Career As a singer or musician, you have to be many things. Until you gain enough recognition – and make enough money – to hire a team or sign to a label, it’s all up to you. We understand this. It’s why our advice pages are packed with practical information on the various elements involved in making it as an artist, as well as articles about the creative aspects of music.
Managing your music career, at first at least, will not be a choice. You’ll have to do it. And the better you are at it, the more your music will spread and become known. It might be the very best thing you could do for your career. Many big names have done it.
What is music management?
Music management has often been portrayed on TV and in the movies in a less than positive light. It’s true that the quality of management can vary hugely. There have been high profile stories of controlling managers like Elvis Presley’s Colonel Parker. And comic takes on amateurish attempts to manage, like Murray’s famous ‘band meetings’ in Flight of the Conchords.
To begin managing your own music career, you’ll need to know what’s involved. And the specifics will depend on the rung you’re on, on the musical ladder. But an overview of tasks you’ll need to do is:
- Liaising with event promoters, publicity agents and talent-booking agencies
- Generate, find and book paid and high profile gigs
- Negotiate contracts, fees and ensure you’re paid
- Come up with a career strategy including which songs to record and release
- Develop a brand, including graphics, logos and the artist or band’s look
- Deal with the media
- Identify and contact influencers – big promoters and broadcasters and record companies
- Run and manage PR campaigns (including social media)
- Promote and market yourself
- Organise backup singers, dancers and musicians as required
- Plan and arrange tour logistics
How to start a career in the music industry
You may have read the list of tasks a music manager carries out and realise that you do some of these already. And many of the points – like tour arrangements – may not yet be relevant to you. But as you grow, these will become important too. The good news is, with the advent of social media and streaming, self-management as a musician became easier than ever.
Any manager taking on a new artist would want to get a really good understanding of their branding. And if you’re doing the job yourself it’s no different. You must consider factors such as which genre you fit into it, who your audience is, what kind of image you want to project and what name you’ll record and release under.
How to be your own music manager
You no longer need the backing of a record label to get a following, although it does help. Neither will you have to spend a fortune on the services of others when you’re starting out. But you do need to accept that with these benefits, come expectations. Because musicians can manage themselves these days, everyone is doing it. So if you sit back and do nothing, you’ll be overtaken by another budding artist who is working hard to pick up gigs and promote themselves.
Music visionary and entrepreneur Dave Kusek of New Artist Model says:
“Today, artists need to be musical entrepreneurs. They need to develop their image and brand and know how to raise money and market their art. Often, if they don’t do it––it won’t get done. Artists have to realize that times have changed and they are responsible for their own success.”
Bookers will not be surprised that you’re managing your own career. Don’t feel awkward about asking for gigs and discussing money and contracts. You have to think with a business head, but never be harsh or mean. Those who are positive and nice do better in the industry. That doesn’t mean you can’t be firm. It’s about doing it in a way that’s professional and reasonable, but that leaves people wanting to work with you again.
How can I start a music career with no money?
Very easily. On a basic level, all you need is a smartphone. With this, you can record and edit videos of yourself singing. You can research, book gigs and contact people. You can build a website for free and you can start a social media marketing campaign. If you have access to a laptop it will make life much easier though. The kind of multi-tasking and organisation that’s needed in management, is much harder on a bigger screen with a full keyboard.
The caveat to getting started with no money is that you must be ready for a music career. This advice is only relevant to those who have really worked on their craft, formed their sound and know who they are as an artist or band. It’s no good being an ace manager if you don’t have an act that’s sellable.