This was written by Ari Herstand and is an excerpt from his new book How To Make It in the New Music Business
The manager is the most important person in your operation. Your manager is your teammate. Your partner. Your friend. The two of you (or six, depending on how many are in your band) are in it together. Us versus the world. The manager is the liaison between the artist and everybody else. The manager oversees everything from the recording process to the album release campaign to the tour routing, booking and performing to the social media management to the lead singer’s divorce. The manager handles the business, first and foremost. The best managers handle the business with creative finesse. To navigate the constantly evolving musical landscape, managers need truly creative minds. You don’t want a manager who is operating the same way this year as she was last year. Every day is new. Every day is different.
The two extremes of artist managers are the Well-Connected Manager (WCM) and the Best-Friend Manager (BFM). Every manager exists somewhere on this spectrum. Everything you need to know about managers, what they do, what they shouldn’t do, whether you should sign with one when you’re approached, how to be successful without a manager and how to structure your project to make you attractive to managers, we’re going to dig into in this chapter. Here are a few concrete steps you can take, when you’re ready, to get your music in front of managers.
1. Chart on Hype Machine
Hype Machine (Hypem.com) is a blog aggregator. They have about 800 music blogs as part of their system. Whenever one of these blogs posts a SoundCloud, YouTube or Bandcamp link to a song, it gets added to Hype Machine’s charts. The more blogs that post/write about the song and the more users who “heart” the song, the higher it ranks on the charts. Managers (and labels) review these charts (and read these blogs) daily. More on how to do this in Chapter 15.
In addition to the blogs on Hype Machine, there are still a few publications that will review songs and albums. The biggest are obviously Billboard, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, but industry publications like Music Connection magazine regularly review new and unsigned artists and many in the industry subscribe to these magazines. Most sites have specific instructions and guidelines on how to submit.
3. A Lawyer
A more traditional way to get in with WCMs is from referrals from respected entertainment attorneys. More on how to find an attorney later in the chapter.
4. Direct Submission
Platforms like Fluence (fluence.io) and Music Xray (musicxray.com) enable you to pay important people to listen to and review your music. Or, if you’ve done your homework, you can email a manager directly with links to your material. Begin the email to a WCM with compliments about him and express why you think you would be a good fit together; there’s a chance the manager may dig in. Remember, you are bringing value to him. Respect his expertise and experience, but understand that you have something he doesn’t—amazing music.
Many public radio stations, blogs, magazines and music conferences will hold showcases where they will invite managers out. Be careful, though; there are shady promoters and “talent buyers” who will try to get you to pay to play their “showcases,” which are nothing more than regular club shows where you have to buy advance tickets to sell to your friends and fans. Do not take the bait. With legitimate showcases, you have to be invited to play. Many will have a submission process. Most won’t pay, but they won’t make you pay either. If you have to pay, make absolutely certain you know the names of the people who will be there. “A&R” and “music managers” is not good enough.
6. Public Radio
It’s nearly impossible to get played on top 40 radio or other Clear Channel–owned stations without a big-time radio promoter. But NPR affiliate stations will regularly play local, indie and unsigned artists. Start with the stations in your town or the closest city to where you live that has a public radio station that plays music. Managers definitely tune in to discover new talent. One of the biggest music-based public radio stations is Los Angeles’s KCRW, which gets over 550,000 listeners each week. They play pretty much every kind of music except mainstream pop. Study the music played by each DJ. DJs at KCRW (and most other public radio stations) have the autonomy to play whatever they want. So instead of submitting through the front door, go directly to the DJs who are playing music like yours. Be smart about this and do your research. Some DJs only play 1970s funk/soul, so don’t submit your metal band’s latest song to them.
7. Business Schools
If you’re near a business school, target your promotional efforts to these students. Promote your shows on campus and in the business school building. The business students who are interested in music management may come out to your show and offer to manage you.
Also by Ari Herstand: Musicians: You Don't Find A Manager, A Manager Finds You
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