Realistic Expectations of an Indie Manager

Today’s guest post is written by Jonathan Sigmon, aka “Sigs”, founder of Signature Entertainment:
Many artists and bands looking to take their music careers to the next level are looking for an artist manager. Putting together the right team around your band can be the difference between being a very talented local band or being able to actually tour and sustain a living. So what should you, the band, be looking for in an artist management company/representative and what are realistic expectations from them?

The answer to the first question is fairly easy. Simply look to see the results the manager has delivered in the past. Every artist manager is going to drone on and on about their connections to many industry executives (which can be legitimate or not), but the question you should be looking at for every person on your team (band mates included) is, “What can you deliver?” This sounds very business-like, which most artistic people want to run away from, but it is the reality of the situation if you are trying to make a sustainable career.

As for the realistic expectations of the manager, I think that both sides must spell this out during the contract and negotiations stage. For every manager it looks different and each one is going to have areas of strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some key questions about personal attributes and connections that you definitely want to explore, including:

  1. What is the past experience and reputation of the manager?
  2. Do they believe in your vision and are they willing to become your advocate?
  3. Is there a connection to a recording studio that can produce the kind of sound your band is looking for?
  4. Can the manager find you a booking agent?
  5. Does the manager have business and contract negotiation experience?
  6. Are there connections with a merch/graphic/web designer? Is there knowledge of your key music business websites and how to create a solid SEO for the band?
  7. Does the manager know of a place for the band to practice?
  8. Can the manager help you define and achieve your goals, as well as help decide where to invest your limited money?
  9. Does the manager know how to find good writers for press, websites, contracts, etc. (i.e. publicist)?
  10. Does the manager know how to get your songs published and ensure your royalties will be paid?
  11. Does the manager have connections with a photographer and videographer?
  12. Does the manager have relationships with any record labels in which you are interested? Do they at least have good phone conversation skills in order to discuss matters concerning your band?

Obviously, you may not need your artist manager to fulfill all of these duties, as you may already have some of these needs met (such as a practice space or a recording studio where you feel comfortable). As a band, it is important to prioritize the needs of the group and search for those attributes.

In today’s online world, you are looking for a person who has marketing expertise, an understanding of your target demographic, and is enthusiastic about you. As a band, remember that the manager is only getting paid a commission off of the money you are making. If you are a band that is at the level of only playing a couple of local shows, you can not have expectations that the manager will have connections or experience in all of these areas. However, most artist managers will look to get between 15-20% of your gross (with certain deductions). As a band, you have to ask if that type of investment is worthwhile for you. Hiring a manager may seem like you are giving up a lot of control and money, but not doing so is the mistake that many talented bands make across the world. When your music and fan base starts growing, so should your team. The person who assembles that team is your artist manager. This is by no means an exhaustive article for an artist manager, but for independent bands, this could give you a starting point in attributes to look for in your quest for an educated and connected artist manager.


About the Author:
Jonathan Sigmon (aka “Sigs”) is the founder of Signature Entertainment, an artist management company in Lancaster, PA and a blogger at TaintedCanvas on music business, faith, and marketing.

5 thoughts on “Realistic Expectations of an Indie Manager”

  1. The question is really whether someone are willing any longer – with lower/no advances, decreasing cd sales, small digital margins, a strained live market – to be a manager and potentially get 15-20% of something or very little.

    The most likely thing is that an indie band will hire a close friend as a manager.

    Professional managers should charge fixed fees instead of taking percentages, and artists should stop thinking they can do everything themselves.

    Managers are not always looking out for the band’s best when they work for percentages. Give them the choice between 1) a major label + an advance (and the prospect of being dropped before the next album) and 2) an indie label minus an advance, but more dedication and longterm commitment, and I can assure you that in 8 out of 10 times they will persuade the band to go with the major label.

    This is why Universal’s market share keeps on surging in a time when everyone supposedly “hates” the majors.

    Artists and managers are independent only until some major company throws a large wad of cash at them.

  2. Great points in all. I think a manager should only be a thought have a serious group of band members has been put together. In my experience there always seems to be that ‘one’ member who isn’t %100 dedicated.

  3. Management Contracts can consist of percentages, monthly minimums, retainers or a combination of these.

    I think a lot of Independent Management Firms go with percentage and monthly minimum.

    To reply to the comment about Percentage vs Flat Rate and that Flat Rate would be better. When you are talking about an Independent Artist Flat Rate would not be the way to go for everyone. Because as an Independent Artist there are sometimes weeks where no money is made, the manager is still working, but they arent making anything….If you were paying a flat fee you would pay them every month regardless of whether you made anything.

    If you are considering a management firm, do your homework check out multiple firms and their various contracts. Contracts can be negotiated, but keep in mind an Indie Mgr working for an Indie Artist is going to be doing a lot of work (if they are good that is) as an investment into your career.

    Management makes percentages off say your Merch Sales and your Performances and Royalties etc. But they aren’t immediately profiting off the Phone calls, the social networking, the blogging, the mail, the networking.

    As an Indie, your Artist Manager becomes the PR/Publicist, the booking agent, the merchandiser, the promoter, the social network expert, your marketing advisor, graphic designer/web designer, photographer/videographer,etc The roles that an Artist Manager takes to BREAK the Artist they are dedicating themselves to is extensive.

    I personally will not work with anyone unless I believe in them and their vision. I will not work with an artist just to profit off of them regardless of how great they are! I have to connect with them and feel that we can work together and that their vision is something I can believe in and promote.

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