(We should all be a little more like Tom Hanks. Managers take note!)
Choosing a manager will be one of the most important decisions you make as an artist. Who you let represent you to the outside world is a direct reflection of how you handle your business, and a great manager can do magical things for your career. More often than not, you come across the not-so-great managers that are slowly putting your band’s career in a dank, dark corner one email at a time. The wrong fit can quite literally sink you. Here’s some common manager archetypes we recommend steering clear from if you’re looking to grow a long and steady career in the music biz.
#1 – The Too-Busy-To-Call-You-Back-Ager
We know… they’re busy and ‘important’. Being a busy manager is usually a good thing, but not taking time to hear their artists’ needs, cater to them, and collaborate with them will often cause fractures in the relationship. Beware the chronically-busy manager. As the artist, you need to be able to reach your manager at any time for advice and late night strategizing. A constant dialogue is essential; after all, your manager is out on the industry front lines hustling for your career. When the manager is too busy to prioritize communication with the artist, it can lead to career decisions that the artist doesn’t support being made on their behalf. More importantly: what other calls is the manager not keeping up with? Opportunities are likely being missed if the manager is too disorganized to see them. Sometimes this type of manager is closely related to the my-career-is-more-important-than-yours-ager… which I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on.
#2 – The Rager
The Rager manager is usually the first one to crack open that bottle of JD from the rider backstage. It’s nice that they can get loose and have some fun, but how many times can you get so slammed you forget to settle the show and then sleep through three calls from the Australian agent before it crosses the line? There needs to be a balance and seriousness around your business dealings. If the manager thinks their job is about getting wasted and hanging out with bands, they’re going to be left in the dust when the band’s career hasn’t progressed beyond playing the local haunt every Thursday night.
#3 – The Namedropper
Don’t mistake the namedropping manager for a great schmoozer. Schmoozing is an art that very rarely requires obnoxious name-dropping in order to be done well. Any industry veteran will see through the namedropper in a second. Sure, the age old adage is “it’s all about who you know”, but anyone who’s really seen some success in this industry knows it’s more about what you do with those connections strategically than anything else. If you are looking for a manager that can list out the names of top A&R execs rather than actually get them in front of your band’s set then you’ve found the right guy. If you’re looking for someone who can get them to the show and has genuine relationships with key industry players, they likely aren’t dropping names all over town and are bit more humble in their approach.
#4 – The Drama Llama
We all know the type: instead of spending their days putting out fires and making the band look good, the drama llama manager can usually be found stirring the pot into a frothy boil. Being easy to work with in this industry will go a long way for managers and their artists. It doesn’t take long for a shit disturber to be rejected from key relationships or conversations. You don’t have time for this drama and neither does the industry. Managers need to be diplomatic and honest in order to do their jobs well. Drama llamas can come in handy in other professions, however; like PR or music journalism. It’s okay; they’ll most likely find their way to the gossiping masses soon enough once they realize that management was just a detour. (*credit to Jeremy von Hollen who brilliantly coined the term drama llama)
#5 – The Dad or Mom-ager
Last, but certainly not least, under no circumstances (and I repeat, NO circumstances) should it be ok to let your parents manage your creative career. There are some rare cases in history where this has worked, but you will not be one of them. You need to pave your way as an independent adult and brand yourself within the industry. The Dad or Mom-ager instantly puts you at a different level in the mind of the industry, no matter how good your band is – you will always be seen as an amateur. Dear parents: I know you love your kids and would do anything for them. I know you used to be in a band and have some contacts from way back then, but TRUST me when I say your good intentions will work against your talented child’s potential. You need to stand by and be a cheerleader in their career and support them with enthusiasm at every turn. You DO NOT need to be the one handling their money, stressful label rejection letters, begging journalists to review their album, and managing promoter relationships. Your relationship with your child will suffer and their career will fall flat. Trust that the right manager will find them at the right time, and that the industry will respond to their talents in due course.
I always like to think that the right manager will somehow find the right band and vice versa. The magical, musical gravity usually has a way of bringing the right people together. Until then work hard, keep your head down, and don’t be lured by any of the sneaky managers above just because you’re feeling desperate. No great business decision has ever been made out of desperation, and this decision needs to be great.
Best of luck and thanks for reading.
Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of Audio Blood, Canada’s leading creative artist and brand marketing company. Through unique PR and promotional packages, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. Their client roster includes the likes of Pistonhead Lager, PledgeMusic, Iceland Airwaves, Canadian Music Week, Riot Fest, Beau’s All Natural Brewing, The Balconies, Ben Caplan, and more. At the age of 24, Sari leads a team of 10 out of the company HQ in Toronto, Ontario, has spoken at a number of music conferences and colleges, and sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council. Read more from Sari at SariDelmar.com