Everyone’s heard of them, but what is it exactly that an artist manager does? Well, the long and short answer to that is…everything. They ‘look after’ their client, and do the following:
- Negotiating record company contracts and publishing deals
- Working with merchandisers
- Working with PR companies/record company press officers and pluggers
- Dealing with booking agents
- Dealing with relevant companies overseas
- Looking after the legal side of affairs and appointing a lawyer/team of lawyers
- Looking after accountancy
- Appointing tour managers
As an artist manager, you work directly for the artist or band, and you’re pretty much their number one representative when it comes to everyone that can help them make it in today’s music industry i.e. the record company, the publisher, the gig/tour promoter, and more.
Typical days as a manager vary greatly. Sam Jarvis (@samjarviss), Artist Manger at Full Charge Management, says that, “I work in retail as well while doing Full Charge, so my days can be pretty busy. Any chance I get at work and at home, I’m discussing things with the bands like future ideas, having a general chat about any concerns they have, and keep them up-to-date with what I do for them.”
When working in management, you may also end up working as a tour manager too. Tour managers have the responsibility of organising everything that’s going to happen whilst on the road; booking accommodation, transport, equipment, and crew involved with the tour. They’ll travel with the band, dealing with any problems that may arise, and will also act as an accountant – they’ll produce budgets, collect money for performances, and pay suppliers, as well as cover any other expenses.
Days on the road mean that you’re in different cities every day, whilst sometimes waking up in a completely different country. Daily duties, according to Ant Lacey (@AntLacey), a freelance tour manager who’s had experience touring alongside metalcore quintet SHVPES, says that a day on the road usually involves “being first up, making sure everything is good for the day, a lot of looking at my watch, and a lot of repeating the Wi-Fi code.”
When working in both artist and tour management, there are many pros and cons, as there are in any job. Sunny Stuart Winter (@sunnynorwich), a freelance tour manager with experience of travelling through the UK, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, and Luxembourg, believes that being on the road is one of the most difficult aspects of being a manager. “Being away from home, being cooped up in a van for long periods of time will always test commitment,” he says. “People have off days, they find out bad news whilst away from loved ones, they fall out and make up with each other. But it’s a standard part of the touring experience.”
Ant agrees, and shares some of the more miserable moments of touring: “There have been times where we’re sat on the side of the road with a broken van, knowing we’re not going to make the show, and it’s freezing cold, you don’t have enough layers on and you just think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ There’ve been times when I’ve sat in a van for seven hours to get to a show, to find that no one turns up and it gets cancelled, to then leave the show and try to sleep on a cold floor for a few hours, before leaving to take on the seven hour drive home.” Though van troubles have sometimes been the least of Ant’s worries – “I’ve had to frog march promoters to cash machines to get money because ‘There’s been a problem’. I’ve even worked a show in Rotherham where a homeless guy came in and pulled a knife, because he didn’t like the sound of the band on before us.”
However, as a tour manager, one of the major pros is travelling! Sunny agrees: “Getting to see the world with some great people, meeting new friends, the kindness of complete strangers, exhilarating shows with energetic crowds…the list goes on.”
For Ant, the best things are seeing packed out shows. He reminisces about the time they drove to Paris to play with Crossfaith, to find that the show was rammed and people really got into it. However, the most important thing for him is becoming a family with the people you look after whilst touring – “When you’re on the road, you become a family and you all support each other through the highs and lows. Watching Griffin Dickinson’s (SHVPES vocalist) first show with SHVPES was one of the best things I’ve been a part of for a very long time.” A combination of the two is of those “That’s why I do this” moments for Ant.
Artist managers get to see the final product of a band’s release come together, something which Sam finds satisfying – “One of the best things so far has been getting excited for our artist new releases,” he says. “It’s always great to get a vision of what you and the guys want it to be and see it coming together.”
Getting into management can be difficult, but the best way that most managers gain experience is by learning on the job; a lot of people in music management don’t actually have any prior experience. Sunny agrees, and says, “for anyone wanting to work in artist or tour management, find a local or upcoming band you like and offer to get involved. The only way to develop is through experience. Bands and artists will always welcome another helping hand and it will provide you with an understanding of what a manager could do to help. Almost everything I know has been through just doing it, helping friend’s bands, figuring it out myself and then looking to professional peers to see how they do it and how I can improve.”
To make it as a manager, you need to be thick-skinned, persistent, patient, and tolerant, have a sense of humour, and a basic understanding of the principles of management and music business. However, the most vital ingredient is having absolute faith in the band/artist that you’re managing – if you don’t believe in their potential, then good luck in persuading anyone else that they’re worth watching.
Sam says that, if you want to become a manager, then you should just do it. “Go for it and give it your all – if you make mistakes, you learn from them and better yourself.
“Don’t let negativity stop you,” Ant echoes. “And always trust your gut instinct; I learned pretty early that when something comes up and I had to make a decision/had to get something sorted, if I didn’t trust my gut, then it wasn’t right.”
If, as an artist, you’re looking for a management company, then Sunny warns that artists to be careful – “There are far too many people out there looking to make money without doing the work. If you can find friends or trustworthy individuals who are interested in helping you out, then give them a chance. Firstly though, try to be as self-sufficient as possible, and then look at what areas you need help with, what you would like a manager to do and what you can offer in return. The artist/manager relationship must have good communication and trust – always remember that when you’re picking a manager!”
And Ant suggests that artists “talk to whoever you can about what you do. It doesn’t matter if you think someone won’t listen, go and talk to them anyway. The only way you can get your name out there is to tell people who you are. If you believe and love what you do enough, then things will happen.”
Time to hit your local toilet venue and hunt down the next big band.