Do I need a manager?

You’ve written and recorded some songs, and have been performing all around your city. You just got over 500 Instagram followers—congrats! What’s next?

For many people, management seems like the next step. You might be asking yourself, “Do I need a manager?” After all, you’re a pro musician now!

The short answer? No, you probably don’t need a manager.

Let’s start with clarifying what it is they actually do. Your manager helps in major business decisions, such as whether to take a recording or publishing deal. They promote your music by managing socials and oversee the rest of your professional team. At times they might book your tours and shows. Generally speaking, a manager is here to help develop your career and bring it to the next level. A manager is not responsible for getting your art together—you are! They can’t help develop you and your music if there’s not enough to work with.

Early in your career, your time, energy, and money are better spent developing relationships with people who can help improve your music. Find a producer, recording engineer, or killer band members who bring unique ideas to your songs. A capable videographer or graphic designer can be a great asset as well, supplying you with useful content to promote your music. To start, all of these people will be more valuable than a manager in helping you make music and share it.

For some time you’ll likely be your own manager, booking your own shows and running your own socials. If the music is good and you’re working hard to promote it, your manager will find you. Some might interpret this as sharky or predatory, like they only want to claim the fruits of your hard labor. Consider a couple things:

  1. (Good) managers enjoy their job, and it’s much more rewarding to help someone who can help themself
  2. Managers are living, breathing people too and they need to make a living! It’s unfair to ask someone to invest their time and energy on a person who hasn’t shown they’re willing to work.

In All You Need to Know About The Music Business (the music industry holy text that you should absolutely have), Donald Passman describes four types of managers. There’s the major manager with a young associate who is genuinely invested in you; a midsize manager who is wildly enthusiastic about you; a major manager who is taking you on as a favor to someone important; and finally, a young, inexperienced manager who will kill for you. The tradeoff here is power for attention, as if a manager has more power, they generally have less time for you. Ultimately, though, any one of these types can be incredibly beneficial.

Depending on the career you want, you may never need a manager! Maybe you just need a booking agent or a publicist. Perhaps you’re a masochist who actually enjoys managing yourself. Management is a personal choice that you should make based upon your own personal and professional goals.

By Mike Powers

Mike is a composer, arranger, and artist manager who writes for Tonic Audio.

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