When should your band hire a manager? Hmmmm?
Picture of Peter Grant and Robert Plant: Peter was band manager for Led Zeppelin
Most musicians seem to think that they are better off hiring a manager when they're starting out than making 10 grand a week. First of all you'll never learn anything if you let someone handle things when you're just starting out. It's vital to learn all you can about gigging, recording and taking care of your band.
And like I keep saying working on joint ventures with other bands, indie labels and managers. If you do what I say in this article you'll do good period. This is a repost and an important one. If you have any questions, and I know you do just email me and we'll talk.
By Mark Grove
Many bands seem to think hiring a Manager or agent when you're first starting out is a hip thing to do. When in fact, for the most part it is a major mistake due to music industry economics. By that I mean bands just starting out playing locally will usually play for the door, or if they're lucky $100.00 for the night. Or in a lot of cases for nothing--with the smart musicians using that time to build their chops in front of an audience no matter how small.
If you hire a manager that means paying out 10 to 15 percent of your hard earned playing dollars, and if you use an agent as well that means another 10 percent on top of that. When a band is just starting out playing locally they are better off booking the gigs themselves, that way all band members receive an equal share.
But if you don't know much about the music industry from the business end of things and would rather have someone handle the bookings, media and label deals, at least do your homework. Talk to your local musicians union which is a fountain of info on what agents get paid, contract know how, how to obtain media coverage and what's involved in a record label deal. Not just Major label deals, but how to cut a production or distribution deal with a solid independent label. Which is where you will obtain a better deal anyway.
Hiring The Right Manager:
If you're just starting out and want to hire a manager anyway, make sure that he or she is willing to work with the band when times are tough money wise and willing to work to build a bands business and personal affairs for possibly years, yes years guys for next to nothing. That way when your act starts making a good living you'll know you have a legitimate manager. Most bands will make the majority of their money on the road, even the Rolling Stones.
Live performances will consist of playing mainly the club scene locally, and regionally to gather a larger fan base. When you have a manager and agent who know the clubs and are competent at handling bookings, lodgings and regular media interviews in each town they play, then the band is able consistently make better money. Then you know they are starting to climb the ladder of success.
As well, a good manager knows how to handle a bands budget for on and off the road expenses as well. So in these days of accounting scandals, keep your eye on your manager even if he is a good friend. A good manager will send any demo or recent releases to independent labels and a small number of major labels. But a band for the most part if they're industrious enough--will forgo any major label interest and do it them selves--being able to keep the lions share still.
That's not to say all Major label deals are bad. For the most part a band if they are smart will only go for distribution deals when dealing with a Major. Even then they have to make sure they get a fair deal. If it looks fishy even after having a music industry lawyer look into it, get the hell out!
The Business Side And Creativity Of Music
As you all know having someone in your corner early in your music career to steer you in the right direction is vital, and along with that being confident enough to trust someone to handle your business affairs. But keep in mind what I said earlier, watch your manager like a hawk no matter who they are.
But on the plus side, a manager who has music business and creative vision will see beyond making money from just managing your affairs but know the right A&R people for your style of music. Along with that, session players who are suitable for stage and studio work if your band has to take on hired guns. Along with being able to see what markets are suitable for your genre of music which may not be in North America, But Europe or Asia.
An agent should be separate from a Personal Manager to better enable an agent to concentrate on bookings in clubs, festivals, and bigger venues along with setting up concert dates where a band can start opening for others. Having an agent take care of the money gigs and a manager setting up your music business and taking care of personal affairs, enables you and your band to concentrate on the creative end of musicianship. But musicians should at least have a working knowledge of the business side of music. That way if you and your manager part ways, you and the other band members can take over the business end temporarily.
Learning About Music And Thinking Differently To Succeed As A Musician
Even if you've been in the business for years you can still learn from guitarists who've only been at it for a few months believe it or not. They may play something at a jam session that totally floors you and end up using that little riff or chord structure as an element of your style, by changing it slightly so you're not just stealing it. As well, and I keep saying this, learn as much as you can about the music industry from others and reading magazines such as Canadian Guitar Player Magazine, Canadian Musician and Guitar Player to learn the latest innovations and to constantly educate yourself. Associate yourself with musicians who are serious about their craft and you won't constantly find yourself spinning your wheels in bands that go no where.
I may be getting a bit off topic, but what I'm talking about in this article is imperative to do. I know a lot of music industry people would disagree with me on when to hire a manager and how to run one's music business, but then again you have to think differently guys.
How I help Band's through my website:
Canadian Guitar Player Magazine is not just about this writer coming up with articles to help musicians. This web site helps musicians by publishing articles on aspects of music they understand and are accomplished at, such as instrumental playing, recording, band publicity techniques etc. This way a musician or a band has an instant press kit and a way of promoting a band differently. Most press kits have a band bio, musical style and a bit about the band.
Generally just bragging about the band. That's all fine and good but does nothing really to help the band get gigs or show any extra ordinary work or creativity. But by having articles written on a musicians expertise or experience in a certain area of music, along with the musician writing and publishing articles themselves and interviewing other musicians, helps their careers that much further along.
But as I said at the start of this article, hire a manager who is there to help you creatively and further your music vision along with handling day to day responsibilities such as transportation, lodging, dealing with agents, A&R dealings and music conferences. Having tunnel vision to the future of your music career will only help your career that much more.
Keep in mind what I've said in this article and you won't go wrong. Just make a few adjustments along the way. Oh, and don't forget to e-mail this article to a fellow musician.