As a music business consultant, one of the most frequently asked questions I get from up-and-coming artists is, "Where do I find a manager?" And every single time, I tell them, "You don’t find a manager, a manager finds you." People tend to not like this answer, but it's the truth. Managers are talent scouts in their own right, and it's their job to seek new talent and find the right fit for their representation. Just because you think you're ready to have someone manage your career doesn’t necessarily mean that they will necessarily see the same value in you and your project as you see in yourself. Every manager looks for a different recipe in artists, of course, but these are five types of artists that any good manager will never work with.
1. The dreamer, not the doer
We all know these artists – the ones who talk a big game with all of the things they want to accomplish in an unreasonable amount of time. These are the people without the real game plan, nor hard work or experience to back up what they want to achieve. No real manager is interested in artists with inflated goals and no intention of getting their hands dirty to do the hard work required to get there.
Remember, the manager is there to guide the career, create and maintain relationships, get you involved in the right things at the right place at the right time, and lead you to making many successful career moves to set you up for years of growth and prosperity. But the manager is certainly not interested in doing his or her job and yours, or doing the heavy lifting alone. If a band starts talking a lot of crazy without doing the legwork to back up the efforts they're making independently toward those goals, that's an immediate red flag to a manager to run for the hills!
2. The artist with the wrong goals
Common goals are arguably the most important thing for an artist and a manager to see eye-to-eye on. There's nothing more frustrating for a music business professional than to ask an artist what his or her goals are and to hear something like,"To be famous!" Barf. Wrong answer. Get out of my office. That's not a real business aspiration; that's an inevitable side effect of being incredibly successful and known for your talent, but not the ultimate end goal that anyone working with you desires to hear.
A manager wants you to have a tangible goal in mind, like "sell out my tour" or "have my record go platinum," not a vain, vacuous response that signals that you're working towards something that would be destined for nothing more than a fleeting moment of TMZ notoriety at best. Furthermore, that's not what any manager wants on their resume, let alone having their professional name attached to it.
3. The "Goldilocks"
This is the artist that's just never happy; it's always "too this" or "too that." A manager is not an assistant or a servant. The manager's job is to head your career and build and represent your brand. They don't ever want to get in bed with someone who needs looking after constantly. Unpredictability and irrationality are two very dangerous things in an artist. Managers want to know that when they set their clients up with an opportunity, they'll do their best to perform as promised with no strings attached. If an artist shows any telltale signs of being a "Goldilocks" early on, you can pretty much count on that being the end of the relationship right there. How you treat the people around you, how you react to things not going as planned, and the way you present yourself all come into consideration when managers want to see if you're the right fit for them.
4. The baggage carrier
Sure, everyone has issues, but are you an artist who lets those issues follow you into your professional environment? And when I talk about "baggage," I'm referring to a bunch of different things – for example, the younger client whose parent is overly involved and detrimentally uneducated in the biz, the aspiring singer whose boyfriend is always hanging around influencing decisions negatively and fueling emotions distracting from her work, the artist with deeply rooted issues that result in destructive behavior… you get where I'm going with this. Good managers can sniff this stuff out right away, and if it seems like they would have to spend more time babysitting you or playing your therapist than being your partner in business, you probably won't hear from them again.
5. The artist with a false sense of entitlement
Last but not least, the artist with the overly inflated ego and underwhelming talent is the last thing a manager wants on a roster. Confidence is great and absolutely necessary for any artist, but having a rational understanding of your value and the ability to be self-aware is a very important determining factor of whether or not a manager will want to take you on. A thirst to learn and grow is appealing, but a false sense of entitlement, no matter how good you are, doesn't make anyone want to play on your team.
Learn more about hiring and working with a manager:
- Is It Time to Hire a Manager?
- 5 Types of Managers You Don't Want Managing Your Band
- 5 Signs It's Time to Break Up With Your Manager
Christine Occhino is the founder and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy and has experience working at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to working as a performing artist for over a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in music business & management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and vocal performance from Berklee College of Music, where she was a vocal scholarship recipient and former editor-in-chief of The Berklee Groove.