When should you get a manager?

Most people confuse wanting a manager for needing a manager. Of course with a good manager a band or an artist might progress quicker but it’s like saying my life in Ghana would be easier with a driver to take me everywhere – of course it would – but who is going to pay for the car, the drivers wages, the fuel?

Put simply, the time to get a manager is when you can afford to pay for one from your music business.

So there needs to be a surplus, there needs to be enough coming in from gigs, music products and other sources to pay for the managers time, energy and expertise.

What I’ve noticed here in Africa, is that there’s an idea in play which sees the manager more as a sponsor, someone who will give their time and expertise for free and invest their own money in assets like videos, recording and marketing. This does not exist!

In the real world a manager gets something between 10%-20% of the artists/bands gross income (that’s income before any deductions have been made). That money is to pay them for their time and expertise not to re-invest in the band. It’s a job too. Yes, a manager will likely improve the money coming in situation but there needs to be enough to support the managers time.  Getting a manager is about moving to the next level, having already proved you have the commitment and talent to make this a business.

The Maths

Even if the manager is to get a minimum survival fee of around GH cedis 1,000 per month

If she/he’s on a 10% deal – that means you need to be turning over GH cedis 10,000 a month on a regular basis to pay him/her

Even if the % remains the same – the more skilled the manager – the more you’ll have to be making regularly to get them interested.

For those who want or need the expertise of a manager, but are not yet making the money to support one, here are some tried and tested other ways around it:

The family/friend manager

Take on a committed friend or family member, someone who is not necessarily experienced but knows the artist/band very well, understands the vision, and probably already does most things with the band. For independent artists this model can work very well, especially at the beginning of a career. There are some famous examples of husbands, wives or parents acting as managers.

Pro’s

  • As family or friend they will work for nothing at the start
  • They already know your music and band members well and what you want to achieve
  • They are doing it ‘for love’ so they will not count hours in the same way as a regular job

Con’s

  • They’ll have to learn on the job, they might not have expertise in the things you need
  • Because they are family or friend it might be harder for them to ‘manage’ you
  • There are often issues down the line – either when money starts coming in and their share has not been agreed or when success comes and a more experienced manager is needed.

Outsourcing

A manager’s role can cover many things: strategy, planning, sales, marketing, promotion, publishing, logistics, financials, admin, bookings, production and more. To borrow a model from the next level – something that often happens when a manager is in place – some of these roles can be outsourced, for example getting a booking agent (they just take a percentage from the gigs) or hiring a roadie or road manager to handle all the logistics for gigs or a friend to keep the accounts in order. It’s not the same as having someone oversee everything, but it can keep you going while you build up to being busy enough to hire a manager.

Pro’s

  • Offers financial flexibility while you build the artist/band – can scale up or down easily
  • The various roles are being done by people with experience in that role
  • Leaves you more free to get on with the strategic planning

Con’s

  • Dealing with many people all doing different things requires deep organization skills
  • No-one has control of the big picture
  • Overseeing/managing what other people are doing for you, requires time and energy and skill

DIY

Do it yourself.  By that I mean sharing out the tasks within the band. Look at what talents the band has and share out the tasks to the best suited. Of course, if you are a lone performer – that means everything is on you! This is not as bad as it sounds because even if you could afford to pay for a great manager, they manage not necessarily do.

Pro’s

  • You stay in control of your own direction
  • You develop serious management skills which will benefit you moving forward
  • Saves money

Con’s

  • The workload can be hectic and corners might be cut as a result
  • No-one to bounce ideas off about strategic direction
  • Lack of expertise in the team to move you forward

The big picture

A manager, if you can afford one, is still not going to be doing the work for you, they are guiding, helping you to be more effective at getting where you want to go. The work will still be there to do, but just hopefully more directed towards real priorities, helping you achieve your goals quicker.

The feeling of needing a manager can sometimes come just out of frustration, not achieving your goals quickly enough, or from being overloaded because things are starting to pick up. Try to understand the reasons, look carefully at both the finances and the skills already in your team.

Be realistic, managers are not benefactors or magicians and they are not going to be able to remove all the work you are doing – the point is – a good one can move you forward more efficiently – but its a service you pay for.

Kindly comment below….

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