At some point in many bands’ careers, they’ll consider assistance from an artist manager. While most musicians need to go through the early phases of their careers on their own, it can be a pivotal move to bring on an artist manager to help navigate the music business, provide access to industry contacts, and help facilitate a band’s growth as they progress toward their goals. But what do band managers do?
A band manager is a professional responsible for overseeing the business and career of a musical group or artist. They handle various tasks, including working with agents to facilitate gigs and tours, sourcing record label deals, running contracts and negotiations, managing finances and budgeting, marketing and promoting the band, and providing general support and career guidance.
This article will discuss what makes a good band manager, different types of managers, when you should consider hiring a manager, and much more.
What are the Duties Of a Band Manager?
There’s never a one-size-fits-all type of band manager, as bands can have different needs for different career stages. Additionally, band members often have a unique skill set that complements the manager’s work to help drive career growth.
Managers can wear many hats and do various day-to-day activities that seem disconnected, but all contribute to an artist’s career development.
Most band managers offer the following services:
Establishing and Maintaining Relationships With the Band’s Team
Working with the band’s team is essential to a band manager’s job. They must build and maintain relationships with the band’s record label, agents, lawyers, publicists, and other professionals involved in the band’s career. Managers must also maintain relationships with band members, ensuring everyone works towards common goals.
A band manager should establish a positive and productive working relationship with these stakeholders. This involves regular meetings and updates and handling any conflicts that may arise. A band manager should also maintain relationships with industry professionals, other bands, outside managers, and media outlets. These connections can be valuable for promoting the band and securing future opportunities.
Handling Contracts and Negotiations
Handling contracts and negotiations is a critical responsibility of a band manager. A band manager is responsible for reviewing and negotiating contracts for the band, including those related to gigs, tours, and recording deals. This ensures that the band gets fair and favorable terms, protecting their interests.
Contract negotiation requires a thorough understanding of the music industry and the legal aspects of contracts and excellent communication skills. A band manager needs to negotiate effectively on behalf of the band, advocating for their interests and needs.
A band manager may also guide other legal matters related to the band’s career, such as copyright protections, trademark issues, and disputes. They need to stay up-to-date on legal matters and navigate the complex landscape of the music industry.
Regarding contracts, a good manager knows when their expertise isn’t enough. They should know the right lawyer to ensure all legal aspects are above board with the band’s best interest in mind.
Managing Finances and Budgeting
Until a band is ready to bring on a dedicated business manager, a band manager is responsible for tracking the band’s income and expenses, developing a budget for tours, recording projects, and other costs. This may involve working with the band’s financial team, such as an accountant or bookkeeper, to ensure that all financial matters are appropriately handled.
A band manager should understand financial planning and management and develop strategies to maximize the band’s economic success. This may involve negotiating contracts and fees, identifying opportunities for revenue generation, and finding ways to minimize costs. A band manager should also provide financial reports to the band, keeping them informed of their status and helping them make informed decisions about their career.
For many music careers, registering a band as a business will make the most financial sense for taxes, payments to the band, and payments to key stakeholders (like agents and publicists).
Band managers can use their industry contacts to set these processes in place by hiring accountants, lawyers, and payroll services to organize and streamline a band’s business.
Marketing and Promoting the Band
Marketing and promotional skills should be in the back pocket of any good artist manager. Working with a label’s marketing team, a publicist, a merch manager, or a gig/tour promoter can help maximize a band’s return on their marketing budget.
In today’s management age, where artists have more ways than ever to speak directly to their audience, having a central marketing mind on your team can be vital when cultivating and maintaining your fan base. From organic and paid social media strategy to building and utilizing an email list, artist managers can help drive merch and record sales independent of any labels or distributors and help drive awareness for gigs and tours beyond what a standard publicist can provide.
Not all band managers work on marketing and promotion.
Handling Logistics and Travel Arrangements
Band managers are often responsible for coordinating the logistics of gigs and tours, including booking transportation, arranging accommodations, and handling other details. This involves coordinating with venue managers, transportation companies, passport and visa offices, and other service providers to ensure that everything runs smoothly on a national and international level.
A band manager should be well-organized and able to handle the details of planning and executing a successful tour or performance. This may include creating itineraries, managing schedules, and addressing unexpected issues.
Buses and vans can break down, deliveries mid-tour can be delayed, and accommodations can be canceled. A good manager will be level-headed enough to overcome these obstacles.
Providing Support and Guidance to the Band
A band manager is a mentor and advisor to their clients, offering support and guidance as they navigate their careers. This may include helping the band develop its sound and image, providing creative feedback on music and performances, and offering advice on handling challenges.
A band manager should understand the music industry and provide valuable insights to the band as they develop their careers. They should also provide emotional support to the band, particularly during times of stress or uncertainty. This goes to support the band as a whole and individual members’ relationships within the band itself.
