How to find a music manager

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Nike Durosaro was a practising lawyer in 2011 when she started working with artist Shakka. Initially, the project was a part-time side hustle. In 2020, she manages Shakka full time - the songwriter has developed into a platinum-selling artist and two-time MOBO Award-winner with over 185 million streams worldwide. Earlier this year Nike launched a music consultancy service, which is a new offering under her full-service management company Big Drum Ent.

Her path to industry success was born from a passion for music rather than a background in one. In this way, she is uniquely positioned to help guide any aspiring artists or managers on the art of the craft. Here, she guides us through some of the questions you need answering when it comes to artist management.

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Music managers can often seem like mythical figures

We know they exist and play a vital role in the careers of all the artists and producers we love and know, but where do they all hang out?

Well in this article I’m going to walk you through where you can find them, what they are looking for, what they do and when to seek one out. 

So, reckon you need a manager?

Firstly, make sure you are seeking one at the right time. If you’ve just decided you would like to pursue a career in music and as an artist haven’t yet recorded anything or performed live, then it is probably too early to get a manager on board.   You should be looking for a music manager if you have recorded music you feel is ready, or at least almost ready, to release. Another good indicator that you might need a manager is if you have lots of business requests coming in, too many for you to personally handle. You should also have made a start on creating a profile for yourself online.

Remember that the person who ends up managing you is essentially investing their time in you with the hope of a financial reward later on down the line. If you have done some of the groundwork yourself you become more appealing to a manager because the road to creating a profitable business from your music is likely to be shorter.

Should a manager be the first member of your team?

Yes, most of the time they should be the first person you hire. The reason for this is that they help you build your team and will, in the future, be leading and overseeing the team of professionals around you. Sometimes artists and producers meet their lawyers first and then the lawyer introduces them to their manager - this is also a great way to start building your team.

What exactly do managers do?

Managers help you with major business decisions such as how you should release your music, whether you should release your music using a distribution company or whether you should sign a record deal with a record label. If you decide to sign to a record label, you will decide together with your manager which label is the best fit for you and what the deal terms of the contract should be.

Managers in the music industry also help their clients with the creative process by suggesting artists they should collaborate with, as well as producers and writers they should work with. In addition to this, managers seek publishing deals for their songwriter or producer clients. This is where the songwriter or producer signs to a music publishing company, receives an advance, and then has a team of people working on registering all the works, collecting the income from those works, securing the songwriter or producer sessions with incredible artists and musicians, and landing music synchronization license deals ("syncs" for short) with big brands.

Managers are also the first promoter for the artist or producer. They shout about their client’s music to friends, family and the music industry, and it’s their enthusiasm which often gets their clients opportunities.

Finally, managers also do the following:

  • Assemble and head up the team around the artist
  • Co-ordinate live shows - liaising with booking agent, promoter, tour manager
  • Liaise with record label on the artist’s behalf and push to get best out of record label
  • Manage the diary of the client

There is a lot to learn in the music industry so it can be helpful if managers have a background in business, promotions, law or A&R. It’s worth noting that managers are not obliged to invest financially in the artist - their job is to seek financial investment from third parties for the artist. However, many managers do end up loaning the client money, especially in the early days, to maintain the momentum of their client’s career.

Where do I find a manager?

The truth is that there are loads of ways in which producers, DJs and artists meet their managers. 

  • Friends - Many successful artists are managed by their friends including Stormzy, J Cole, Shakka & Tinie Tempah
  • Family - Many artists have had one of their parents manage them including Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Usher and Burna Boy
  • MMF - You might want to consider contacting the Music Managers Forum (MMF), the world’s largest professional community of music managers. The MMF has a form you can complete online free of charge. The information you provide is then submitted is then sent on to its large database of managers
  • Live Shows - You may find that by just putting on incredible live shows and attending top tier live music events in your city you attract a manager
  • Online - You could also use the internet to research managers who manage acts you like and approach them. The ideal situation would be to talk to them in person about your music and then invite them to one of your live shows.

Final thoughts

The right manager for you will be passionate about your music, hardworking and organised. Lots of connections in the music industry is a bonus, but not essential. They should handle all of the areas of business mentioned above and you should be able to disagree with them about things without it negatively affecting your relationship. There are a number of ways to find a suitable manager, so be sure to explore the options above before you decide what's best for you.

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