Do you need a manager to succeed in music?

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Finding a manager to direct your career and help you succeed in music may be the right answer, but it depends on where you are in your music career – and where you want to go.

Do music producers, artists, and bands need managers to succeed in music? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on where you are currently in your career. This question will come up sooner or later regardless of where you are.

Before signing any contracts here are a few things to consider.

  1. “Making money” is not a satisfactory answer when considering what you want from your music career. There are lots of ways to make money… how do you want to make money? That can help you determine what kind of manager you need, or if you need one at this point in your career.
  2. A manager isn’t someone who takes a nobody and turns him or her into a somebody.
  3. Can you afford a manager?

Producer and composer Greg Savage gives insights in this video.

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Greg Savage is an entrepreneur from California who makes a living producing music and sound designing for various companies without the use of a record label or manager. He started DIY Music Biz because he wanted to create a reliable resource for musicians, producers, composers, and artists that would be useful regardless of their success or skill level. Topics covered on DIY Music Biz include: Marketing Music, Music Licensing, Sound Design, Gear Reviews, Personal Experiences, Income Generation, Case Studies, and much more.

Get Your Music Noticed!

Read more
How Musicians and Composers Make Money
Make music your career: seven rules to put you on track
Five traits you need to make a living in the music business
Sustain your music career – nine insights to help you do it
Finding a Manager – Part 1

46 thoughts on “Do you need a manager to succeed in music?

  1. Hi!,
    I’m interested in pursing music and it has been my dream since i was a child. I’m 16 and don’t now how to start. I have posted a few covers on YouTube. I’m not sure how to continue my journey to success. Is there any advice you could give me?

    1. Hi Bella,

      The best thing to do at your age is to continue learning and creating. I’m not sure where you’re from, but most college offer free music course (2-3 week training programs) for students in high school.

      I’d save up some money and rent time at a recording studio. Tell them (engineers or manager) that you’re trying to learn and understand the process. A lot of studios probably won’t even charge you because of your age, and the fact that you’re there to learn. You might even wind up with a nice little internship right off the bat.

      – Greg Savage

  2. Thanks for the post!

    I have recently begun recording at home using Pro Tools and a MIDI interface, and I plan to release my first solo album within the next few months (I am working on a music ed. degree so time constraints may vary). I do everything manually – guitar, bass, drums, piano/keyboard, and vocals – and record by looping/layering the parts over one another (no virtual instruments). Although I have been doing research and figuring out ways to network my music, I know nothing is set in stone with this business – certain methods/approaches will work well for some but not for others.

    I also have the issue of not being able to perform shows, which can be a big ticket into the industry, so that’s something I will need to work around. In your opinion, what types of avenues are available for a musician like myself? Does anyone care about raw talent or is it all about presentation? I’m at a loss for ideas of who I can network to (other than my music/social media friends), because I know record labels are looking for musicians who can, primarily, perform and tour.

    I apologize if this is a bit off topic. Thanks again for the post!

    1. Hi Josh B,

      Nice to meet you.

      People care about both raw talent and presentation. It takes a meeting/session to understand anyone’s motives. What stops you from doing shows? What problems are you running into?

      1. I guess one issue is that finding people to play shows with is very difficult, which is why I decided to do everything by myself in the first place (also, because of convenience and personal sound preference; I don’t have to write down every single note if all of the parts are in my head).

        Another issue is that I’m not sure I have the technology or means to perform a one-man show. Since I hope to impress others with my versatility, I would want to play all of the instruments at one point or another. Also, I feel like people would want to see more than just one person at a rock-style performance – it is more visually appealing to see a group of people jamming out as opposed to just one guy playing/singing over backtracks of his own songs.

        I would hope to have people hear my music on the web/radio, and reach as many people as I could that way. Then, I would proceed to collaborate with others and help with their own projects. If I reached a certain level of recognition, then I would be able to find/hire my own musicians to fill in the roles of bandmates, which would then allow me to play my music in a concert setting. But, obviously, this type of position is not so easily reached.

        What it comes down to is this – it seems like there isn’t a market for a musician like me to jump into. I plan on releasing my album on iTunes, YouTube, Pandora, etc. when it’s ready (and if they accept me, of course), but after that it looks like there is nowhere else for me to go. Ultimately it seems that the extent of who can hear me is confined to the internet, and that is not a sure guarantee for success these days.

