Indie artists make music for the love of the music. However, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to make some extra money on the side as well. For some, making music was not intended to be a full-time career, but could it be?
Lessons Learned From Major Record Labels: Building a team and Finding a Manager
Major labels no longer control the music scene. Yes, they still have releases funded by a large marketing budget. Yes, they can afford to hire the best technical staff to make sure their productions are flawless, or as close to flawless as possible, but do they always understand the pulse of the audience? Honestly, no.
The growth of home recording studios and social media marketing has changed the music industry. Anyone who wants to release music can do so themselves. Of course, the music should be quality to be successful, but people have to hear about your music for them to even consider buying it.
Luckily for us, the Internet has made the world a smaller place. There are tons of opportunities to be successful in the music industry, but you have to plan accordingly. No individual can do it alone, and it takes hard work to create a strong buzz about your music that lasts the test of time. This is where lots of planning and an amazing team come in.
How to build your team
The models created by major labels are an excellent starting point in the planning process. The majors did not originally have their artists doing the advertising and contacting the venues to set up their own gigs.
They have people who know people.
Why shouldn’t an indie artist have the same? Artists should focus on their art while making sure they have others in place that can handle the business aspects. That may be difficult for some of you to accept, as you may want to make sure you get the best deal for your hard work, but a team who has a vested interest in your success will help push your career further than what you can on your own.
Find a manager
You can manage yourself as an indie artist, but this will take away time from your creative process. It’ll also add additional stress and you may not have the same contacts a personal, professional manager may have. Personal managers are one of the business minded members of your team that have a direct interest in your success. They receive a portion of your earnings, negotiated in advance. Managers want you to be successful and a good manager will push you towards success because it directly relates to their success and financial earnings.
Personal managers help to develop an artist image and career plan. They help find labels, publishers, and establish/negotiate fees for different services provided by outside entities. They help find producers, songs, photographers, and stylists. They help ensure record releases are coordinated with tour dates. They make sure the album art gives off the desired image for your brand. A personal manager helps the artist put together the rest of the team to ensure the artist has the best opportunities to be successful, and they should, as the artist is footing the bill for these services.
Personal managers do not find work for artists. They should not and may be legally prohibited (varies by state) from booking shows. They are not producers, legal representation (though they can be attorneys), business managers (often accountants), publicists, road managers, or bankers. Personal managers should be able to help you find those team members, but the personal manager needs to focus on the artist by being an advisor, strategist, coordinator, and detail person. They make it so an artist can focus on being an artist.
Here are some things to keep in mind about managers:
- Their primary commitment must be to the artist.
- They may have a limited power of attorney to handle business on the artist’s behalf.
- They will not normally manage artists who compete directly with each other (possible conflict of interest)
- They’re normally located in New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. (This allows them to keep pace with the pulse of the industry.)
A good personal manager will be the scapegoat in order for the artist to be the hero. One of their many jobs is ensuring your brand is firmly established, but how do you find a good personal manager?
- First, stay away from family and friends since this could hinder your previously established relationship if things do not work out.
- Second, ask for referrals. Get referrals from industry professionals and existing clients. Check out whom they have worked with.
- Third, beware of con artists. This refers to step two. Verify everything because you do not want to be exploited, losing everything you have worked for.
Personal managers should have industry experience and contacts in booking, recording, engineering, producing, publishing, and public relations. They should have knowledge of business and law with good communication skills. They should be honest, have industry knowledge, be capable, and have a good reputation. They should enable the artist to create with a clear mind, and for all of that, an artist will normally contract out between 15-20% of their earnings to the manager.
That may sound like a lot, but this allows you, the artist, to fully focus on your art.