Finding a Manager: The Musician's Guide

Posted in Guides And Tips

So you need to find a manager to help book gigs, shop a record deal, and manage the day to day business affairs of your band. The question is, how do you find one? Better yet, how do you find a professional, experienced, and ethical one? Well, the answer to this question is not an easy one, especially since there are so many obstacles that block success to the music industry.

The biggest obstacle that blocks success to the music industry is interaction. As you might have experienced or will experience soon, is that managers and record companies will not accept your material when you mail it to them. This is known as “Unsolicited Material.” Industry executives won’t even look at the envelope you send them, never mind listen to your "CD", unless your material is sent or recommended by someone they know and trust.

One way to circumvent the unsolicited material “process,” is to hire a music attorney who has experience working with record companies, producers, and/or managers. Music attorneys usually charge a significant fee to represent your material, which is known as “Shopping.” Finding an attorney can be difficult as well because many of them will not shop just anyone. Your band must be extremely professional and have a lot of experience before an attorney will even think of representing you. Another way to let the industry see you is to play nightclubs. Industry executives will often times got to clubs to see (Scout) what the latest bands sound and look like.

This was the rule of thumb for getting signed in the old days. It was also how I got my start in the industry in the early 80’s. It just so happened that a major booking agent told a manager to come and see me play. The manager was a major concert promoter and was a personal manager for members of Aerosmith and Foghat, among other major bands.

First, he came to see my former band and I rehearse, which was in an old warehouse in Boston. After that, he came to see me play at the Channel Club, which was one of the major Nightclubs in the country. He signed me that night, and then I started doing all kinds of things, such as playing on projects with members of major bands, and performing and recording for major industry executives and music publishers.

Getting a foot in the door of the music industry is extremely difficult, to say the least. Finding qualified executives and managers to help you is even harder. I say qualified people for a reason. I have seen several bands ask anyone to be their manager or to book them. Some bands ask family members or people who are somewhat involved in the industry. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Still, you must be very careful, which leads me to another very important fact.

Even if you are fortunate enough to find a professional to help you, you must still watch everyone who you work with. I have personally seen many huge artists get into huge problems and lose almost everything they had, because of a “Professional” they trusted. Two cases of people and bands who shall remain nameless. In one situation, a manager had renewed a contract with a label for a major band he managed.

As part of the new contract, he received a $200,000.00 advance for the band towards their next album, since their previous album sold several million copies. A week later, the band, the manager, and the president of the record company went out to dinner. A member of the band thanked the record company president for the $100,000.00 advance for the next album. The record company president said “What do you mean a $100,000.00 Advance? I gave your manager $200,000.00 to put towards your next album.” Needless to say, the band and the record company executive just found out the manager had stolen $100,000.00 from the band. The band and record company filed charges against the manager, who had to pay the money back and also went to jail.

In another similar situation, a legendary rock artist helped to sign a rock band who he happened to be childhood friends with. The band was signed, but the rock artist kept 100% of everything the band made, including all record sales and all merchandising. The band went on to sell millions of albums and was only allowed to keep the money they made from their concerts, which had to be split evenly between all four members of the band. For these reasons and many others, you must be very, very careful when choosing a person to help guide your career.

By now you might be asking yourself, “What can I do to help advance my career in the music industry?” Although it is very difficult, and there is no one set way to achieve success, I do have some very helpful suggestions to assist you in your quest.

First, you need to decide which type of person you need to help you. For example, you might need a Band Manager, a Booking Agent, a Personal Manager, a Business Manager, an Entertainment Attorney, or a Tour Manager. When things really get going, you will need all of these people, and even more, experts to sustain your career. For now, let’s review the services that each of these professionals offers, to help you determine which one of them you currently need.

One of the most important things to remember is not to let any one person do more than one job Some bands let one person do many of these services, which is not recommended due to a conflict of interest. For an example, you never want an attorney acting as your manager too, because he might take any deal that is offered, just to make the manager’s commission, especially if that commission is more than he charges for legal advice. Many bands have tried this, and have gotten into a lot of trouble.

Band Manager

A Band Manager oversees all the direct business aspects of the band. A good band manager will make sure the band is rehearsing when they should be, lining up studio time to record a "CD", playing out, will book live performances for the band, or work with a booking agent to help the band get jobs in clubs and other venues, shop the "CD" to the record companies. He will also make sure the band is getting paid, and perform other related services. The band manager usually gets 15%-20% of the income the band generates.

Personal Manager

A Personal Manager is different from a band manager. The personal manager manages the career of a musician or several musicians, independently from their band. For example, a personal manager might manage the singer of a band, and then try to get them a solo album, or a spot in a movie or television show. He focuses entirely on the career of the artist by themselves, and not with the band. A personal manager also gets a percentage of the money their artist generates, which can range from 5% to 20%.

Entertainment Attorney

Entertainment Attorneys shop deals to record companies, and negotiate recording, management, publishing, endorsement, licensing and other contracts, on behalf of a band, solo artist, or songwriter. The entertainment attorney is usually paid on an hourly basis. Some of the top attorneys charge $600.00 per hour.

Booking Agent

A Booking Agent specifically concentrates on booking a band’s live performances. Booking agents book National, International, local, and/or regional shows. Booking agents can also get 15%-20% of the money their artists make.

Tour Manager

Tour Managers are responsible for making sure that all the band requirements are met when on tour. They make sure the band gets to the show on time, equipment needs are fulfilled, oversee press interviews, and are responsible for making sure the band gets paid the night of the show.

It is extremely important to have a contract with each and every business person who represents you. Make sure to get everything in writing, which includes how that person is to be paid, what their job description is, how long they will represent you, and what (if at all) Royalties they are to collect.

Although these tips can help you overcome some of the most common problems bands and artists make in the music industry, always, always, be sure to get legal advice before entering into any type of written contract, or verbal agreement.