Do you manage a band, as well as being a musician and drummer? Have you ever wondered whether a manager could help you progress more quickly in the music industry? One of the most important and simultaneously most difficult things for musicians to realise is that they cannot make a living by playing music alone. Even superstars get a helping hand! The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can begin boosting your career as a professional drummer and/or producer.
I’m always surprised by the number of people who believe that writing good songs, playing great shows and being active on social media represent an automatic route to success. Of course, these things are important: they’re the foundation for everything else you want to achieve. Nevertheless, I often find musicians labouring under the delusion that uploading a quality song to Spotify or YouTube is all they need to do to be “discovered”.
Musicians as managers
Over recent years, I’ve noticed that drummers, in particular, are playing an increasingly prominent role when it comes to band organisation tasks like bookings, advertising and sales. This can be pivotal for a band’s success. Consider:
- How can you, as a band, get on the concert circuit if you’ve no idea how bookings work?
- How can you promote a new album if you have no idea how to get your songs to the major streaming providers?
- How can you generate passive income if you don’t understand the role of collecting societies and the process of claiming royalties?
- How can you set about increasing your band’s profile if you don’t know where the music business is going in the near term?
Set aside time for music and business
To help you tackle the above questions effectively, I recommend you divide your time into two equal parts:
- one part for artistic/creative work, and
- the other for business activities.
Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’re school at university – but as soon as you’ve decided to pursue music full time, this separation will be vital to keeping on top of things. “But wait,” you might be thinking. “If I’m producing an album, shouldn’t that be getting my full attention? I can’t take the half day off to do business stuff.” This may be true. In this case, I’d recommend you invest 80% of your time working on the album and the remaining 20% keeping everything else ticking over. Because remember: as soon as the album is finished, your time plan will be turned on its head, with at least 80% of your day devoted to marketing what you’ve created.
As soon as you’re back to a regular schedule – i.e., with no special project to work on – I encourage you to resume the 50/50 split. Personally, I like to take care of business in the morning and work on creative stuff in the afternoons and evenings. You can arrange your time however works for you.
My second tip is to divide your money – and your band’s money – in exactly the same way as your time: half for your equipment, studio time, session musicians and producers, and the other half for your marketing budget. Use this money for sales and advertising. Ultimately, it’s pointless making a fantastic album if you don’t have money for the ad campaign. Without advertising, it will be almost impossible for your music to reach people (believe me, take it from someone who knows!). The good news is that it’s never been easier or cheaper to market your own music and build a loyal fanbase.
Wanted: A professional music manager
Let’s imagine that you, as a band member, have chosen to step up to the role of manager. At some point, you may begin to find there aren’t enough hours in the day to juggle admin and music simultaneously. This is where you should consider bringing a professional manager on board. In an ideal scenario, this person will function as a friend, partner, advocate, critic and more. They will back your goals, share your vision and be as invested in your success as you are.
Above all, a manager will oversee the entire business process: from the production of an album to its release and from tour promotion to bookings and social media marketing. To achieve this, they should have corresponding contacts and networks in all of these areas.
Before you sign a contract, check how long (and to what extent) you’ll be tied in
At this juncture, I advise caution. No matter how tempting it may be to relinquish important career decisions to the hands of a manager, it can also be risky. In some cases, it may strip you of control over your own interests and compel you to follow goals you don’t agree with. Go into the search with your eyes open, and always consider the pros and cons of any agreement you are offered. Before you sign, have an independent media lawyer check it over – and not the one your prospective manager recommends. I’m sure you’re heard some of the countless horror stories of clients shamelessly being betrayed.
With all this in mind, I encourage you to research any potential manager thoroughly in advance. Use search engines, ask your friends and colleagues, draw on the experience of your network and try to obtain as comprehensive a picture as possible. Your manager should be your most important ally – and because of this, trust plays a key role. Every member of the band must have confidence that the manager is committed to giving their most and representing the common interest at all times. In the end, it makes sense for the manager to be invested your success – since only then can they be successful, too.
A manager for your music career: What are the pros and cons?
