A lot of people have some very strong opinions about the role of managers, agents and so on in the music business. Some consider them key to getting the kind of exposure, deals and gigs that an artist needs to get on in the business these days. Others see them as the very height of selling out the underground ideals of dance music. Both of these views are somewhat wide of the mark though – it’s a little bit more complicated than that. So let’s take a look and see whether you need a manager or an agent, and what they can do for you….
We’ll start with agents, as many producers and acts often get an agent before thinking about a manager. The basic role of an agent is to manage your diary – to handle booking enquiries, sort out your travel arrangements, and hopefully secure you a good fee. They’ll then take approximately 15% of the said fee in exchange for these services.
A common misconception is that signing with an agent will get you more gigs. This is, sadly, not normally the case. With luck, you might get a couple more – they can do mailouts to promoters in order to boost your profile, and can suggest your name to promoters who might not have thought of you – but in reality, promoters want to book DJs they like that will get people through the door. And if they don’t like your music, or don’t think you’re a big enough name, then an agent’s mailout won’t change that.
So when do you need an agent? For a start, an agent’s experience should help you distinguish good gigs from bad – stopping you from getting ripped off, for instance. Arranging travel details and hotels can be time consuming, and if that’s eating into potential tune-writing time then it can be very frustrating. And many musician types simply aren’t great businesspeople. If you’re hesitant about asking for more money or dealing with wide-boy promoters, perhaps an agent isn’t such a bad idea after all – leaving you more time to concentrate on the important thing: the music.
If you’re planning to sign with an agent, you should be looking for someone who already represents artists you think are similar to yourself. If possible, contact some of those artists and ask about their experiences with the agent – they may be very happy or they may be about to leave!
A manager, on the other hand, is a much more central presence in an artist’s career. The manager will oversee all aspects of your work. Not your creative direction, although they may advise in that area too, but in terms of getting things signed, remixes, gigs and so on. Ideally, a manager should be taking your finished tracks and finding the best labels for them, while hustling you a good deal. This can even take the form of persuading you to wait for a better offer, when you would have taken the deal that was on the table. This is a level of perspective that it’s often hard to achieve when you’re the artist, and especially when you need to pay your rent – but short term decisions aren’t always best for your career.
So again, if you’re of an artistic temperament, a manager can help out with the business angle that you don’t like or aren’t very good at. When looking to work with a manager, rosters and other artists are not quite so important. What’s really key, though, is enthusiasm and the ability to get things done. A young buck with limited experience could make a great manager if they’re keen to make contacts, work hard and aren’t put off by a few knockbacks. Equally, however, what you really need is someone who puts your name and your music in front of the right people – so a good manager could also be someone who currently runs a good label, or a promoter, or in fact anyone who successfully deals with the industry in general.
A manager would also be looking for certain things from you though, before they agreed to work with you. For a start, they’d want to see that your music is good, and that it’s been getting a certain degree of publicity already. They need a basis from which to work from. They would also need to believe that your profile will grow substantially; if you’re a small artist then a manager’s 20% cut isn’t going to amount to very much. So if they’d be putting in a lot of work for low money at the beginning, they’ll want to see a reward for that hard work later on!
The world of managers and agents is a complex and varied one, and it would take a whole book to cover all the areas in depth. But the most pressing consideration for most new producers is ‘do I need one?’ Obviously it’s not for everyone, but hopefully this article should demonstrate that if you’ve already got a certain level of momentum, an agent or a manager could help you greatly while you make that next step. So if that sounds like where you’re, get the phone out and make some calls – and if not, keep writing the tunes until it is!
Categories: Music Industry Advice