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The Art of Artist Management: Navigating the Music Industry

April 4, 2023
3 min read

Artist managers are among the most respected and sought-after professionals in the music industry. The best artist managers can turn an independent musician into a global superstar. However, there's more to this job than overseeing an artist's schedule and securing deals. 

What does an artist manager do that makes them so important in the music industry? As well as being savvy spokespeople and administrators, artist managers can help chart the creative trajectory of a musician's career. They advise and encourage, helping musicians realize their true potential and make their artistic dreams a reality. 

Interested in becoming an artist manager? Below, we'll outline everything you need to know about this rewarding role and how you can excel at talent management in the music industry. 

What is Artist Management?

An artist manager is the key representative of a musician or band. Sometimes, you'll hear professionals in these artist management roles referred to as music or band managers. Other times, the term talent manager is used. It's little wonder that there are so many different names for this position. A typical artist manager has to wear many hats and fulfill multiple roles on any given day. What does an artist manager do exactly? As well as supervising day-to-day activities, a good artist manager has an eye on the bigger picture, helping take their clients to the top. 

The Role of an Artist Manager

Artist managers take charge of public relations. During the early stages of an artist's career, they'll network with partners and field offers. Knowing how to manage an artist is all well and good, but a successful artist manager also needs to be proactive. At this point, it's the responsibility of the artist manager to make career-defining choices. Once an artist is established, an artist manager continues to hold significant influence. Along with the artists themselves, they often hold the casting vote when it comes to business-critical decisions. 

Key responsibilities of an artist manager include: 

  • Career planning and development
  • Booking and scheduling 
  • Financial management
  • Branding and marketing

With the advent of social media and streaming services, many artists assume they can do it alone. Social media makes it possible for emerging talents to promote independently produced content themselves. However, even in the streaming age, the best talent needs great management. It's arguably the most important business relationship for any artist. What does the artist manager do that sets them apart from the likes of agents and promoters? These roles tend to come in late in the game once an artist is established. These people are usually fixated on short-term gains and taking a slice of the profits. The best artist managers are in it for the long haul, having helped shape the career direction of the artists they're representing. 

Essential Skills and Qualifications

If you're looking to learn how to become an artist manager, you'll need more than a few skills under your belt. However, there are no strict criteria when it comes to qualifications, especially at the grass-roots level. 

A successful artist manager needs to be an effective communicator and comfortable dealing with everyone from artists to music producers, and sound engineers to sponsors. As an artist becomes more established, leadership ability becomes even more important. An artist manager will need to liaise with people at increasingly senior levels, as well as learn how to delegate new arrivals to the team. 

Having a handle on marketing is a key part of learning how to become an artist manager. A good artist manager should be able to design and deliver promotional campaigns, either independently or via PR teams. Artist managers should also have strong negotiating skills. Even in the early days of an artist's career, selecting the most lucrative sponsors and securing the best deals is pivotal. 

Navigating the Music Industry

Artist managers enjoy a unique position within the music industry. A successful partnership can last for years, if not an artist's entire career. Because an artist manager needs to work on long-term campaigns and career-shaping decisions, they need a solid understanding of the music industry as a whole. 

Understanding the Industry Landscape

The music industry landscape has always been complex, but in the era of digital distribution, it's become even more complicated. Artist managers need insights into every aspect, from the live performance and touring sector to recording contracts and negotiating at an executive level. Once content has been produced, managers need to take charge of promotion and distribution, publishing and monetization. Nowadays, most musicians rely on social channels for outreach. As such, artist managers need to be able to unlock the potential of social media marketing. 

Networking and Building Relationships

An active social media presence can go a long way in getting an artist noticed. While a strong online presence is a good start, an artist manager needs to go the extra mile to propel talent to prominence. 

An established musician relies on an extensive team made up of music supervisors, promoters, publishers, agents, and more. An artist manager will need to excel at networking to find the best possible people for each role.   

Knowledge of Contract Negotiations

Contract negotiations are an important part of the music business. Independent artists tend to sell themselves short in exchange for a platform to launch themselves from. This is where a good artist manager comes in. 

An artist manager needs to be confident dealing with executives and know a good deal when they see one. As with other business sectors, it's all about weighing up revenues and risk. 

