Many bands simply will not function without a manager. The creative aspect of being in a band can be divisive enough, without throwing in managerial responsibilities as well. Managing your band is time consuming and can divert your focus away from writing, recording and practicing.
Making arrangements around other commitments, booking shows, promoting, trying to build a fan-base and keeping the lead singer's ego/girlfriend/drug habit in check is a lot to keep on top of! This is where a manager can step in to take the load off and give you time to focus on the music. However, many bands turn to professional management too early and can lose money and progress because of it.
Professional managers will take between 15-20% of your band's revenue. As an emerging band, every penny you make should be re-invested into your band. Can you afford to see 20% of your profits disappear into your manager's pockets while you scrounge change for the bus? Assess the level your band is at and ask yourself if a manager would be doing anything you couldn't do yourself?
Punching Above Your Weight?
A wise blogger once wrote, you don't need a manager until there is something to manage. Before you approach a manager there has to be something for them to work with. You need to be playing 80-100 gigs a year to generate the money to pay him/her and fund the continued growth of your band, you have to have a 100% commitment from all band members, a fully developed press kit and a general understanding of the industry.
Although a manager will bring the know-how, remember that they still work for you. You will need to be able to question their motives and ideas and ensure that they are right for your band. In addition, a good manager will be much more likely to work with you if they know you understand how the industry works and you are already putting together press kits and PR campaigns.
Unfortunately this begs the question: How do you get to this stage without a manager?!
There are three solutions for emerging bands and they are not mutually exclusive, you can do all three at once.
1. DIY. Yep, you knew this was coming didn't you? If you delegate within your band, the process of managing can become much easier and in some cases it can be better than having a single manager. Traditionally there is a strong line drawn between the creative (music) side and the business (managing) side. This is no longer so clearly cut. The surge of new media, social media and online marketing now requires innovation and creativity in order to stand out. Get the creative members of your band coming up with original and quirky promotional ideas and campaigns! Put the band member with the most connections and best local relationships in charge of bookings and media. Divide up tasks according to the band's strengths and the workload decreases significantly.
2. Get a smart friend on board. If you know someone interested in a future in the music industry ask them to help you out with the business side of things. It will be mutually beneficial as your friend can gain experience and contacts and begin networking with those in the music industry. As a band you should still be inputting creative ideas and you will ultimately have the final say but you can really benefit from someone looking after the admin side of things. It'll give you a chance to do what you do best, play music!
3. Consult a professional manager. Rather than hiring a full time manager, most agencies will offer a consultancy where you can drop in and discuss your ideas and plans with a professional manager (for a fee.) They will be able to give you great advice that will get you started. In fact, this is just about the best use of your band money. A quick chat with someone who understands the business can really put you on the right path. You can then follow up every few months until you are at a point where you are ready for full time management.
In the early stages of your band, striking a balance is important. The management side is essential, but if you suck live because you've spent too much time managing and not enough time practicing, it's all worthless. But don't turn to professional management too soon. Consult rather than hire and start doing things yourself; you'll be surprised how much you can get done. Get out and network, network, network! The more people you know, the easier it is to manage.
Do not look at management as a separate entity of your band. Yes, you need to get the music right but remember: good bands are not simply great musicians, they are great businessmen too.
Ben Brown DottedMusic.com