DIY or DIE: Management Part II – Professional Artist Managers

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Our previous blog had to deal with well-intentioned friends turned artist managers. This week we talk about professional artist managers.

If you do sign with a label they may assign a new artist manager to you to help with the representation. (I’ll talk about the importance of lawyers in the upcoming blog posts but two words:  be careful!)  Often they’ll be past musicians, tour managers, or promoters themselves so they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience young emerging artists can benefit from.

[Rhodes]‘s had a load of influence — especially at the start. He put the group together. And he also put us on the right track — mainly about song content.

Joe Strummer on manager Bernard Rhodes

These guys and gals take the same percentage (15-20%) but something to talk to your lawyer about in advance is what sort of a deal they will get.  360 deal means they’re not limited to just album sales and show income but could include music licensing (if your song got used in a Gap commercial), merchandise, web advertising, etc.

If they receive their fee before all expenses are deducted from a tour date, e.g. if the band gets paid $500, broken down by 5 band members, the manager is essentially get paid the same rate as each band members but the band members have to use their collective income for gas, shared hotel rooms, food money (unless of course the promoter agrees to cover these costs plus guarantee).  People definitely don’t go on tour to get rich.  Read the fine print in any agreement.

One way to avoid this is a flat fee per tour, per album etc.  Again, this depends on if you’re a new artist or established act that’s received a generous (and realistic) advance.  Standard is 15%-20% of your income so if you make $100 for a show, they’re going to get $15-20 out of it.  For a much more detailed breakdown at a higher mid-level artist level I highly recommend Donald Passman’s books.

The nice thing about the changing face of the industry nowadays is how artists are generally able to choose their team.  So that means the power is up to you.  (There’s some great online directories available though FYI huge concentration in Toronto, Ontario).

The best way to meet a manager is to have musician friends recommend them, so that’s fellow musicians, promoters, your dog’s babysitter (ok, maybe not that one, just checking if you were paying attention).  Research who your favourite bands, or a band whose popularity-tour history you aspire to and contact their manager.  (Cold calling sucks, we know, but hey, give it a shot!)

Do you like the bands they’ve worked with before?  Do they understand your band’s tour-style?  If you’re a party-all-the-time band you’ve got to have a manager that gets that.  Same with if you’re an all-vegan feminist Bikini-kill-cover band, you have to make sure they’re not booking you into misogynistic biker bars in rural Ontario.  Your manager’s role is to be your guardian angel.  They are there to protect you and make sure all the opportunities possible come true.

Finally, it is important to know that the manager must be a fan of the band’s music and the musicians must believe in and respect the manager’s point of view. 

If you’re looking into hiring a manager and aren’t sure if the person you’ve selected is right for you, or has the experience necessary, send me an email!  Part of the consultation services offered by YouRockRed means helping you build the strongest team.  Let us help you avoid pitfalls of bad management and send an email today to

Signing that contract did bother me a lot. I’ve been turning it over in my mind, but now I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve realised that all it boils down to is perhaps two year’s security…. Before, all I could think about was my stomach…. Now I feel free to think—and free to write down what I’m thinking about…. And look—I’ve been fucked about for so long I’m not going to suddenly turn into Rod Stewart just because I get £25.00 a week. I’m much too far gone for that, I tell you.

—Joe Strummer, March 1977

(Great books on band legendary band managers including Peter Grant above include Stairway to Heaven:  Led Zeppelin’s Uncensored by Richard Cole and A Riot of their Own by The Clash’s sound guy Johnny Green