Hiring a manager for your band can at first seem like a flashy, validating move that will help propel you to fame and stardom overnight. Yeah, sometimes? But it’s rarely so simple.
There are many cases in which musicians jump into contracts with management teams, or shell out to hire a freelancing manager, before they’re truly ready for it.
The thing is, it’s hard to know when you’re going to be ready. So rather than rely on a gut feeling, if you’re one of the many musicians out there wondering whether now is the time to add a new member to your team, there are a few key areas to check to help know for sure.
Here are ten telltale signs that you’re ready for management.
1. You’re overbooked
Let’s say you’re fortunate enough to be in a position where you’re having trouble balancing rehearsals, songwriting sessions, recording time, and live gigs in your calendar. Perhaps you’re booking just enough time slots to keep you busy all the time, but you’re not yet sure how to prioritize which matters the most.
This is where hiring a manager could come in handy. They’ll help you strategize and organize your day-to-day musical life in order to make sure your time is being used as efficiently as possible. They’ll be able to tell how much you can handle in a given day, because musicians always seem to want to take on more for some reason.
2. You can’t keep up
This one ties into the last point, but it’s not exactly the same. If you’re actually losing track of things, and that’s causing you to lose opportunities, you might be ready.
When even a few emails can send you over your threshold, you might want to consider some help keeping organized and once again, setting priorities in line with strategy. You may have to cut back working with some of the collaborators and peers you love in order to make space for the next important steps of your career.
Having a manager handling your life means they can play the “bad cop” for you and push back on shiny, glimmering mirages of opportunity that could likely turn out to be unhealthy timesucks.
3. Your music is receiving excellent feedback consistently
You’ve been playing your music for everyone: your mom, your friends, your mom’s friends, your colleagues, etc. They all love it. You then start performing more, touring a bit, doing the virtual show here and there, and you’re getting generally really positive results.
Now, it’s important to remember that someone’s opinion is just an opinion, and at the end of the day it’s your music—there were plenty of industry professionals who turned down the likes of Katy Perry and Billie Eilish because they weren’t their cup of tea—but if the feedback is consistently excellent across different audiences, you might be onto something.
There’s a good chance you might be ready to take your music to the next level. But what does that even mean? While it looks different for everybody depending where you’re at and what your goals are, a manager is going to be able to help you take your next steps—whatever they might be.
4. Your social channels are buzzing
Let’s face it. Social media is a huge part of how artists and musical projects make their names in this digital era. Not only will a buzzing social media presence attract a manager, but it’ll give them something great to work with right out of the gate.
Remember, from a management perspective, signing a project is an investment. You’re investing in them but they’re also investing their time and energy in you, for the sake of their reputation, career, and the rest of their roster. If you’ve already started the work to build your community on social channels, and can show steady growth, managers will be glad to take you on and move you further up the ladder.
5. Your music is streaming/selling well
So you’ve got your first million streams on Spotify. Congratulations! A few things could happen next: you could be solicited automatically by strangers wanting to collaborate, or labels and publishers wanting to discuss how they can get a piece of what you do.
Now, these opportunities might end up being spam, maybe some are actually genuine. Do you know who will know which is which? Yup, your manager. They’re going to be a helpful asset in a few ways when this situation comes into play, for example: weeding out the bad apples, asking the right questions, upselling your band’s value, and generating evolving strategies.
If your music is streaming well and you’re not getting random solicitations, that’s also great. You can take that leverage and shop it around to brands or bigger collaborators if you want—and a manager will be able to help there too!
6. There’s a crew of collaborators buzzing about you
Though slightly less talked about, it’s common knowledge in major music cities that almost everyone knows each other in some capacity (at least everyone knows of each other). Getting to a place where you feel like you can reach out and ask almost anyone around you to work on a co-write, or a collaboration of any kind, is a great place to be as a local artist.
If you’ve got collaborators buzzing about your work in every ear and every office, you’re definitely ready to take a more professional approach to these collaborative situations and hire a manager. They will be able to help continue spreading the buzz, help weed out potentially disastrous collabs, and get you prepared for the next level of your career, whatever that may be.
7. You’re looking for a wider network of collaborators
On the other side of the coin, let’s say you’ve gone through all the collaborators you know and are looking to meet some new people out in the industry that would be a good fit. A well-chosen manager, someone who represents a variety of artists and knows your scene, will have an entirely new set of connections that can help you expand your reach.
It’s half their job to help introduce you to the right people and get you in the right rooms and tours. So if your contacts are looking a bit thin, it may be time to consider management.
8. You’re not sure of your next steps
You’ve done it all fine on your own until now. You’ve reached a certain point of success and now you’re not sure what you should be doing these days to elevate your career any farther.
Sure, recording albums and playing shows is great, but is there more out there you can be doing? Perhaps it’s time to consider getting outside help and strategy work. A manager will help you lay out your options and make decisions in a way that honors the mission of your project.
9. You’re ready for labels, publishers, and bigger fish
You’ve got the trifecta: a hit song (maybe a few), a growing presence, and a live show that can sell you for months. You and your band have gone through the previous steps, perhaps on your own or with the help of others. Having a manager can help you get through doors that have been previously closed off to you before.
The manager will get you the meetings you deserve, with the people who deserve to be heard from by you. Whether it works out in the meeting or not, the manager can get you to that point.
10. You’ve met someone
Last but not least, arguably the most important of the ten telltale signs, is that you’ve met a manager who is as interested and invested in your project as you are.
Sometimes this happens like any new relationship; randomly and at a bar. Other times it’s a bit longer and premeditated. But either way, if you’re looking for representation, you can at least start by doing some research to see who’s managing who, and sending a few conversation starters.
Unfortunately, a manager has the ability to make or break your career, so it’s not entirely gimmicky that we recommend you treat finding one like it’s a new romantic relationship. Don’t rush; the first one might not be the one, but eventually you’ll find the one. They’re out there.
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Sammy Hakim is an up and coming young songwriter based in Los Angeles. In May 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
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