How Do I Find a Manager ( And is a Manager Even What I Need )?
By Steve Kenny
There are certain questions that come up regularly when I ’ m talking to developing artists and one of the most common ones is , “ How do I find a manager ?” On the surface it ’ s a fair question . A manager can help build your career , guide you through your journey , share the workload , and build a team around you . But there is an important question to ask before the “ how ” and that is the “ why ?” Why do I need a manager ? Well , because you won ’ t know the “ how ” until you know the “ why .”
So , why do you need a manager ? Have you ever really thought about this ? If your desire for a manager comes from the belief that they will make your career for you , you ’ re in for disappointment . Working with a manager is only one step of many during your career . Understanding how this step fits into your career as a whole will ensure that you don ’ t rush into a relationship that isn ’ t the best fit . In order to do this , you will need to get really specific about what you are looking for — the traits you want in a manager , the things you are good at , and the skills you want them to have .
To start with , you will need to answer these four questions :
1 . What are your goals for the next 5 years ? Think big picture ; what are the major milestones you want to hit ? These may change over time , but knowing them in advance will help you make better choices around who you bring onto your team .
2 . What skills and resources will you need to achieve these goals ? Now that you have named the specific goals you want to achieve , the next step is to create a list of what you ’ ll need to accomplish them . Don ’ t overthink this . Write down the resources you ’ ll need and the skills that will be required . Avoid listing job titles ( i . e . “ manager ” or “ publicist ”). Instead , focus on skill sets ( i . e . “ organized ” or “ excellent communicator ”).
3 . From that list you just created , which ones do you already have yourself ? You can probably check a lot of the boxes already . It is important to recognize this when you are building your team . Knowing what you are good at is invaluable . In the future , you may want someone who has these skills , but in the beginning it is more important to find someone who can complement what you do by bringing different skills to your team .
4 . What ’ s left ? Create a new list with the skills and resources that are left over . These are the skills you don ’ t have or things you aren ’ t comfortable doing yourself .
You can probably already see where I ’ m going with this , but the answers to question four are what you ’ re looking for in a manager . This is the “ why ” I talked about in the beginning . So , why do I need a manager ? Because there are key skills and resources you are missing to fulfill your goals . You now know exactly what you are looking for in a manager . I ’ m using the term “ manager ” somewhat loosely here , too . You may find out it ’ s not actually a manager you ’ re looking for based on your needs .
The music industry is always changing , even more rapidly these days . With that comes new models on how things are done . There are many younger managers who are doing things differently . And there is a lot more collaboration , which creates opportunities to work with different people . You can build your team as you need it , and not get locked into a long-term commitment that may not serve you in the future . What you need now may be different from what you need three years from now . If you are aware of that , you can make smart decisions about how you shape your team .
At the end of the day you have to build the team you need , not the one you think you want . Manager , agent , label , publicist — the lines are very blurry these days . I call myself a manager but I wear many hats at different times . There are so many great people in this industry that work on a project-by-project basis , so use this to your advantage and hire them when you need them . Consult with them when you ’ re seeking advice and invest your resources this way . Don ’ t give something away without knowing that it is absolutely best for you .
So , when you ’ re making the decision about adding a team member , always refer back to the skills and resources you need and don ’ t get caught up in the title that person has . If you do that , you will find the people who can truly support what you do . The ones that understand your project and can help you take your career where you want it to go . The important thing is for you to know what you need , then keep your eyes open for the right people to fill those roles .
Steve Kenny is a recovering musician turned artist manager , a transition some refer to as “ turning to the dark side .” He is the co-founder of Traverse Music Management and author of The Ascender , a resource for artists looking to grow their career in an effective and sustainable way . www . traversemusic . ca / theascender .
32 CANADIAN MUSICIAN