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When do I need a manager?

Posted on November 5, 2018

Bands often wonder when is the right time to start building a team, particularly employing management. Teamwork matters, as does picking the right people to be on your team. Also, as musicians know, timing matters!

Your budget often plays a part in the decision: when you can afford to employ professionals, what services you need and whom you can afford to provide them. What’s more, finite funds mean you need to prioritise. Also remember: One route might work for one band, but not another.

You (as a band/artist) may now be starting to think about how to take your band to the next step and thinking about the best way to grow your band/project. People and services you may want to bring on board include: managers, agents, PRs, radio pluggers; also labels, merch. companies, distributors, sponsors, publishers, lawyers, consultants, producers, songwriters.

In this particular blog, I’ll be discussing when is the right time to decide when and how to approach potential managers; also explaining what band artist manager does

You’ll also be getting great advice from two guest expert managers from the business: Iain Snodgrass (international music, marketing and management expert) and Seven Webster (of 7pm Management: Worldwide Management – Skindred – Andy Taylor – The Power Station – Michael Monroe – Von Hertzen Brothers

When to approach potential managers?

Think about the potential relationship from the manager’s point of view as well as your own. What can you bring to the relationship? What will make a potential manger interested in you? What will make you look like a good prospect?

“Obviously,” explains Seven Webster, “every manager wants to work with music and artists that are brilliant at what they do so. Aside from that, remember that it is a people industry and that as an artist you are an ambassador for yourself. Upon meeting any manager, it is a question from both sides: Is this someone I can do business with and would like to work with in a long-term relationship?

“Management,” stresses Seven, “is a long-term relationship, like getting married, so the decision should be made carefully and responsibly by both sides, not rushed into. It is your future as a band or artist, so should be taken seriously. Decisions should be made in a responsible way, if you care about your business. You as an artist have to find the best path forwards for you personally and to try and make the best decisions in order to drive your business forwards.”

The business case

Remember: When deciding when and how to approach and engage a manager, consider the business side, as well as your music.

Seven Webster offers this advice: “ I would suggest the best time to approach a manager would be when you have the basis of an already-working business with a coherent plan, great music recorded, and a respectable size of fan base on your band’s social media (FB, Twitter, Insta, Spotify, YouTube etc.)

“In short, the better your business is working, the more interested managers of worth are going to be. Every manager wants to see an act that takes its business seriously and that works hard. The manager wants to complement, positively affect and help levitate and grow a business, and to be inspired by an artist, helping them and their business grow onwards and upwards.”

However, Seven also flags up a wise warning: “I would say do not approach any manager until you feel you are ready and have what it takes to grab that manager’s attention in a very limited window, as the best managers are likely to be busy. By this I mean to start with have a clip of music that is going to grab their attention and that is likely to resonate with them in the first 45 seconds of them clicking on a link.”

The music matters, but there’s more to it

Iain Snodgrass agrees: “When looking at potential clients, they have to move me. The music is a major part of that, but performance must also have that effect too. I need to be able to show agents, publishers, labels and PR just why I love the artist, and why they too should want to be involved. That means there has to be commitment and a true work ethic that runs alongside obvious performing and song writing talent.”

Seven Webster also stresses the importance of music and performance. “Of course, every manager is different and as it is the business of music, it is the music that is the first thing that should inspire. Get the music right and Spotify streams and YouTube plays should come anyway, along with potential managers.”

Seven goes on to explain, “In the past I have heard a snippet of a song by a new artist and travelled to see that artist, as a voice alone has connected with me. These days, the quality of recordings sent to me are in general great, so as a manager I am always looking for more than that. A great song with a great chorus and a voice that has something different about it. Something that sets it apart from the pack.

The manager’s roles and responsibilities

The manager’s job is to run the daily business affairs of the artist or band. Strategically, it’s to share their vision, help the band clarify their goals, then turn them into achievable realistic plans and actions.

Iain Snodgrass offers this valuable advice: “The manager should guide the building of the rest of the team, opening doors and make introductions that can then be assessed based on an agreement to work together. He will also advise on spend and ensure that the team will help to move the artist’s career in the right direction whilst not breaking the bank.”

He explains further: “Management is all about team work and building that team around an artist as they grow in stature. Whilst having a manager early in an artist’s career is beneficial - a flag waver for everything they do - they must remember that there is a cost involved in this.”

The manager will work to secure work and income streams for the band/artist and help them with career decisions. An effective manager will also have a handle on when is the right time to expand the team. In the meantime, they might take on the role as the promoter, agent, PR until the band have reached a certain level of exposure, success and cashflow. A good manager should bring with them a plethora of strong industry contacts and a good track record of utilising these contacts.

Management fee models

Managers’ fees may vary from between 10 percent to as much as 25 percent of gross income they secure for the band. This management model does still exist However, as the industry income streams have changed, that model might not make sense at grassroots level when there’s nothing to commission.

It’s now quite common for band managers to work on a monthly fee rather than the standard percentage. This can be positive for both band/artist AND manager. The manager gets a monthly fee, is therefore obligated to put in those hours and will not get frustrated waiting for the % whilst the bands get to keep what they earn. It can be win-win, but PLEASE do your research before entering any management agreement! There are plenty of managers out there too that have too large a roster to handle and will take the money fee’s without delivering what’s needed.

Do look around. There are some really great and affordable management deals out there. Those bands that can’t afford a monthly fee of £200/300 per month might look at consultancy instead. Even a one-day management strategy session might set up a band with a strategy to execute for the whole year that’s realistic and achievable. Meanwhile, the day-to-day running of the band might be better off allocated around the band themselves. A band can go a long way self-managing if they have the right attitude, vision and self-motivation. A band can raise money themselves through crowdfunding, and hire in expertise (as mentioned above). They can also use consultation and hire in their own press team.

N.B. Artist Managers must keep up to date with what's happening in the industry, so they have to research what’s happening with their current roster and make sure it’s happening for them.

As the management model has changed, there have been some creative ways of structuring this new management model. Some managers will act and charge as consultants, almost rent-a-manager. This might be the perfect go-between for a band to invest in 3 months, or even monthly.

Many thanks to Seven Webster and Iain Snodgrass for contributing to this blog.

By claire.lloyd

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