        Thanks for making yourself available for questions! Let me know your thoughts.

        1. Hi Jon,

          Happy New Year!

          One man bands can definitely be successful. The few I’ve seen were really good.

          You’ll have to really understand your rig in and out that’s for sure. What I saw being used mostly was live instruments and a macbook pro running Ableton Live. Understanding the software is very important as you’ll need things to flow seamlessly. Very little mistakes/hiccups

          I believe the pull and fascination is in the performance. The ability for one person to be a band or orchestra is not very popular so that alone would grab someone’s attention.

          If you’re going to release an album it would be best to make sure you have a Fanbase expecting the album otherwise it will sit with very little movement.

          I’d even go as far as to say build your Fanbase online and launch your album on your own website this way you recoup and profit faster.

          Gigging (Live shows):

          If I were you I’d contact venue owners and find out what managers, agents and acts they work with. Then I would add myself as an extension to their band (if possible) or open up for them just to test the waters and see how your show resonates with people.

        2. Greg,

          I do have a few other questions, actually:

          What are your thoughts about Facebook and it’s usefulness for band pages? I have a Facebook page for my music with a few dozen people anxiously waiting for my album’s release. I know that word can travel fast and far, especially with how easy it is to share material, but when do you think I would need to build an actual website? Is that something that’s necessary, being this early in my career? Is Facebook too informal?

          Also, I know of a lot of different “song shark” websites out there, which is why I’m glad I did my research before choosing to invest in something I would’ve later regret. I’m using BandCamp as a site for listeners to hear/download my music, I plan on sending my music to iTunes when it’s ready to sell, and I’m also planning on sending it to Pandora, Slacker, and other internet radio services to have as many people hear me as possible. Should I stop there, or are there other types of sites/services that you would recommend me to take advantage of?

          Any info you have would be very much appreciated, and thanks again for your help!

          Josh B

        3. Hi Josh, sorry for the late reply I didn’t see this amongst the others. I’m not a Facebook user so there really isn’t any advice I can give you as far as Facebook.

          The look, feel and flow of Facebook is not attractive to me. I try to focus only on 2 to 3 platforms that perform well and I stick with those.

          That depends on your business plan. I like having total control over my promotion and content, and that can only be done with a website. So for me, if I were to start a new business today the website would be a must have.

          Think about it… If you had 5000 followers on Facebook or Twitter and they shut down tomorrow, you’d probably lose all of those fans and connections.

          There’s dozens of sites/services that you can utilize to sell more and promote more of your music, but you really have to look into the contracts and see again what works with your business plan. I would focus on one or two and then branch out.

      2. hey greg savage im into rapping and im looking to see if can help get into studio my flow is so cold i like to freestyill i want to tell you more but im running out of time i hope u get this message cause it shows u wat im bout

  3. I’m glad I stumbled across this! I’ve been rapping for over 6 years, singing for over 4 and I have self-released a total of 5 different projects to date. I have designed, set up, and ran my personal website (www.jphiphop.com) all by myself, promoted and booked almost all of my shows by myself, done all of my writing, recording, and mixing by myself as well as all of my graphic design work. I have created and released merchandise. I really do and have done absolutely everything I personally can to try and reach the next level. I just can’t seem to break through. What you said about having a manager “to take some of the burden off of your shoulders” was so spot on! I would really love to talk to you more about this if that were at all possible! I have a lot of questions!

    I’ve featured on songs with French Montana, Jadakiss, JR Writer, Bone Crusher and Capone (from Capone N Noreaga) but still haven’t made any solid contacts to get me in front of, or allow me to talk business with, anybody as far as management goes. If you have the time I would really appreciate talking more in depth!

    Thank you!

    JP
    Forever Fly Entertainment
    http://www.jphiphop.com

    1. Wow, you’re really wearing a lot of hats there. If you don’t mind, could you post your questions here? This way it helps everyone as there may be others with similar questions who will stumble upon this post in the future.

      – Greg Savage

      1. Yeah, I’m definitely the do-it-yourself type of person so I do any and everything I can on my own. I know that when I’m done with it (whatever it is, whether its mixing a track, editing my website, designing artwork for a CD or Mixtape cover, etc) it will be exactly how I want it. Where if I go to somebody else I may have 4-5-10 changes before I like it. Its just easier to do it myself most of the time because I know exactly what it is I am going for.

