Artist Management: How Managers Can Help Artists Build Music Careers - Careers in Music
Start Here:

What are you most interested in? arrow pointing down

Get Started
songwriter playing a songmusic producer at work stationrock star performing on stagetour manager making phone callmusic teacher with studentmusic therapy session
songwriter playing a songmusic producer at work stationrock star performing on stagetour manager making phone callmusic teacher with studentmusic therapy session

Artist management is one of the most exciting, creative, lucrative, loosely-defined and perhaps even confusing roles in the music industry.

Every musician needs a Manager, even if they operate as their own, though the vast majority of successful acts prefer to have someone else take on that task, as it requires an incredible amount of time, work, and specialized skills.

This article covers the basics of this role, including what they do, how they get paid, and what makes a truly great Artist Manager. We’ll also hear from experienced Artist Manager Lisa Jenkins, who currently manages the careers of rock legends Rodney Crowell, Don Felder, and Peter Frampton.

What are you most afraid of that is holding you back?

What Is an Artist Manager?

Defining exactly what an Artist Manager does is…not easy to do. In fact, there are countless ways to write it down, and it’s likely that if you asked 10 different Artist Managers what they do, they would have just as many answers.

At its most basic, an Artist Manager represents the interests of their client: a Singer or band. They may work with one act or several. They may operate solo out of their bedroom, or they could be signed to a major management company, of which there are several.

Why do artists need a Manager?

Lisa Jenkins (Rodney Crowell, Don Felder, Peter Frampton)

A Manager is like the CEO of a company and the artist’s most vocal advocate. They help run every aspect of an artist’s business life and are the liaison between the artist and everyone else. Managers can help put together the right team for an artist and oversee it. They wear many hats, have to multi-task, and be extremely organized.

What Do Artist Managers Do for Their Clients?

Artist Managers are responsible for representing their clients and doing everything they can to further their careers…but what exactly does that mean? A lot, it turns out, and it can change not just from one day to the next, but from one hour to the next.

An Artist Manager helps their clients with:

  • Artist development
  • Recording deals
  • Publishing
  • Licensing
  • Touring
  • Merchandise and brand opportunities
  • Relationship building
  • Press opportunities
  • Radio promotions

An Artist Manager needs to wear many hats, all at the same time, and they are the ones who touch every facet of the music industry for the singers and groups they work with.

When should an artist get a Manager?

Lisa Jenkins (Rodney Crowell, Don Felder, Peter Frampton)

It really depends on the artist. Usually, artists look for a Manager when things get too overwhelming for them to handle themselves. But, other artists have someone from the beginning to help get their career off the ground. Either way, an artist needs a Manager who is fearless in helping them achieve their goals!

Artist Development

While the musicians themselves are referred to as the creatives in the music industry, great Artist Managers are creative in their own way. The Artist Manager of a top-tier act will always be thinking about their client’s next chapter, what sounds they should explore, where tastes are headed and about collaborators. Artist Managers can work in tandem with executives and A&R teams at record labels to help partner their stars with Songwriters, Producers, other artists, and various other creatives.

Artist Managers may be the ones to come up with a future collaboration, to acquire tracks from a songwriting camp (or maybe even put one together), ensure their clients get in the studio with a hot Producer, get them on the remix of a rising viral hit, and so on. Some Artist Managers take the lead on this part of the gig, while others listen to the musicians they work with, making it all happen via emails, phone calls, meetings, and a lot of strategy.

Recording Deals

Most musicians these days are still looking for a record deal, and it’s an Artist Manager’s job to not only go out and get those contracts, but to negotiate them as well. First, an Artist Manager must find a way to entice a label into listening to a new act, coming to see them live, meeting with them, and then, if all goes well, signing them to their roster. That’s a very big job in and of itself, but it’s still only the first half of the process.

Once there’s interest from a record label, the contract must be drawn up, with both parties looking to get the best deal. Labels want to earn the lion’s share of royalties from streaming and sales, and they may even want to eat into merchandise and touring revenues, depending on the act.

An Artist Manager must counter their offers, asking for more money for their clients, more promises of promotion, larger budgets for things like music videos and advertising and so on. This requires the Artist Manager to understand negotiating, contracts and even legal terminology, to a certain extent.

Publishing

Artist Managers must ensure their clients get a good cut of publishing deals and that everything is in order in what can be a very complex process. Without diving too deep into this field (which we could discuss all day), Artist Managers need to properly submit copyright papers for songs their clients written, and if they worked with other artists or Songwriters, what percentage of future royalties each person will receive needs to be figured out as well.

Licensing

These days, every musician wants to hear their songs in TV shows, movies, video games and even in advertisements, as that’s where some real money can come in. An Artist Manager needs to not only negotiate those deals, ensuring their client likes the project and is paid well, but they should be active in seeking out those opportunities.

Sometimes the biggest names in the business don’t need to work too hard in this realm, but even their representation is typically thinking about something bigger, better and more lucrative in the licensing department.

Touring

Throughout the past decade or so, touring has become the biggest revenue source for most musicians, including chart-toppers. While most Artist Managers don’t actually plan concerts themselves (unless they are a jack-of-all-trades for artists who aren’t large enough yet to partner with several companies), they are heavily involved in every aspect of a tour.

