Last week, Indie Connectors shared an article by Matt Smallwood of Flying Colours regarding building a team to promote your music. This week, Matt delves into the world of managers and provides insight into how to find the RIGHT manager for you.
Created by Matt Smallwood in 2013, Flying Colours is a bespoke artist and label services company. Services include project management, marketing, digital/social strategy, grant writing and distribution.
Matt’s fiercely independent background in sales, marketing, acquisitions, promotion, management, music publishing and licensing puts him at the forefront of the label services business.
The manager, arguably the most important person in your musical career. An advocate, ambassador, negotiator, sounding board, visionary, confidante…the list goes on.
Picking a manager is no easy process. It will likely be one of the most important and difficult decisions you make in your career. So choose well!
It could happen in an organic way, perhaps it’s a person who has supported you from very early on and offers to help or, it could be someone more experienced, who views your skill as something they can develop and take to the next level. Your relationship with your manager is like an extended part of your band family, just like Brian Epstein who was referred to by many as the "Fifth Beatle.
A deep relationship meant to keep you focused on your art
As I alluded to in my first piece (DIY is Not a Great Idea), these musical relationships are deep, the manager-artist relationship is most likely the deepest. You’re essentially married!
The manager is your buffer between you and the rest of your musical world. They act as a go-between. Outside of their business and day-to-day duties their job is to keep you, the artist, focused on your art; writing, recording and performing music. Their leadership, advocacy and experience will help you navigate the many potential pitfalls and challenges intrinsic to the business.
When it comes to manager duties, those can be varied. I firmly believe that a manager should be working to provide unique opportunities for your career, opportunities that you can’t necessarily attain on your own, either due to the fact that you’re working hard creating and performing or you do not possess the depth of contacts and knowledge a skilled manager would have.
Managers can handle a variety of tasks on your behalf. For developing bands, it would be bringing new partners and believers into the fold; record companies, publishers, promoters, agents and any other potential new stakeholders, and convincing them that you are the next big thing.
For more established bands the manager is working with your record company, or setting up your own strategy and plan to release your music. They would also work closely with a booking agent and promoters to oversee your live business and manage all aspects of making each show a success, not only for the band, but for all involved.
Alternatively, there are managers who manage legacy or blue-chip type acts. These acts primarily make their money from touring, (there’s a reason why these classic rock bands keep touring, THE MONEY!) They also work with the record companies to keep their catalogues invigorated, and find potential new revenue streams through arrangements with advertisers or brand partners that speak to their demographic.
A two-way relationship
A manager not only handles the business side of your career, they would be involved in the creative side too. Helping you navigate the label’s or other stakeholders’ expectations. They could be a sounding board for new music, a new look, helping make creative decisions, and being a key part of the band’s overall output and presentation to the world.
Not all managers are going to be able to instantly take you to gold and platinum awards and world tours—this is a business, and a manager will make a decision, in part, based on the perceived value of your business. A manager works on a commission, they need to feel the time they spend on building your career has a return, not just emotionally, but fiscally as well.
The band/artist/manager relationship has to be a reciprocal one, the manager needs to see upside by being your representative. So working hard to build momentum on your own is critical. Expecting that a manager is going to jump on board if you’re only playing a show every three months in the same pub on the outskirts of town, probably isn’t gonna happen.
Let it go!
In closing, I think it’s really important to bring a manager on board when you’re truly ready to have one. Put yourself in their shoes. Why are they going to champion your band or music, when they can pick any band? These relationships have to work on many levels, as I’ve outlined, not just fiscally, but emotionally too.
Be prepared to let-go! Being able to put your trust firmly in the hands of the manager is key. That doesn’t mean you’ve given up your right to have an opinion or do something you’re not comfortable with, it just gives your manager the runway they need to do their job, and help you on your road to success.