Conventional wisdom says you need a manager when you’re making money. Reality is a bit more nuanced. In a way, it’s almost like asking the question: How long is a piece of string? 

Artists are very different and they are all unique. It’s important that an artist has a vision, a direction they want to go in. A manager can help shape that vision, and give an artist tactical support and advice to get there. A manager will also crucially help an artist to keep expanding their team, adding key pieces like a booking agent, or a publisher, as they become necessary or useful in growing the artist’s career.

In addition, an artist’s activities eventually grow to a point where there’s so much going on, on so many fronts, that it’s difficult for the artist to stay focused on the most important thing: making art and music. 

A manager should help the artist carry the burden of:

⁠  ⁠organizing an artist’s finances

•⁠  ⁠structuring an artist’s career

•⁠  ⁠Developing an artist’s live presence

•⁠  ⁠Organizing writing sessions 

•⁠  ⁠Developing an artist’s image and brand

•⁠  ⁠Finding sponsorships and other lucrative opportunities 

•⁠  ⁠Growing the artist team

This last point is crucial because some of the tasks above, when taken to a professional level, require finding and adding specific roles to the artist’s team, like a booking agent for booking shows and tours, or an accountant/bookkeeper to structure finances and prepare financial documents. Not all of the above are going to be wanted/needed by an artist; for example some artists only write for themselves, others thrive in writing sessions. Not all artists will want a manager diving into their image and branding. 

This is why it is crucial that the manager have a solid understanding of their client (in order to know what they need and want), as well as a solid understanding of the industry (in order to help serve up opportunities and navigate around issues - and hopefully towards success). At the core of the relationship there needs to be mutual trust. 

Navigation is a very good example. In such an example, one would see the artist as the ship’s captain, and the manager as the chief lieutenant, looking after the crew and maintaining the ship in good condition. In reality, the manager is more like the captain, because the artist is tasked with creating the wind, the most difficult task of all. Sometimes the artist has to leave the manager to handle all of the ship’s activities while they summon the weather :)

When the burden of these activities is becoming overwhelming or you feel you need a partner to help drive your vision, it is time to go find a manager. But it turns out that the hardest thing is finding a manager. The way to do it is to put the word out, to other artists, peers, or anyone who supports and understands your music. It’s a bit like dating. And like dating, it’s all about the fit - finding a manager that understands you both as a person and as an artist. 

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