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An artist manager is the formal representative of a solo performer or group working in the musical entertainment industry.
An artist manager is best viewed as a collaborative partner in the ongoing career development of a solo artist or musical group. They organise and confirm show dates and tours, liaise with record companies and production houses, assist with studio planning and, to a certain extent, also function as a lifestyle coach for the artist. This is because artists working in the music industry are subject to pressures 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is the manager’s role to support them both personally and professionally, contributing to their positivity and creativity, and realising value in their personal brand as a musical performer.
Some artist managers are freelance or have their own management company, whilst others work with record companies or with established management consultants. Small artist management companies often seek work with promising or unknown talents, whilst artists signed to major labels will be assigned an in-house manager with a wealth of experience within the music industry. The aim is to create a bi-lateral partnership where the artist feels that they have permanent support, and so can relinquish the daily issues of having to deal with emotional challenges and organisational concerns to the manager, so that they may focus on making great music.
The possible salary scope on offer ranges from £23,385 to £55,107, according to SalaryQuest.com. This figure is aggregated internationally, although UK candidates would not expect a starting salary of less than £25,000 (based in London, which is where virtually all of these jobs are located). Those figures are based on talent managers working with significant management companies; freelancers can usually expect to earn much less, but are able to scout for new opportunities which can yield further possible development deals for managed artists. This in turn triggers a series of contract bonuses, which can be considerable depending on the freelancer’s ability to negotiate at contract commencement. Performance bonuses with major record labels and renowned management houses can be phenomenal, depending on the success of the artist or band.
- Manage all aspects of the artist’s meetings, studio time, tour schedule and public appearance schedule
- Act in a “mother and brother” role, guiding and protecting the artist from emotional harm which may inhibit their ability to produce music
- Seek to add value to the artist by ensuring they are able to focus purely on writing and recording music to a very high standard
- Deal with record company negotiation and appoint a solicitor to take responsibility of legal matters
- Handle press and TV enquiries and continually work in building the artist’s public profile
- Exploit marketing opportunities and mitigate any damaging events or rumours
There are no formal academic requirements for candidates who wish to become self-employed managers or who wish to partner small, independent management firms. However, record companies and internationally-recognised management consultancies require at least a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Talent Management or Global Talent Management. Although most of these courses are available at universities in the US there is also an increasing number offered in the UK with Lancaster University and Bradford University being two of the best-known providers. Candidates should be aware that the completion of these degree courses does not mean they are limited to working in the music industry, as it will also set them up to be considered for the very best jobs in human resource management and strategic enterprise planning with multinational companies.
- Exhibit a partnership approach with the client, who is simultaneously the breadwinner, commodity and obstacle for the manager
- Exceptional time management skills and ability to handle multiple concurrent projects
- Have experience of concluding high-level negotiations and understand how to deliver against established objectives
- Understand how to leverage the talent’s market position for best exposure and value-added improvement
- Be able to manage and engage with a huge number of contacts within the manager’s own professional networks
- Be happy to work for over 20 hours a day, often being shouted at by record company executives, and by the talent themselves
The place of work is as flexible as the role implies. Standard equipment is a netbook, Blackberry, and a comfortable car with a driver. The work involves a lot of networking events, short-trip travel within the city of work (London, typically, if in the UK) and time spent at various recording facilities, showcases and directorial meetings. It is as glamorous as it is stressful, and the candidate’s time management and project management skills are all that they have to keep them sane. As much of the work will be spent in contact with the artist being managed, the dynamic of this personal relationship must be routinely maintained, and problems mitigated or resolved swiftly.
The grass-roots end of talent management begins in the sweaty clubs of major cities. It is here where the budding manager is most likely to encounter up-and-coming acts which lack representation. Such is the desire for bands and performers to “make it big” that they often jump at the first representation offer they receive. This of course means that an inexperienced manger will be managing a band with a very small amount of local credibility in the first instance. Success is the result of hard work and dedication to perseverance on the part of both parties. It is possible for local talent managers to sign up a range of acts to their books, which allows for gig swaps and cross-pollination (in terms of networking opportunities), with the aim of career betterment for all of the artists being managed. Most successful managers will begin working with four or five bands, and switch focus to the one that is most likely to yield major label results after a certain amount of time spent on the club circuit.
Newly-formed independent management firms can enjoy a modicum of success locally, although newcomers usually have to fit the demands around a “real” full-time job until such a point as their reputation and contact network delivers credible avenues of opportunity. For those who do manage to achieve placements with significant labels, the opening role sometimes begins with A&R (Artist & repertoire); this is a poorly-paid scouting position, but candidates who become successful can often progress to become talent managers for signed acts within the label’s portfolio.
In the UK (as in the US), there are a countless number of independent talent management organisations, and gauging their effectiveness is difficult for the uninitiated. Most will be open to the approach of unsigned artists until such a time as they pick up a starlet who becomes placed on a major deal. For candidates striving for a placement with a record company, the holy trinity is composed of Sony, EMI and Polydor. They are as unapproachable to the inexperienced as one would expect, and unacquainted managers will experience a “cold shoulder” similar to that with which unsigned artists must also contend.
Also known as…
- Talent manager
- Soloist manager
- Band manager
What’s it really like?
Jonathan “Siggy” Sigmon is an independent artist manager who focuses on Faith Music and independent marketing and advice for aspiring artists. His company is called Signature Entertainment
What made you decide or choose to get into this type of career?
Outside of my love of God, people and the church, I am a huge fan of music (particularly indie rock) and film (comedies and movies that make you think). I enjoy working with young people and their ridiculousness and worshipping God through music or writing! I did things the opposite way round to most, as I began working as a record company executive in Rochester, New York, and then I decided to walk my own path as an independent artist manager because it put me into contact with aspiring young artists who needed my help.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
I encounter a lot of people who make Faith music and require assistance in order to progress their careers. I love working with the church because it puts me into contact with young people who have a great desire to succeed. A lot of the work I do now is actually unpaid, but my core business focuses around my blog page which I set up to enable young artists trying to break in to the music industry. I seek to work and partner creative individuals who are prepared to give it their all.
What’s the most common enquiry/call-out/request to which you must attend?
Most of the work that my particular agency partakes in is in offering advice in the first instance, and then working with my diverse database of industry contacts in order to further the careers of aspiring musicians.
Do you have any high-profile customers?
The music industry worldwide, especially in America or in Europe, is quite an incestuous affair in the respect that talent managers with labels will often have interests in artists who are “off the books.” This can be both a good thing and a negative thing. I would prefer not to name the label I was working for in my earlier career, as I do not feel that is appropriate. I love what I do now; I am happy to be working in the context of supporting energetic youngsters, and in following my own faith and love of God. My career is unique in the respect that I can marry the two quite successfully.
What do you like most about the job?
Being able to share in the passion and enthusiasm of young people for faith and for music. When I was working in New York, I found I became a slave to the system, which for much of the time can have you questioning why you got into it in the first place. The money is very good and the social scene is a major reason why many continue to stay, but now I am much happier being independent, with a focus on promoting up-and-coming acts and talented young people.
What do you like least about the job?
There is nothing about my work with Tainted Canvas that I dislike, but coming from an executive background and taking that “step back” was a difficult decision at the time. It worked out for me, but some may find that they are not able to disengage from the rabid beast which is the music industry in this current age. The internet music revolution means that money is tight now, and it often changes hands for the wrong reasons, and always to the detriment of the talent. The manger should be able to protect young people from being discriminated against, and also from being taken advantage of.
What advice would you have for some who is considering doing this as a career?
Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, because that old adage about making a deal with the devil holds more true now than ever.