A hypothetical situation: You are the lead singer of a band called The Awesome. You formed The Awesome one year ago with your best friend, bassist Ted. In that time, you and Ted have booked and played over 50 shows with the rest of the band, creating a strong following in your region of the United States. In addition to writing, excuse the adjective, awesome songs and playing incredible shows, you’ve kept a keen business sense and created an eye catching electronic press kit, written press releases that have gained the attention of college radio stations in your area that have begun playing songs from your EP on their airwaves, and have even gotten pretty good at negotiating guarantees from venue bookers.
But now you found you’ve a dug a hole for yourself. Though you’ve handled all business aspects of the band with the utmost professionalism, to continue to do so at this point of the band’s success will require the hours of a full time job, and there are still songs to be written for your debut album! Not to mention the recording and the obligation of shows already booked. The cliché begins to ring true: there are just not enough hours in the day.
Though many musicians avoid the business side of their music to a fault, even the most business minded artists will come to a point when they can no longer handle the business aspects of a band and still have the time to commit to a full fledged creative undertaking. And this is the point when the topic of acquiring a band manager should enter into band conversations. While it’s natural to want to keep band dealings amongst the friends that started the band an all inclusive group, every band with some sort of success reaches a point when they need outside help to take care of their business dealings, handle band promotions, and, most importantly, take the band to a higher level of success than the band itself can reach on its own.
The exact role of a manager varies greatly from artist to artist, and the manager and artist should work out the manager’s role in the beginning as they write up the contract. And it’s very important that a contract be signed, even if there is currently no money coming in and/or the manager is just a friend of the band. When the money does come, it’s too easy for disputes to rise if there is an absence of a contract. For unsigned bands, the manager acts primarily as a promoter, using his or her contacts and networking skills to get the band noticed in every way possible. The manager may also be responsible for booking shows and negotiating the band’s fee at specific venues. As the band’s success (and, hopefully, income) grows, the manager will also become responsible for negotiating contracts with record labels, as well as overseeing anyone else that may now be working for the band.
Managers are usually paid a percentage of the artist’s income, excluding, in most cases, songwriting royalties. The percentage usually varies between 15 and 20 percent, depending on the amount of duties the manager performs.
Managers often toil behind the scenes to create the buzz that gets an artist heard, though they rarely share any of the spotlight. Often, the only time managers are mentioned is when legal troubles come into play. For instance, in May 2010, Axl Rose filed a lawsuit against his manager Irving Azoff, claiming Azoff sabotaged the marketing efforts for the most recent Guns N’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy. Despite their low level of visibility, managers are often the unsung heroes that propel unknown bands to superstardom.