The holy grail for indie artists. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard bands say those four little words, “I need a manager!” With the industry changing so much and managers offering a host of different services, it’s easy to understand why this has become the savior of many bands. After all, the way it’s set up, you only pay a manager when you make money, and it’s their job to make you money, so it kind of seems like a perfect deal, right?
You get to sit back, play your music, and just focus on the things you love, and in turn, someone else is out there advocating on your behalf and helping make you a rockstar.
Well, not so fast.
You see, this is where many artists get confused, and understandably so because the message out there is SO muddied. On the one hand, you have people saying managers are only for when you’re making money; on the other, you have a new-to-the-scene indie manager saying “no-no, we work with everyone,” and then, of course, there’s the whole debacle about what a manager does…
It’s enough to make your head spin.
While this is by no means a definitive guide, we’ve broken it down super-simple so you can ask yourself—do I need a manager?
What does a manager do?
Simply put, you need to talk to the manager you’re thinking of hiring to find out exactly what they do because it is all over the place these days.
It used to be that managers simply managed—I know, simple, right? They would manage your money, your deals, your connections—but now, a lot of managers are also incorporating things like doing your press, booking your shows, creating your social media graphics, etc. They’ve kind of become virtual assistants and managers all wrapped into one—which means it’s even more important to compensate them fairly because that is a whole lot of work.
So the short answer is, talk to your prospective managers and see what their tasks include. However, in general, you can expect them to:
-Be the liaison between you and other team members like booking agents, publicists, and so on
-Expect them to coordinate all things having to do with getting you paid (like when it comes to shows)
-Bridge connections and relationships between you and those you want to connect with
Some managers will also:
-Do press outreach
-book your shows
-plan your tours
Just keep in mind those things aren’t their specialty, so they aren’t a replacement for those other team members in the long run. A manager’s specialty is keeping you on track and helping you make decisions given their expertise and connections.
How much does a manager charge?
The cost will vary depending on what kind of manager you’re talking to and how far along in your career you are, but the standard for managers is to take 10%-15% of everything you make. This is why you so often see people say that if you’re not making money, you don’t need a manager. Because even if you’re making $1,000/month off shows and merch, that’s only $100 for your manager per month. Which is what, about $25/week? $5/hour? It’s not a lot.
However, because of this very conundrum, many managers (especially those just starting) will work with indie artists and charge a base fee of a few hundred dollars a month. Since they know you’re not making anything but realize they’re still going to be working just as hard, this is usually a fair trade-off.
The big question: Do I need a manager right now?
Here’s a question to ask yourself that will help you get some clarity around that. “Do I want a manager because I feel overwhelmed by the amount of money and opportunities coming in, or do I want a manager because I’m tired and burnt out and want some help?”
If the answer is the latter, it’s probably not the right time for a manager. I can’t stress this enough—it is not a manager’s job to simply do all the hard work for you. No one should ever be fighting harder for your career than you, and that includes your manager. So if you’re feeling tired and thinking, “Boy, it sure would be nice to have some help,” then no, don’t hire a manager; hire some team members. A virtual assistant. An intern. A Publicist. And so on.
If you’re starting to see a bit of traction in your career, you’re starting to make some money and see some opportunities pop up. If you want someone to lend their professional opinion to all of that, then yes, start looking because it might be your time to find your manager!
Join me for my free masterclass, How to Grow Your Career Without Spending a Dime, to learn what to post on social media, how to get more fans, how to pitch the perfect outlets, secure festival spots, and more.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placements on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, Spotify, and more, as well as the THRIVE mentorship community—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.