When you say the words “music manager”, I no longer have any idea what you’re talking about. Because the thing is, the role of music management has changed so much over the last 5-10 years—this is especially true for managers that work with emerging artists. The roles are constantly varying. Some managers will also take on the role of publicist, while others take on booking, and others simply manage, while outsourcing the rest. It’s a total mixed bag and each person is different, which means each band can choose a manager based solely off their own needs.
But that’s an article for another time. Because as true as it is that music management can be defined in so many different ways, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: and that’s the skills needed to be an incredible manager.
Although we’ll be focusing on the skills young managers need to master to work with emerging artists, the reality is that this guide is going to be helpful no matter who you’re working with, whether they’re huge national acts or the emerging indie ones.
These skills will carry you through your career and help you become the best manager possible:
You’re going to be dealing with people at some of their most vulnerable moments. Sure, being an artist can be super cool most of the time but that small percentage that it’s not—that no one came to your show, or you poured your heart into a song no one has listened to, or you just can’t fathom how you’re going to pay for/market this next single—those are moments that you need a little bit of empathy and understanding. Being a manager means knowing when to comfort your artist and give them the pep talk they need to make it through to the other side.
…With a side of kick-butt
That said, you also have to know when enough is enough and it’s time to get serious and stop complaining. Maybe no one came to their show, but if this is the 5th time that’s happened and your artist hasn’t made any efforts towards the suggestions you gave to remedy that maybe it’s time to show a little tough love.
Being a good manager means constantly striking a balance between being understanding and sympathetic to the plights of being a modern-day musician, while knowing when to kick it into high gear and hold your artist accountable.
Like so many professions in this industry, you simply must be good at relationship building. Don’t worry if you’re not a natural or you’re actually an introvert. Believe it or not, I’m an introvert myself and I’ve built a successful business based around relationship building. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.
Being a manager means having a long list of contacts to turn to for everything from outsourcing to calling on favors, so you’ve got to get good at it. And at the end of the day relationship building is really just making friends—it’s not so scary.
Have you ever heard of a successful unorganized manager? Me neither. If you’re going to be responsible for helping move someone else’s career along, you need to have a plan, and that plan needs to have mini-plans, strategies, and next steps. This means having a system.
For me, that means utilizing Asana, Google Docs (for all my spreadsheets and notes) Boomerang for my emails, and bullet journaling for big-picture brainstorming.
You’ll have your own favorite tools and systems, but trust me when I say you must have them. It’s simply not possible to effectively plan out a career when all the knowledge is just sitting in your head. You’ve got to get it out on paper (or I guess digital paper) and be able to see it all in front of you.
Stress & time management
You’re looking at someone who is naturally very poor at stress management. Time management I have a handle on, stress management, not so much. I say this to prove a point: you can be a giant stress ball and still manage it enough to effectively help your client.
To be an effective manager, you have to be able to go with the flow, to a certain degree. It’s a really tough balance to strike—laid back enough to roll with the punches when things inevitably change at the last minute, but disciplined enough to snap into gear and make the situation right.
This is one of those pieces of advice that I really can’t give you instructions on—you just have to work on it. Notice when you’re getting stressed, get more comfortable making quick, gut-based decisions, and if you feel like you don’t have enough time, start paying attention to where it’s going.
Like most things, it does get easier the more you practice it and thankfully when it comes to stress and time crunches in a management career, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice.
Feeling inspired and ready to start managing your first client? Find an artist you believe in and ask them how you can help them. Find out what they need and where your areas of expertise and interest line up with those needs. Each manager has their own style, and each artist will require different things—but once you get started and start to experience it all first hand, you’ll be on your way to being a pro in no time.
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