Question: What’s everything I need to know about indie artist management and, generally, indie music management in 2018?
Answer: Indie artist management does not consist of launching your career for you. Indie music management companies are great at pouring gas on the fire when you already have good fan engagement and plenty of bookings. You shouldn’t expect a manager to start the fire for you though. It’s important to go into the search for a manager with the right expectations so I want to be sure you understand that.
A lot of eager indie artists come to me and ask how they can find a manager that will help them grow. Working with an indie music management company can be exciting, but it’s important to have an understanding of what you’re getting into.
Many musicians don’t like dealing with the business side of things but this is your business. You can’t abdicate all business responsibility to a manager (or a friend working as your manager). No matter how great your manager is, it’s your business, not theirs. That means you’re responsible for growing it and attracting an indie artist management company.
Indie artist management does not consist of launching your career for you. Indie music management companies are great at pouring gas on the fire when you already have good fan engagement and plenty of bookings. You shouldn’t expect a manager to start the fire for you though. It’s important to go into the search for a manager with the right expectations so I want to be sure you understand that.
In the world of indie music management, a manager will generally take a 15-25% commission.
You need to be generating enough income for that commission to be something a manager would want. If you only generate a very small commission, it’s unlikely a manager will want to work with you. After all, this has to be profitable for both of you.
It may be time to start looking for indie music management companies when you have so many plates spinning that you can’t handle it alone. You may need someone to help with the day-to-day aspects of your business or help you build connections. It’s important to consider what you want from a manager and define that role, much like you would do for an employee.
A manager should be the 2nd or 3rd person on your team, which is something that comes as a surprise to many artists. An attorney should come first to help you review contracts. Don’t sign a contract with an indie artist management company or booking agent without consulting an attorney.
Work with an attorney to make sure that you’re protecting yourself and your business. It’s also important that you clearly understand the terms of the agreement. For example, a manager may be charging 20% gross profit which is very different than 20% net profit. This is something you may not notice while excitedly reviewing a contract.
Some artists expect a manager to do everything but managers often specialize in one area of indie music management. It isn’t uncommon for a musician to have a road manager that deals with logistics while their business manager works on strategy. There are also indie music management companies that specialize in certain geographic areas.
When shopping for a manager remember that bigger is not always better.
It may sound exciting to be managed by the same indie artist management company that manages one of your favorite bands, but that makes you a small fish in a big pond.
Seek out indie music management companies that represent bands a few steps ahead of you but not quite at Beyonce level. A small indie music management company can devote more time and effort to indie artists than larger companies.
To quote Drew Holcomb:
“It is the worst time ever to make a killing in the music business. It is the best time ever to make a living.” There are more indie artists making a living with their music now than in any other point in history.
When you’re ready for a manager, create an up to date press kit with photos and clippings and put it on www.sonicbids.com. Remember, this is a business relationship so you’ll need to know your numbers. In particular, you should have these numbers on hand:
- Show attendance
- Merch sales & revenue
- Ticket sales & revenue
- Follower count for your social media profiles
- Number of email subscribers
The truth for many indie artists is that they’re not ready to work with an indie artist management company yet.
Keep these things in mind and when you’re ready, you’ll be ready to work with a great indie music management company.
Thank you for reading,
If you haven’t already, check out one of our most popular articles where we answer the question, “What does a music producer / record producer do exactly in 2018?”