        But there are quite a few things outside of my capabilities, which is where I am currently stuck. I know that I have a true passion and a natural ability to create music. I’m good with the creative side of music…but I do not have any knowledge of the “business” side of music. That’s where I need the help, and I feel that a manager would be able to pick up a lot of that slack and help teach me/walk me thru it!

        I finished college by 21 with my Associates in Graphic Design. I was just starting to take music seriously at the time, and since I was living with my mom at the time I was able to spend almost all of my time in the studio writing/recording and promoting my music! But once it was time to move out and on with life I had to focus on what was going to pay my bills. And music was not doing that. So I had to put my degree to work and I got a job as a Graphic Designer, which I have been doing for 3 years and I am now in training to take over as Marketing Director!

        I would like nothing more than to make a living off of music alone! And I feel like if I had the right person/people behind me that would be more than doable! But like I said, it wasn’t paying the bills so realistically I had to do something that would. And since I started working full time as a Graphic Designer the time I have available to do music is less and less. Which is really stressful because music is where my heart is!

        I’m sorry for this being so long, I just felt I needed to explain a little about my situation because everyones is different. I’m not looking for a handout, I work hard for everything I have and pride myself on that. What I am looking for is how to go about getting/putting my music in front of some people that have the capabilities of bringing what I lack to the table, and would actually take the time to listen to me and my music. I’m not cocky, but I feel that if I was able to get in front of somebody in that position, that between the quality of my music and the true passion and work ethic I possess that they would see that helping me reach that next level would be beneficial to both of us!

        I have enough music finished already that I don’t feel its as important to continue making new music (although I really want to!) as it is to try and shop what I already have completed! I have over 120 songs on my personal website and can easily pick a favorite 6-8 tracks that show my versatility as an artist!

        I am in the process of putting together a physical press-kit to try and send out. A pocket folder with graphics printed on the front and back with a bio, music resume, demo disc and card with contact info inside! Is that a good idea? I have spent a lotttt of time online in the past looking up email addresses to labels, a&rs, producers, etc. and almost every one I have found and tried to email comes back saying the email address is incorrect. So I am a little worried about even being able to find legit physical addresses.

        My biggest question would be how do you suggest I go about contacting a legit manager, or somebody with that type of pull within the music business? Or any other suggestions you may have to help me start to break thru to the next level. Like I said, I don’t have a ton of spare time these days, but music is my true passion and I will make the time if I feel it will help me move forward with it!

        Thanks,
        JP
        Forever Fly Entertainment
        http://www.jphiphop.com

        1. Hey Jonathan,

          thanks for breaking that down for me.

          As far as getting in front of someone with pull to assist with placements or good connections (of any kind), you have to be worth their time. 10-15 years ago, the music did the talking. That doesn’t mean that the quality of the music is looked over today, it just isn’t the ticket in (not all the time).

          In order to grab peoples attention you have to have a buzz around yourself, be willing to go out and shake some hands or be very crafty with social media – in most cases a combination of all, especially if you’re trying to do anything with anyone mainstream or work with those who have mainstream clients.

          Having your own fanbase removes doubt. Because even if they don’t like your sound, they can’t argue with the popularity you’ve generated around yourself. People are attracted to promising business opportunities

          It’s like an Episode of SharkTank

          As far as finding legit management, this takes work. What I always tell people to do his target the management of the successful indie artists in their area. If you want to take a huge step google the managers of bigger artists. Most of them can be found on social media and are active on social media.

          Not to mention, a good percent of them have their contact information in their social media profiles and are verified by the social media platforms. Finding them is simple.

          The crippling thing that I notice is when you say I don’t have a ton of spare time. This business takes time and if you ever jump into anything licensing wise you will be making new music regardless of what you already have on hand to shop.

          I don’t think a physical Press Kit is bad, but I will tell you that most agents, music supervisors and managers etc. They’d rather follow a link. Let your website be your Press Kit.

          There are a handful of music supervisors and companies that still require CD submissions etc. but majority would rather click a link to hear if they are even remotely interested.

          My best advice, start building your fanbase. That will generate your buzz, marketing and clientele and… It gives you negotiating power.

