Let's talk about representation – a manager, specifically. It seems that everyone who's successful has one, so you might be feeling like it's what you need to take your success to the next level, too. It's true that a well-connected manager can definitely open some doors, but it's crucial to first evaluate if you're ready to be represented before you sign the contract.
If you haven't yet read my previous article on defining personal success and setting your own goals, I definitely recommend taking a look. Before you can depend on someone else to do something for you, always consider if you've done everything you can do for yourself first!
Have you decided to pursue music seriously, or is this more of a hobby for you? The industry, at least on local levels, is saturated by weekend warriors. You know the type: dudes who feel they should be given all the benefits of full-time hard work when they are part-time on the scene. They post links here and there, burn some CDs, and expect to get booked because they can rhyme a few words together. They assume they've arrived to resurrect the music industry, but have no goals, time, or drive to back it up. If this is you, you don't need a manager – you just need the open mic schedule.
Likewise, if you're just getting started and still building your name, working on your product, establishing your social networks, or developing your sound, you generally don't need a manager. Proper scheduling of self-promotion and organization are the best management tools you can give yourself at this time. Once you notice you're starting to get requests from people you don't know – promoters, blogs, etc. – for perfomance requests or inquiring about your next song release, you may need some help with representation.
Creative focus is the biggest and best benefit of having a manager. Not having to run around after promoters or send pitches to journalists and bloggers leaves room for rehearsals, creating, and recording new music. At the beginning of your career, a friend who is interested in supporting you and may want to break into the industry as a manager can also be a great partnership. It's a mutual benefit to both of you, and can serve the early portion of your career without costing you money that can be better used to enhance your sound or look.
Does the manager have other clients/responsibilities?If so, time and availability can become an issue. I struggle with this as a manager, since I have artists I work with and artists I work for. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, and having to determine which artist gets the most attention or the best shows can leave others feeling ignored. On the other hand, having a manager with various artists on his or her roster can also be beneficial. Cross-promotional and touring opportunities, established names in the industry, etc., are great incentives for the new guy.
Does the potential manager have a good brand?
Do a little background research to find out his or her work ethic and reputation. If you have access to anyone he or she previously worked or currently work with, don't be afraid to ask questions.
Is there a mutual understanding?
Both you and your manager need to be on the same page regarding your goals and personal definition of success. This may be the most important, so definitely make sure you can define it for yourself first.
How does he or she expect to get paid for his or her work with you?Financial terms should be clear from the get-go. You can take a few different routes with this; use what works for you both. When contracts come out, however, it's lawyer time.
Don't forget that this is a business first and foremost. A manager is also in this for his or her career; it may be based in love, but it has to pay the bills, too. You are the product. It's not personal.
Satori Ananda is chief of staff at W.A.R. Media, LLC, responsible for artist operations under the W.A.R. Media Roster of managed artists. She is also the social media director for Statik Selktah's Showoff Casino, social media/brand manager of entertainer Jean Grae, and production assistant on Grae's Life With Jeannie sitcom. Satori is a regular blog contributor, content director for Skyyhookradio.com, and the co-founder of #SocialWerk, a social media training platform for indie artists, managers, and industry professionals.