course not, but the more you get involved the less time you have for the original purpose: writing and performing music. A manager takes over the crap that takes over!
How do you find a manager? That’s iffy…anyone can manage you (in Canada…I believe in the US you need a license) so long as they are passionate about your music and are willing to learn something about the business. They’ll have to make lots of phone calls. Meet a lot of people. But it’s worth it!
Try a music industry school – I suggest Harris Institute if you’re local to Toronto, both because I attended it and also because the students have to manage a band for eight months under the watchful eye of an experienced manager. Any music school will do…but as I said…it could just be your bestie, so long as they’re willing to work!
Managers can also be your cheering section when the crowd isn’t huge, or your mentor when you’re struggling with a song…and in the beginning when you’re only making fifty bucks a show, he or she is doing all that for only eight bucks pay. That mighty 15%.
If they believe in you a manager believes that one day they’ll be making $150K when you hit it big. And if they did their job right, they’ll deserve it!
So…that’s what a manager is for. To deal with the boring stuff so you can deal with the awesome stuff: music! I think that’s a pretty picture!