Should I Manage My Music Career As A Singer/Songwriter?
Managing Your Music Career
Singer/songwriters regularly ask me if they should manage their own music career. I teach a course on the Business of Music and during every semester I teach that course it is a very common question. It is understandable. Who should manage their music career is amongst the most important decisions that a singer/songwriter will face, and all important decisions deserve to be made when you are fully informed.
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Singer/songwriters approach me about other related subjects. For example:
- What exactly is it that a manager does?
- Do I think they should be looking for a manager yet?
- Should they be managing themselves?
- 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 own music career, all of the following points will be part of YOUR agenda. It is YOUR music career. The buck stops with you and it takes a significant effort to stay informed about all that you need to be informed about!
Finding A Good Manager
Your manager will have a massive impact on your music career. Good or bad, their work has a direct influence on your ability to be successful. A good manager can be very hard to find, for a number of reasons. 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 a level in your music career where great managers are seeking you out, just 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, manage their own music career, quite successfully; thank you. Managing your own music career 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 internet 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 my own music career, 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.
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About Cheryl Hodge
Cheryl 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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