          – Greg Savage

        2. I completely understand and agree about the “buzz”! That’s probably what has suffered the most the past couple years since I have had to focus so much on work and haven’t had the time to continually promote and be out and about expanding my name as an artist. I have the tracks for my next solo album all selected, hooks written and recorded, some tracks already finished…but I am thinking a mixtape might be the way to go just to draw in all of the people who have had to go without new material for so long. I would just burn as many copies as I could and start giving them away any and everywhere I go as well as free online dl thru my social media!

          I have spent a lot of time in the past looking up mainstream artists managers…sometimes I was able to find a name but I never tried looking them up on social media! That is a really good idea, thank you! I definitely will!

          And yes, I understand that having a lot of time to dedicate to this is a big part of it. That is part of why I am so stressed out with my current situation. But like I said, music is my passion and its what I truly want to do with my life, so I will MAKE the time! The main thing I am getting stuck on is WHAT to dedicate my time to doing.

          That makes sense about the physical press kits vs the digital. My initial thought with the press kits was more for contacts and people I could actually meet in person, in my general area. Whether it be a club owner, a DJ, a promoter… after I introduce myself personally I just thought that would be a really nice leave behind that I am hoping would be enticing enough for them to actually check out! I always make sure to include and tell people about my official website, I definitely agree with the plus of being able to send them right there and have them get all the info they need!

          Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate it!

          JP
          Forever Fly Entertainment
          http://www.jphiphop.com

        3. Also, reading back through your one of your posts

          “I’ve featured on songs with French Montana, Jadakiss, JR Writer, Bone Crusher and Capone (from Capone N Noreaga)”

          Have you tried reaching out to them and their current connections?

        4. I have tried, the thing is that I was given those opportunities thru a DJ which I never met in person and have only spoken to online. They liked my music and my hooks and sent me some beats, they paid me for my hooks, and then they shopped them to the major artists, or the people doing the tracks with the major artists. So I never got to converse with the artists or anybody on their team… only the people who made the beats. And I asked them a couple times if they had any connections that could help me take my career further and they said no not really :/ So all I really got out of that is the upfront payment for the hook and the finished song to add to my credentials…but no legit contact info…

        5. Sadly, that’s a big part of the business. People, and I’m the same way, would rather pay somebody on a work for hire bases than be married to them and splitting royalties. Sometimes in this industry you have to take what you can get until you can start demanding things.

          If you are indeed getting credit and people at top labels like you, they’ll contact you. I wouldn’t get out of the work for hire game as it’s easy money and you can also use the completed work within your portfolio.

          Another thing you have to keep in mind is top record label executives, producers and production teams are not always looking to sign or work with the new acts, what they’re looking for are writers. Once they have the song, you’re no longer of value. You kind I have to get in where you fit in with a lot of these opportunities, build a rapport and then branch out

    1. Shon,

      You generate a fanbase by consistently releasing music people like and having a way for them to connect with you.

      Instagram, your website, Twitter, Facebook etc. These are all ways for fans to connect with you. Buzz, I’d have to write a new post on that as there are many ways, but it stems from your fan base.

      The more fans you have, the more buzz they’ll generate around your music

  4. I am a singer/songwriter trying to find avenues to sell my music tracks — some with lyrics and others are instrumental. Collaborations, songwriting groups. What’s the best way to get the music heard by artists looking for original tracks? Thanks in advance for your time. I am in the Atlanta, Georgia area with strong roots in Inglewood / Los Angeles.

    1. Hi Larry,

      Best is going to be a combination of experiments and results. I have no idea what you have tried or what you’re willing to try. I can say that most aren’t looking for original tracks these days. People with budget like to invest in things that are proven to turn around.

      Being in ATL and LA, you have access to a lot of big studios, production companies and talented artists.

      I’d start off by affiliating with local studios

      Or build and produce your own artists. This is a lot of work, but indie artists are a little more open minded to working with and developing a new sound.

      – Greg Savage

  5. Hello

    Just stumbled across this piece. Definitely words of wisdom! I have a manager and have worked musically as a singer, songwriter, band gigs/studio sessions/tours etc. I want to go to the next level of artistry but, my manager is not as knowledgeable, I’m finding out. I’m connected but don’t know any managers are people who I believe can help take me to the next level Not sure where I should go from here. Any advice you can give would be most helpful.

