When should an artist get a manager? How to pick up a manager? What makes a good manager?
As many ofyou know, when Taylor chose me as her manager I didn’t have any previous major management experience. Basically, I had worked with a couple unsigned artists and I had these goofy ideas, but I didn’t go to school and study management, or anything like that. What I thought management did turned out to be completely different than what a manager actually does. So I am going to share all of that with you.
Most people don’t have anything to manage when they begin thinking about getting a manager. Most people are not generating enough revenue to be able to afford to pay their manager, which can be tough. If you are the only client that a manager has, and you are not generating any income, that manager is going to have to do other things to survive. So you don’t necessarily know how much time they are going to spend on you. If you get the fortunate ability to be with a manager who is at a management company and has a couple other artists who are making money and they are willing to take you on as an artist, that can be very beneficial. But, it also means that because you are not the one generating the majority of the revenue, you may not be getting the attention that you feel you deserve. So, there is a Catch 22 in having a successful manager take you on early in your career.
I think first and foremost you need to understand the role of a manager. A manager’s role in my opinion, and some people will differ with this and that’s okay, is to teach, advise and guide. It is not to do everything for you. Trust me, I have made the mistake of doing everything for my artists, and it created little monsters. I will share that story later on, but that’s not for right now. My role as Taylor’s manager was not only to teach Taylor and help her execute but I was the go-between between Taylor and the label when we were on site, her and her tour manager, and her and her band.
Taylor dealt specifically with her business manager and attorney. I wasn’t the go-between there. I was a go-between between her and the booking agent. My job was to filter all these offers that would come in and decide which ones were the right ones to present to her and her family. At the time, not every offer was the right thing, so I was able to weed some out and not bother them with those things. Because she was a young artist my responsibility was making sure she was being put in situations where she could succeed. Managers should never put an artist in a position for them to fail. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things you can’t control, but you’ve got to do your best job possible to make sure that every light or every situation that you put your artist into gives them the opportunity to succeed and see some level of success.
I was also the go-between with her merchandise company, and I was involved in helping with the creation of merchandise. I was involved with her logistics, her day to day scheduling and calendar, and things like that. If you have a lot of those things that I just mentioned going on in your career right now, it would be very smart to grab yourself a manager.
Now, what do you want to look for in a manager? First off, I think you need to find someone who is passionate about you. I was very passionate about Taylor. I believed in her vision. I believed in her plans. So find someone who is passionate about you. Now, I have terrible organizational skills. I would find someone who has great organizational skills. I was blessed to be able to put together a team of people who had skills that I didn’t have, and that made me better. So if you can find someone who is passionate about you, and is very organized, that helps.
I think right now that you need to find someone who understands the internet, who understands that times have changed. I think you need to find someone that you trust that can jump your ass if they need to, who can get on you and make you work knowing that they respect you and they trust you. Too often artists tend to associate themselves with what I call “Yes People.” That can be very dangerous. So you need to make sure that your manager is someone that you trust.
Your manager doesn’t necessarily have to come from the music business but they should be studying the music business. They should understand the nuances of the music business. I think that they should be great communicators because they’re basically representing you. They are a direct reflection of you so if they don’t present themselves in a great way, you might not want them representing your business. You should find someone who doesn’t know it all. You should find someone who is willing to ask questions and make things better on your behalf.
That was one of the great things about my situation with managing Taylor. I wasn’t afraid to say, “You know what, I don’t know the answer to that but give me 24 hours and I will find out.” I also allied myself with a lot of people that I could do great things for and help so they would pick up my phone call when I would call so I could get the answers to those questions. So create great alliances with people. There are some fantastic books out there right now, David Hooper’s book “The Six Figure Musician.” I remember picking up Donald Passman’s book just to learn the lingo to carry on a conversation with someone and at least get through that conversation so I could go and research.
Google is a valuable tool nowadays. Bob Baker has got some great books. There are a lot of great resources out there. Make sure your manager is keeping up to date on the changes of what’s happening. Honestly, if you are in a position to be able to compensate your manager in some way, shape or form, even if you are not making revenue yourself, I would do it. If you have an investor I would budget in compensation for your manager because this person is working every day on your behalf and it could be years before you ever make a dime, and maybe longer before they would even see a penny from that.
So find somebody who doesn’t have to solely survive on you making it right now, or else you are getting into situations that won’t help you grow as an artist, and I speak on that from experience as well. Also find someone that is a go-getter, is not afraid to think outside of the box. More opportunities were created for Taylor and myself because we thought differently. A lot of people think that you need to find a person who has done it before. No! But you do need to find that person who is willing to do it, if that makes any sense. I was willing to try anything and I was willing to try it out first myself and put it through the test before I brought my artist into the situation.
I guess what I am trying to say is don’t go the same places that everyone else is going. It’s crowded there. Try to create your own space. That’s what I did with the 7 free songs. That’s what I did with the Taylor and the meet and greets. We created our own spaces because we knew it wasn’t going to be crowded, and in the end it was tremendous the way that these things worked.
So start thinking to yourself: Who would like to be in the music business? Who do you think that’s super sharp? Who do you think that you trust their opinion and who do you think that will be honest with you? Start making yourself a list, and start asking them if they would like to be a part of your team. You don’t even have to call them your “manager” in the beginning. Just let them know you are putting a team together and you would like them to be a part of your team, and see if they have the opportunity to work themselves in that role.
That’s kind of how it happened with me. I was still working for the record company and Taylor had some questions. She wanted to learn about radio. They came down. We spent some time together. I started taking up a little bit more responsibility all the time and the next thing you know, her family was calling and asking if I would like to be her manager. So I kind of worked myself into that position and it wasn’t the first time that they met me they said, “Hey, Rick’s the perfect guy for this.” So work yourself into that role.
Find someone who can work himself or herself into that role. If you are reading this and you’d like to be a manager, work yourself into that role. Find yourself a band that you believe in and say, “Hey, I’d like to help you get better. I would like to help you achieve your dreams. I think I can be a very valuable part of your team” and work yourself into that situation.