When (And How) A Singer / Songwriter Should Manage Themselves

Common Questions

band_managerEvery semester in which I teach Business of Music, I have singer/songwriters approaching me about:

  1. what exactly is it that a manager does
  2. whether I think they should be looking for a manager yet
  3. whether or not they should be managing themselves, or
  4. all of the above!

 

In this article, I shall attempt to answer all of these points, one by one. Keep in mind, that if you decide to manage yourself, all of the following points will be part of YOUR agenda.

 

Finding A Good Manager

A good manager can be very hard to find. That is because managing a person is a risky business. It means that this person is willing to put their own reputation on the line, because they believe so much in the artist they are representing. Think about this! It's almost like agreeing to co-sign a mortgage on a house for a friend! They are betting that you have enough talent that you can make it all the way to the top; taking in at least enough money to provide a good living for both you and them!

A manager will first take a good hard look at you before beginning to market you to a record company (A & R people) or publishing houses. They will help you define your look, your stage style, and even refine the direction your music is taking. They will make phone calls, if necessary to producers, record execs, promoters, and even club managers (a good manager knows lawyers, recording execs, publishers, and the lot). Sometimes, they can be there for you just to offer an opinion.

For instance. if a band member leaves, they might give you advice on which person should be taking their place. They can tell you which clubs will help your career; which ones will do nothing for you. Often, they will organize tours for you (like an agent). They can act like a diplomat on your behalf. They lend credibility to you.

But, when to start looking for a manager; that's the question! You have to ask yourself some very hard questions: "Am I marketable? Would I buy my CDs, if I were a club patron? What makes me great? What makes my music different from what everyone else out there is doing?" To find a great manager, you will need to have reached a certain "level of greatness". Believe me, good managers will track YOU down. They will approach you at gigs, or call you on the phone. Good managers are only interested in people who the word is already out about! So, is the word out about you, and your songs?

 

Pros And Cons Of Self-Management

Don't feel like a failure if you haven't reached that level, yet. It just means that you will get a chance to develop some business skills, and be your own manager, for a while. Many great artists, like Roberta Flack, have managed themselves, quite successfully; thank you. Managing yourself means that you keep the power! You make all the important decisions; you get to keep those big fat juicy checks, when they come in, too!

However, on the flip side, managing yourself means being on the phone a minimum of 2 hours a day; ditto for phone calls; always having your cell phone with you, and having a legitimate office, with all the trimmings (fax machine; copy machine; printer, computer, filing cabinet - all of which a percentage may be applied to write-offs at tax time). It means knowing how to have a calm, yet refreshing demeanor on the phone, and in person. It means being somewhat aggressive, without being, in any way, abrasive. You'll have your own list of great agents, lawyers, accountants, club managers, producers and recording industry folks. You'll need to do some shameless self-promoting, for quite a number of years, until your name starts to drop off everyone's lips.

 

Can Self-Management Work?

If you're wondering whether this process works, here is the kicker; I manage myself, and have for many years. It took me a bit longer, but I am finally at the place where I am booking the same venues that I would have had to hire some high profile manager to do for me, all those years ago.

Discuss this article in our Music Forum.

 

About Cheryl Hodge

Cheryl HodgeCheryl Hodge has been in the music and songwriting business for well over 30 years; recording on several labels; among them Atco Records (Raindogs, 1990), and has released 4 CDs of her own; on her own label: Jazzboulevard.com Records.

She has performed her music for the last 10 years with noted jazz guitarist John Stowell (amongst many others), and they are about to release a CD of co-written originals. She has been private instructor to many; including the gifted Paula Cole. She is also the author of "A Singer's Guide to the Well-Trained and Powerful Voice", and is a published vocal arranger.

Cheryl is currently the head of the vocal dept. at Nelson, BC's: Selkirk College Music Program. There, she teaches Songwriting and Advanced Songwriting, Business of Music, Arranging and Vocals.

She continues to write and produce her original materials, and has just released "Cheryl Hodge: Original Article" - a compilation of her favourites.

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All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.”
Jean Cocteau