Managing Your Own Music Career

Maybe you’re just starting out as a musician. Or perhaps you’re starting to get a reputation in the industry. If so, it may be time to consider how you’ll handle the business side of making and releasing music.

There can be several reasons for managing your own music career. You may not have the budget to hire a professional, you may wish to have full artistic and practical control over what you do, or you may have a flair for admin, organisation and self-promotion. 

Read on to find out how to succeed by yourself. As well as the steps you can take towards gaining autonomy over your work.

Managing your own music 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.

Stormzy would sign off emails masquerading as a fake publicist. Lady Gaga spoke to MSN about her early days as a budding singer and self-manager in New York and the technique she used to promote herself:

“I would call up and I would be like: ‘Hello this is Lady Gaga’s manager, she’s really hot right now, we would like the 10 pm slot for her if you can get her in’. I used to just pretend I was my own manager to try and get the best gig that I could.”

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. 

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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.

Becoming a Music Manager

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. 

Your first job as your own manager is to get yourself some work. You can find out how to do that by reading this article. 

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Once you’ve started making a bit of cash from your gigs, you can then invest the money back into your career. You may want to invest in some recording time, branding and maybe even targeted advertising. You can then work out if you hire people to assist you – like a producer, web designer, graphic designer, PR, promoter, music aggregator, videographer, photographer etc. 

How do I manage my music career?

Get a plan. Spend some time working out where you are and where you want to be. Write it out and formulate steps between the two. Identify what resources or the help you need to take those steps. It may be you need to design your graphics, record an EP, collaborate with an exciting new act, write some new songs, change your image, or secure gigs at bigger and better-known venues. Each artist’s journey will be slightly different. So your individual plan will be bespoke to you, based on what you’re doing and where you’re going. 

Find out what the going rate is for appearances in your area so you can negotiate that payment. Prepare invoices online and email them across or print them out to take with you. It can be useful to use a cloud-based online accounting system for musicians, that will auto-send invoices and issue reminders if you’re not paid. Once you get into more complex and binding contracts, with record companies, for example, you should seek advice from a specialist media lawyer. 

How to get into music industry management

You don’t need any qualifications. You can get started as your own music manager straight away. Get to know who’s who in the industry. Contacts are everything. Network by going to music events, including those at local recording studios. If you’re managing yourself, you need to knock on a lot of doors. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. You could even get together with other artists and pool resources, or help to manage one another. 

Much of the role can be carried out via the web. Join online music communities and read articles to learn what’s happening where and when. Find out the names and labels of the major A&R – these talent scouts have the ability to make careers, so they should be high up on your radar.

Ask venues who does the bookings for their music acts. Apply to festivals and for open mic slots. And post daily on social media channels, being sure to highlight everything you’re doing and share all your tracks and videos.

Music-Management-Festivals

How to become a music manager UK

If you find you really enjoy being a manager, you might want to consider it as a career in itself. You could study a related subject at college or university. Or work your way up and learn on the job, by managing friends’ who have a band. Some managers, recording studios and record labels take on assistants. This can be a good way to learn the ropes from the ground up You’ll need to be well organised, a hard worker with a cool head under pressure, good with people, upbeat and persuasive. 

I need a music manager

It doesn’t suit everyone to self-manage. Some personalities just aren’t suited to it. Others become too busy with gigs, music-making and recording and need help. If you’d rather someone else took charge of your affairs, you can look for a music manager. If you have little or no budget, maybe see if you have a friend or family member who can help out.

You could also see if music colleges have management students who may take you on as a form of work experience. Or you can hire a professional music manager. The cost of this will vary according to their experience and location. This article will let you know how to do that and what you can expect from them. 

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So if you’ve been procrastinating on getting your career going because you haven’t yet got a manager, don’t. Take matters into your own hands. You are the master of your own destiny. Your passion and drive will take you forward and the skills you’ll develop along the way will stand you in good stead. Learn as much about how the industry works as possible. This will always be useful. And you should always know what’s happening in your own career. Even if and when you get to the stage where others are managing you. 

Related Questions

Is 25 too old to start a music career?

Definitely not. Many artists have proven that you’re never too old to start in music. Getting an early start does give you an advantage, but you’re still very young in your twenties. In fact, being a bit older means you may be better as some aspects, such as promotion and self-management. 

What does a band manager do?

A band manager carries out the same tasks as a solo artist manager. It’s slightly different in that there are more people involved, but the PR, bookings and development all follow the same rules. But band managers may have to mediate and sort out any squabbles between the members too!

How can I make money from my music?

There are so many ways to make money from musical talent. A successful career in pop can be incredibly lucrative. But you can also earn a living as a session or backup singer and playing an instrument for others as backing. You may want to consider becoming a wedding, club or care home singer too. 

Have you been managing your own music career? How have you found it? Do you have any tips for other budding musicians? Let us know in the comments below.

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