Different Types of Managers:
As a band’s career starts to take off, its manager will need to rely on various other managers to help handle the widening scope of duties to keep the band’s business moving smoothly. These can include other managers who handle critical aspects of the company. The main types of managers a growing band will interface with have these four options:
Standard Artist Manager
This manager is encapsulated by everything we discussed above. They handle various tasks, including leveraging existing industry relationships, handling basic logistics and finances, negotiating on the band’s behalf, and providing guidance for the band’s career.
A day-to-day manager handles the daily affairs of a band or artist. They are typically brought in when a band’s career needs more than one person to keep everything operating normally. They’re often a part of a broader management team, such as a management firm.
Day-to-day duties may include scheduling and coordinating meetings, communicating with the band’s team and industry professionals, and managing the artist’s schedule.
A business manager handles the financial aspects of a band or artist’s career. This includes tracking income and expenses, developing budgets, and managing accounting, payroll, and tax matters. A business manager may work closely with an artist manager or may work directly with a band’s members, depending on their relationship.
A tour manager coordinates the logistics of a band’s tours, including booking transportation, arranging accommodations, coordinating guests and press at each tour date, advancing shows, settling payments with venue representatives, and anything else on the road.
When Should You Hire A Band Manager?
Many bands think they need managers immediately, but managers aren’t as helpful in the early stages of a musician’s career until they’ve started honing their sound and cultivating a fan base. Industry connections and experience will only take an artist so far without those two things.
There are a few key signs that it may be time for a band or artist to consider hiring a band manager. These include:
- The band is gaining traction and is receiving more interest from booking agents, record labels, and other industry professionals.
- The band is receiving many offers for gigs and tours and is struggling to keep up with the communication and promotional side of touring.
- The band struggles to handle their career’s business and financial aspects and needs someone to help them manage these tasks.
- The band is starting to feel overwhelmed by the demands of their career and could benefit from someone to take on some of the responsibilities.
Fundamentally, every band’s needs are different, just like every manager’s skills are unique to their backgrounds. Finding a manager that’s both an excellent personal and professional fit for a band’s needs can take some time. However, this relationship can take a band to the next level of their career with the right synergy.
How Much Do Band Managers Get Paid?
The amount that a band manager gets paid can vary widely, depending on many factors, such as the size and success of the band, the manager’s level of experience, and the terms of the management agreement.
Band managers may get a percentage of the band’s income from around 5% to 20%. About 15% of a band’s income is standard. This percentage is based on the band’s gross income (before expenses) but can also be calculated from net income (after fees).
Some band managers may also receive additional compensation, such as bonuses or expenses, depending on the terms of the agreement.
There are many cases where band managers are paid after their contracts have ended, with what is commonly known as a ‘Sunset Clause.’ This clause dictates that managers can earn a smaller percentage of their original commission after parting ways with a band for a fixed period so they can reasonably be compensated for foundational work they put into an artist.
For example, a sunset clause ensures payment after securing a recording or publishing contract that extends beyond the manager’s tenure with the band.
It’s crucial for a band to carefully review any management agreement and understand the terms before signing on with a manager. It’s also good for a band to shop and compare offers from different managers to find the best fit.
According to Comparably, the average annual salary of a band manager in the United States is approximately $87,743
Things to Avoid When Considering A Band Manager
When considering a band manager, there are a few things that a band should be careful to avoid:
Non-Commission Based Payments
When it comes to roles like artist managers and agents, you want a representative that’s always in your corner, with your band’s longevity and success in mind behind every decision. Commission-style payment is always the safest and most secure route for this relationship.
It’s crucial never to pay managers up front or agree to fixed payments that could be higher than the gross of your earnings. This might encourage them to take the money and run.
Managers With Poor Reputations
In the music industry, your reputation is vital to your success. Poor impressions of your team can prevent opportunities down the road. While an excellent personal relationship is essential, you should consider that manager’s reputation in their field before partnering up.
Conflicts of Interest
One of the more common conflicts of interest is working with someone on the industry’s label/distribution/publishing side. It’s always important to keep your manager and your label separate, as a manager’s role is to negotiate with labels on behalf of the band. Mixing these two facets of your team will usually result in deals that favor the label.
How Does One Become A Band Manager?
Because industry connections and experience are generally required to be a good artist manager, most managers start from another part of the music industry. Many great band managers started as publicists, agents, writers, label employees, tour managers, and former artists.
While rare, some managers can rise with the bands they work with early in their career, but many start coming from another area of the industry or working their way up at a management firm as a day-to-day manager or assistant.
A good band manager should have a wide range of skills and qualities, including excellent communication and negotiation skills, a deep network of industry connections, strong organizational and time management abilities, knowledge of the music industry and current trends, and the ability to multitask and handle pressure.
When considering a band manager, a band needs to do their research, carefully review any management agreements, and ensure they are hiring someone with the necessary skills and experience to help them achieve their goals.
With the right manager, a band or artist can focus on their music and creative endeavors while building a successful and rewarding career in the music industry.
Atreyue Ryken is an artist manager and music marketer with over 10 years of industry experience. He got his start in music writing and social marketing, working at publications and record labels including Alternative Press Magazine and Sumerian Records. Atreyue now specializes in paid social marketing full time, while managing a tight-knit roster of touring artists.