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“What does music management actually mean?” is a question that pops up all the time in the music industry.

The query is as common with young people who may have aspirations of one day working in the business as it is with musicians who aren’t familiar with the inner workings of the industry as it is with some who actually do make their living in music.

This question is difficult to answer, as there are so many ways to tackle it, and there are as many correct answers as there are Managers in the music industry. One person with experience working as a Music Manager may have one answer while another may say something completely different, and both would be right. This article aims to remove some of the mystery surrounding Music Managers and explain what they do, how they get their start, and perhaps most importantly, how much money they make.

Who Makes a Good Music Manager?

There is no exact description encapsulating who will be a great Music Manager. Some of the most successful in the music industry are quiet, friendly, and they always stay in the background, allowing their clients to shine, while others like to make a name for themselves, becoming brands as well-known and powerful as those they work for. (Think Scooter Braun, for example).

First and foremost, a great Music Manager must love and believe in their clients and their work. It’s hard to put in the time and effort necessary to be fantastic if the person or the product isn’t any good. They must go out into the world convinced they have a star with the ability to craft smashes on their hands.

Great Music Managers must not only love the art but the music industry itself. They must be passionate about music, but also the business, and they must spend a huge amount of time following leaders, publications, conferences, and so on that focus solely on the industry. They should understand how it all works, or at least be in the process of learning.

When it comes to personal qualities, the best Music Managers are typically outgoing, as a lot of the job requires them to speak to people and meet with them. They must be friendly, but professional, and memorable. A Music Manager has to be someone who everybody wants around because that’s how they get a lot of work done.

They must also be smart, forward-thinking, detail-oriented, extremely hardworking, and they have to love the hustle, as people have started saying. It can’t be all about reaching the finish line, but about the race itself. A great Music Manager is good under pressure, can keep a cool head when things go bad or trouble appears, and they know how to work with people.

A lot of the job of a Music Manager will be on their own, but as a musician gets bigger and bigger, more people will become attached to them, and the best Managers know how to manage everyone and work with a wide array of different professionals.

What Do Music Managers Actually Do?

Summing up what a Music Manager does in one paragraph is nearly impossible since it completely depends on what kind of Manager they are (more on this below), where the musician they work with is at in their career, and who else is involved.

Essentially, a Music Manager needs to do almost everything for their client…everything that doesn’t require very specific training. For example, a Manager won’t be mixing a new album, directing a music video, or balancing a musician’s finances (at least most of the time), because those jobs all need to be handled by people who have trained to fill those roles. Beyond that, it’s up to a Manager.

A Manager needs to work on ensuring the artist has everything they need for a new music video shoot, the musician has everything packed for a tour, they have their social media presence where it needs to be, a single is ready to be posted to streaming services at exactly the right time, look for brands to partner with, and so on. The list of tasks could go on forever.

When a musician is just starting out, the Manager has a much more all-encompassing role, as they need to do everything they can to keep the artist working and raise their profile, usually with very limited resources. If a musician is lucky enough to be able to create and perform their art for a living, that’s usually when other people are involved, and then the job changes.

A Music Manager must keep all the parties connected to their client’s career in conversation, such as a record label, a PR team, the teams in charge of mixing and mastering music, directing and editing music videos, taking photos, everyone involved in a tour, and those involved in pushing songs for sync and licensing opportunities.

A Manager might not do all these jobs as an artist grows, but they must stay on top of what’s happening in all those fields because if anything slips or isn’t ready in time, it comes down to the Manager.

If this sounds like a lot…it is!

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How to Get Your Start in Music Management

Just as there is no exact type of person who makes for a perfect Music Manager, there is no one path to becoming a Music Manager, much to the chagrin of many young people who want to know how to jump into the business.

Music Managers find their way to the job by doing any combination of the following:

Real-World Experience as a Manager

Simply said, just start. Find a band or an artist who is also at the beginning of their career and offer to help them by managing their career. Since you don’t have any contacts or experience, you will be limited in what you can do, to begin with, but any help is better than none at the outset of their professional life. Work hard to grow their fan base, book them shows, make them money, and your name will rise as theirs does.

Entry-Level Jobs for Managers

Many Music Managers actually get their start doing something else in the industry. They work as Publicists, at record labels, booking companies, or venues, or perhaps somewhere else where they get to meet people in the business, spend time with artists, and learn what Managers do and what it takes to be successful as one.

It’s also possible to secure entry-level jobs at management companies where you can work with talent, but those jobs typically go to people who have some kind of experience.

School for Aspiring Managers

There are a few colleges offering degrees in music management, and if you’re sure this is what you want, you can sign up. Many other universities with entertainment-related focuses have courses in music management which can be hugely beneficial.

The Different Kinds Of Music Managers

As you begin researching what it takes to be a Music Manager and thinking about whether or not it’s what you want to do for a living, know there are three main types of Managers who work in the music industry:

What a Personal Manager Does

When most people think of a Music Manager, they envision a Personal Manager. This is the person who works most closely with the artist day-to-day, doing everything from making sure a music video will be filmed at a certain time to thinking about what brand may want to work with the star in a year for their next campaign. They spend a lot of time with the artist, perhaps more than anyone else (other than bandmates, if it’s actually a group).

What a Tour Manager Does

This person manages every tiny detail involved in a tour, which can be a massive job. On smaller treks, it’s easier for one person to tackle the role, ensuring the venue will have a certain type of microphone and learning what time their client needs to load in.

When it comes to the biggest names on the planet, the same person needs to coordinate shipping an elaborate stage show and thousands of pieces of merchandise across the world. Those Tour Managers usually work with a large team.

What a Business Manager Does

A Business Manager is almost like an Accountant in many ways, as they help manage the musician’s money more than their career (though the two are very closely intertwined). A Business Manager pays bills for the artist, handles their taxes, balances their books, and finds investment opportunities, should the client be one who has impressive resources and star power.

How Much Money Do Music Managers Make?

Most Managers don’t work for a set annual salary, but rather a portion of what their clients earn. This incentivizes them to work harder and push to ensure the artists they work with brings in as much money as possible. Typically, Managers can bring in 15 – 20% of their client’s total income before taxes, so it’s tough to make a living when the musician is unknown, but if a Music Manager can sign a handful of acts who all develop sizable fan bases, suddenly the money is much better.

According to Billboard1, a Manager of a developing act can bring in between $30,000 and $200,000 (“developing” is a vague term, to begin with), the owner of a music management company with several clients bringing in a good amount of revenue can reach toward $1 million, and those who work with the biggest names in the business can make $2 million or more per year. A Manager’s Assistant, typically an entry-level position, may earn up to $50,000 per year.

There is a lot of incentive for a Manager to turn their client into a true star, as there is plenty of money, opportunity, and glamour that comes with this coveted position…though it’s very difficult to get there in the first place.

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