An Artist Manager will work in partnership with Booking Agents and perhaps a record label to decide timing, which cities to play, opening acts, setlists, promotion, merchandise, ticketing, pricing, and so on. They will also work hard to ensure that everything is going smoothly once the shows begin, and depending on the relationship they have with their clients, they may actually trek from place to place with them.

Other Duties

These days, Artist Managers do so much more than even what is mentioned above, though those are the biggest focuses. Today’s Artist Managers need to be thinking about merchandise, opportunities with brands, fan relationships, field press requests (alongside a PR team, if there is one), take part in radio promotion (perhaps with a radio team, if the artist is large enough), as well as handle day-to-day activities like social media, email newsletters, updating the website and so on.

If it sounds like a lot has been discussed above, these paragraphs still don’t touch on everything.

How Artist Managers Get Paid

The vast majority of Artist Managers make a certain percentage of their client’s incomes. The terms of payment are usually very straightforward and strict.

What Percentage Does an Artist Manager Get?

What an Artist Manager makes depends on their clients, their experience, and whether they work on their own or with an agency. Almost all deals see Artist Managers making somewhere between 15 and 20% of their client’s total income1.

How Long Is an Artist Management Contract?

Some Artist Managers prefer to sign their clients to deals that last one year, others prefer two or three years, with the latter option being seemingly more commonplace in the music industry. That may sound like forever, but keep in mind how long it takes to create, record, and promote an album. Speaking of albums, other Artist Managers stick to album cycles, signing the artists they work with to one or several album cycles.

How Artist Managers Find Artists

Asking how Artist Managers find the musicians they decide to work with is like asking a record label how they discover acts they want to sign in that there are many different answers, and there is no defined way this happens all the time…though there are a few options that seem to be the most popular.

How do you find a good Artist Manager?

Lisa Jenkins (Rodney Crowell, Don Felder, Peter Frampton)

That is the million-dollar question! If you have an Attorney, Publisher or Booking Agent representing you, they can usually suggest good Managers. Or, look at who some of your favorite artists are managed by and reach out to them!

If you have contacts in the music business, use them and ask who they would recommend.

Through Other Bands and Friends

Perhaps the most common method for Artist Managers to find new acts they may want to sign is the oldest: word of mouth. When a musician, fellow Artist Manager, Record Label Executive, Booking Person, or even just a friend turns them on to a new Singer or band and they like what they hear and see, it may be time to take on a new client.

They are also more likely to listen to their suggestions than to a cold email. Word of mouth is still incredibly important in almost every aspect of human interaction, even to this day.

Social Media

Many record labels and Artist Managers focus on talent first, but there is an argument to be made for working with a name who already has built a following. Signing a social media celebrity looking to expand into music is not a sure thing, but it’s usually a safer bet than a completely unknown act that doesn’t have hit-making potential just yet.

Also, watching a track go viral on Twitter, Instagram, or especially TikTok can be a great way for an Artist Manager to find their next client.

Streaming Services

Many Artist Managers and record labels carefully watch streaming platforms and have their own programs to track which tunes are picking up steam anywhere in the world. This is a tried-and-true method for executives and Artist Managers to latch onto rising stars before they become stars and connect themselves to singles that are already done, but which just need some help becoming proper chart successes.

The impact that streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have made on scouting new acts cannot be overstated.

What Makes for a Good Artist Manager?

So many things make a great Artist Manager, and while not everyone can claim to have every quality, some make up for what they may lack in one field in other ways. Artist Managers need to be hardworking, first and foremost. They must be willing to put in the hours and grind as hard as the musicians they’ve signed.

The best Artist Managers are aggressive (but hopefully not assholes), they have connections, they’re friendly, and know how to forge important and fruitful relationships. They are fast learners and they have a thirst for knowledge. They want to discover what’s new and hot, and they’re always looking for what’s next.

Perhaps most importantly, Artist Managers have to believe in their acts and their vision. If they don’t, it’s hard to stand behind the work in the way they must.

Artist Manager Lisa Jenkins
Lisa Jenkins

Lisa Jenkins is an Artist Manager with Vector Management in Nashville, TN. Lisa represents Grammy Award-winning musicians Rodney Crowell, Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles), and Peter Frampton in all aspects of their day-to-day career activities. Lisa supervises performances, budgets (touring and recording), merchandise designs, promotional materials, public appearances, fan experiences, branding opportunities, and social media strategies.

Prior to joining Vector, Lisa was Mr. Frampton’s Personal Manager and advisor on publishing, touring, and ventures including Framptone. Her scope ranged from hiring tour personnel to arranging a successful 2007 Grammy campaign for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. She led the team responsible for Peter Frampton’s new memoir, Do You Feel Like I Do?, debuting on The New York Times Best Seller List.

Earlier in her career, Lisa worked with artists including Cyndi Lauper, The Mavericks, Lucinda Williams, Junior Brown and Jack Ingram, David Foster, The Smithereens, Take 6, John Sebastian, Billy Joe Shaver, Ronnie Milsap, and Bela Fleck & The Flecktones.

Lisa is a 2009 graduate of Nashville’s prestigious Leadership Music program. She is a 20 year plus member of the President’s Council/Advisory Board of Musicians On Call and has volunteered with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights program to help build schools and teach math and reading in rural villages.

  1. 1Billboard Staff. "What Artists' Managers Really Earn (It's Not Cheap to Be Available 24-7)". Billboard. published: 23 June 2015. retrieved on: 1 April 2021
Site Search
We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content and advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.