Below is a list of potential pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to sign an agreement. Some may apply to your situation; some may not. I created this list when deciding whether to sign a management contract of my own.
- The prospective manager has contacts you don’t
- The manager identifies with the music you make (and will ideally already have attended your concerts).
- The manager does their job full-time and has a great deal of experience in the music industry.
- The other artists your management works with are currently successful and in demand.
- The manager undertakes regular professional development and is familiar with the latest developments in the music business.
- You trust the manager.
- You share the same goals and are satisfied with the manager’s decisions.
- The manager doesn’t have more contacts than you
- The manager is not familiar with your music and your profile as an artist
- You would be just one of several artists your manager currently works with.
- The manager believes they would be doing you a favour by working with your band.
- The management team has no experience with bookings.
- The manager’s greatest successes were ten years ago, which suggests that they may have lost touch with current standards.
- Your manager is poorly informed about the collection of royalties.
- There is no feeling of mutual trust.
- You have a bad gut feeling.
Agencies and lone wolves
Sooner or later on your search for management, you’ll come to recognise two distinct categories:
- Management agencies
- Emerging managers
Management agencies usually represent a number of artists with similar styles. In addition to the agency directors, such firms usually employ a medium-sized team of managers to take care of artists’ day-to-day business. Typically, these people are so well connected that they can often do more with one phone call than you could with 300 emails. Unfortunately, it is often the case that agencies look after a large number of artists – sometimes too many – and thus, realistically, cannot share every artist’s vision, passion and goals.
With young, emerging managers, the situation is different. Such people usually begin their careers without contacts in the music business and are often close friends with the band they work for. Unlike many management agencies, they identify strongly with the band and its values and work tirelessly to make “their” artist famous. Some go on to help the band achieve international success. In doing so, they transition from a young, aspiring manager to a sought-after management professional.
Remuneration models for music managers
Not infrequently, successful managers later choose to work for a larger management agency, where they are compensated for their work with a 15-20% share of their clients’ earnings. But what if you, as a band, are working with an up-and-coming manager who’s also one of your closest friends? The answer is very simple: if you’re part of a band of four, divide all earnings by five. Consider your manager an invisible fifth member of the band. If you’re working as a solo artist, I advise you to keep 70% and pay your manager 30% up to an agreed earnings threshold. After this threshold, the percentage is reduced. Such an arrangement could look as follows:
- Up to 10,000 euros’ profit: 30 %
- From 10,000 to 25,000 euros’ profit: 25 %
- From 25,000 to 100,000 euros’ profit: 20 %
- Above 100,000 euros’ profit: 15 %
At first glance, it might seem illogical to reduce your manager’s percentage share the more successful you become. But consider how this translates to cash amounts:
- 30 % of 10,000 euros: 3,000 euros
- 25 % of 25,000 euros: 6,250 euros
- 20 % of 100.000 euros: 20,000 euros
- 15 % of 250,000 euros: 37,500 euros
Under this model, your manager receives increasing amounts despite the decreasing percentage share. But what if you’re currently not earning enough for this to be worth the manager’s while? In this case, you might agree to pay them a monthly salary until you’re earning – for example – 5,000 euros per month. After this threshold, the remuneration model comes into force. However, always remember that the commission is deducted from your gross income – before you’ve paid the expenses for your producer, recording studio, tour support, etc. And in case you’re wondering: this model works equally well for solo artists as for bands.
Cooperating with music managers: Transparency and control
If I can stress one thing: always remember how important it is that you, as a band, retain control of your career. You should be kept in the loop about which contracts have been signed and which haven’t. When it comes to inspecting the contents of contracts, don’t accept any excuses: if a manager tries to conceal things, this should set off alarm bells. Mutual transparency is the order of the day. An upstanding manager will be happy to let you inspect any and all contracts with the potential to affect your career (after all, why shouldn’t they?). Never be forced into a corner. Ultimately, it’s about the success of your band and, most importantly, your music!
What about you? Do you work with a manager? If so, where and how did you get to know them? Let me know in the comments!