We're indie musicians. We live in a DIY world. We envisage our future and we get to work, making it happen. We tackle important decisions in every aspect of our career and we choose our own adventure.
This is the job of a manager, the most crucial member of an artist's team, and a role most artists find themselves taking on in the early stages of their career. An overwhelming task at times, here are some strategies to help you be an effective self-managed musician.
1. Get organized
A manager is the point person for every partnership and transaction relating to the artist's career. Managers may also handle much of the day-to-day administration. With so many plates spinning, it’s vital that you be as organized as possible if you’re going to be successful at managing your own career.
Because you’re representing the business side of your career, take a more structured mindset than the one you may use on the creative side. Use a day planner, make a filing system, set reminders, and maintain a consistent schedule of activities to keep you on track and make yourself a reliable advocate for the artist you’re representing: YOU!
2. Get informed
Because a manager is the connection between the artist and all other partners, it’s important that you become as knowledgeable as possible about the various areas of the music industry. This could include album release, show booking, publishing, publicity, marketing, music law, and more. One of the manager’s main objectives is to oversee the general direction of an artist's career and the more you understand about your industry, the more you will have a clear vision of the path your career should take.
Moreover, at the beginning stages of your career, the likelihood is that you’ll have to do tasks relating to many of these areas before you’ve reached the level of having help or being able to afford to hire someone. And when you do reach the level of signing with or hiring third parties, you’ll know what to look for in a successful partner and work with them much more effectively if you have a knowledge base about their job.
3. Get money-savvy
Managers are often the gatekeepers of an artist’s finances. Needless to say, being able to effectively monitor incoming and outgoing money relating to your career is crucially connected to your ability to make a living as an artist. Find an app or some software to help you keep track of revenue, expenditures, and receipts.
You’ll be able to use this information not only to easily pass on to your accountant at tax time, but also to identify areas of strength and weakness in how you’re making money as an artist. Managers are charged with seeking out profitable connections and opportunities for an artist, and so this information can be extremely helpful in knowing which avenues to pursue and which areas can use development.
In that vein, make an effort to learn about the different ways you can generate income in the music industry and use that knowledge to forge new paths to financial success as a career artist.
4. Get acquainted
Because you are the go-to guy or gal for your career, being able to network and get along with people is a must for a self-managed artist. You are your own representative, and so you will have to make your best attempt at comfortably representing the business interests or your career.
Attend industry events, go to conferences and workshops, set up coffee meetings, go to other artists’ shows, and get familiar with the characters in your local scene first, then branch out nationally and internationally.
Make business cards and practice a casual elevator pitch about what you do and what you have coming up. Try not to be forceful with the information, but get to know people in different areas of the industry. Show an interest in what they do, and your interest is bound to be reciprocated.
5. Get some help: when it’s time to get a manager
Although a lot of artists think they need to find a manager right off the bat, you don't actually need a manager until you make enough money to merit paying someone 15-20% of your income and make it worth their while. And if you're not earning very much, giving away 15-20% of it may not be the best use of your funds.
It might seem easier to hand everything to a buddy who says he wants to be your manager, but the most successful artists are those who invest time into the business side of their careers and build the groundwork for a successful management partner down the road.
Learn about your industry, enlist a friend to help with some admin tasks if necessary, and once you've established a strong foundation, the right manager will have the connections and knowledge to take your career to the next step.
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Nat Jay is a self-managed and self-published singer, songwriter, and recording artist whose songs have been placed in film and TV shows on networks around the world. She recently released a new album, The Flash of a Fight, available for streaming here. She is also a private consultant and sessional instructor of Music Business and Performance Skills at Langara College in the Singer/Songwriter and Digital Music Programs, and just launched her new education platform for artists this week on Instagram @ScratchSpinMusic.
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