  6. Very informative piece Greg Savage. Half of the indie DIY battle is determining who to hire at an affordable price and why. For example: For some years, I kept an entertainment lawyer on a monthly retainer. In the beginning, it was worth it. In the end, I realized it was unnecessary and moved him to a per task basis and got a fee reduction as well. I run a very tight administrative ship at this point. If I’m not making tons of money doing original music yet, at least I can reduce expenses and figure what is essential and what is fluff. The music industry is full of poseurs with the same pitch, “I can help you get more exposure.” This is almost always a red flag. Typically, they lost their jobs when record companies where downsized and prey on unsuspecting indie artists. Avoid them like the plague!!

    1. Hi Daniel,

      The ones that scare me are the agents and song pluggers managers etc. who claim they can build my social presence when they don’t have a social presence themselves.

      Some are great to connect with, but their angle is just 100% wrong. Rather than trying to entice us by telling us how many followers you can get us, it would be better if you told artists/musicians who they can put them in front of because they still have that power and clout.

      What I’ve realized is most are naked walking into the social media because they’ve ignored it or, never had to use it and now they’re forced to.

      – Greg Savage

  7. Sage advice Mr. Savage. So many young artist seek to acheive fame or wealth overnight without having a real idea of what that mens or how it is achieved. Hard work, talent and determination pay off at some point. The best way to get a manager or sign with a label is to create the buzz that will attract those people to you. Everybody wants to be part of something sucessful and labels and managers are no different.

    1. Thanks Larry,

      You bring up great points. One that people tend to ignore is “buzz”. Like you’ve said, labels and managers want to be apart of something successful as well.

      – Greg Savage

  8. i love to work…trying to make this dream a reality is wat I am intrested in these days. I feel like the best part is knowing that I am not in control but God is. I see how it feel and I want this to grow because its the passion. I’m learning from everybody and to make a A team is my effort these days

  9. I too am grateful for the advise. I am a recent gospel artist. I released last September, however, it’s so hard trying to get out there, I have thought of an agent, but not sure about how to go about getting one. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Catherine,

      What exactly do you need help with as far as getting yourself out there? Are you looking gigs, a way to grow your fanbase or are you trying to get signed?

      This is important because some claim to be a jack of all trades and some are. But for your time and money, it’s best to find an agent who specializes in one area. This way you know all of their efforts are inline with your main goal.

  10. Your words of guidance are thought provoking . . . we are seasoned jazz (smooth/funk etc. jazz) musicians and have put out (basically to radio) our self-titled cd with some small success. . . Sirius, some CBS smoothjazz stations, etc. Original cd was even re-mixed/edited by urban radio “sound designer” guy to add to the chances of radio play … I am at a loss as to how to further our music with distribution, more radio play, jazz touring gigs etc. As you mentioned re: goals, our aim is to get our music to the people who love this kind of sound . . .Thank you for any advice. … Thank you so much.

      1. Hi, Thank you for replying . . . have been submitted to various such as CBS smooth jazz, have had some broadcast time accourding to sound exchange,fusiongroove, Sirius, submitted to Music Choice and many jazz independent broadcasters etc. Swiss Radio Jazz, the Long Beach smooth jazz station, but I never hear anything back as to whether we are accepted Cold calling ifrom artist s a really frustrating thing . . .

        1. Lenore,

          trying building relationships with the DJ before sending. Radio can be tricky, you either have what they need or you don’t. Some stations look for new material to break while others have to stick with strict guidelines.

          In order for most radio stations to stay in business, there has to be an audience tuned in for a specific amount of time. The station has analysts who show when listeners tune in, how long they stay and what types of music they listen to the most.

          When the music submitted does not fit such data, it generally doesn’t get played.

          Another thing should do is build a good fanbase. This later shows as social proof as to why your music should be aired on the station

  11. Hello

    Thank you for your words of wisdom. I’m interested in singing locally and for commercials. Can you tell
    me how to go about in getting contracts for commercials? Thanks so mich

    1. Hi Constance, thank you for the kind words. Before I answer, I want to make sure you meant ‘contracts’ and not contacts… I make this mistake all the time. Let me know when you have a moment.

      – Greg Savage

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