Understanding the Business of Music

Far from being static, the music business is an ever-changing industry. Today, many artists choose to bypass working with labels entirely. However, this presents unique challenges for both artists and management. An artist manager needs to have insights into the digital music distribution industry and streaming rights. A solid understanding of sync licensing, royalty management, and music law is also important. However, while the music industry is a global one, it’s an incredibly fragmented one, with legislation varying wildly between countries

Key Responsibilities of Artist Management

There's no one-size-fits-all remit for an artist manager in the music industry. In many scenarios, artists and managers share a personal relationship. However, an effective artist manager needs to be able to excel in a few key areas. 

lists depicting the key responsibilities of artist managers

Career Planning and Development

Some artists may argue it's all about the music, but every musician needs to earn money. An artist manager will help shape the career of the musicians they're representing. It's a surprisingly creative role, with managers providing artist direction. There's a constant focus on the next steps, with managers looking for exciting new opportunities. A manager may suggest profile-boosting collaborations or a change in direction if progression is stalling. Music management platforms like IndieFlow can prove invaluable here, helping musicians and managers navigate the next steps.  

Booking and Scheduling

If you want to know how to manage an artist, you need to excel at booking and scheduling. It's vital during the early stages of a musician's career. Managers need to make sure schedules are booked out with interviews, live performances, and PR opportunities. This input will continue long after an artist becomes commercially successful. Top-tier artists rely heavily on touring revenues, so a manager will need to work alongside booking agents and record labels. IndieFlow gives musicians and managers all the tools they need to manage bookings. What’s more, they create an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) to showcase their best assets to booking agents, promoters, and other industry experts.

Financial Management

As an artist becomes more established, their team will grow. This typically involves bringing in a finance manager, although some artist managers will take charge of this themselves. Financial management involves securing the best possible deal for the artist, requiring a firm grasp of industry-specific terms. Sometimes, the most lucrative deal isn't always the best and a good manager needs to be able to communicate this to the artist. 

Branding and Marketing

For a musician, public image is just as important as the content they're putting out. A successful artist needs to keep up with current trends, making on-brand marketing essential. Whether it's putting together an on-trend tracklist or boosting brand awareness with merchandising, an artist manager needs to take the lead here. A lot of the heavy lifting can be delegated to PR agencies, but an artist manager still needs to serve as the go-between. 

Challenges and Solutions in Artist Management

The music industry can be a cutthroat business. It's one of the reasons why so many independent musicians fall at the first hurdle. Artist managers aren't just there to represent musicians, they're there to help musicians traverse the many potential pitfalls they'll encounter during their careers. 

Dealing with Difficult Personalities

There is no shortage of big egos in the music business. An up-and-coming artist may find it difficult to deal with probing questions on the press circuit. Others may find themselves easily led by silver-tongued execs looking to get them to sign on the dotted line. What does the artist manager do in this situation? A good artist manager can diffuse a heated confrontation or be the voice of reason when dealing with high-pressure negotiators. 

Balancing Artistic Vision with Commercial Success

The best artist managers are committed to helping musicians realize their dreams. However, there comes a point when economics has to be considered. Managers need to be upfront with artists about what's working and what isn't. Sometimes, it pays to put passion projects on hold for the greater good.

Coping with Rejection and Setbacks

Every musician is going to encounter rejection at some point. Artist managers can help musicians look on the bright side. Rather than being a setback, a bad review or outright rejection can be used to retool a new project. However, artist managers also need to be comfortable in dealing out harsh truths. 

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Establishing a new artist takes work, but there's no sense in pushing an act to the point of burnout. Learning how to become an artist manager means knowing when to say no to certain opportunities. A good manager should be able to recognize fatigue in their artists and be prepared to reschedule their time when needed. 

Final Thoughts

Artist management is one of the most important behind-the-scenes roles in the music industry. It's an intimate partnership with recording artists, with the strongest collaborations lasting for years. Artist managers need to be able to navigate the complex world of the music business. While they need to spin many plates, they also need to know when to delegate. 

Confidence is key in this business. Establishing an artist and building a career relies heavily on networking. However, it's not all about contract negotiations and the bottom line. Artist management is an incredibly rewarding career that offers aspiring creatives plenty to sink their teeth into. If you have a passion for music and confidence in spades, you can help shape the entire direction of an artist's career and redefine the music industry.

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