How To Become a Personal Manager
“It’s different every day,” Matt Phillips of Silverback Artist Management says of a typical day working as a Personal Manager. “It has changed from when we first started to doing everything top to bottom for the client.”
In general, job duties involve strategizing and creating marketing plans for album releases and tours, managing social media, merchandising, even doing some work that is typically considered the work of an A&R Coordinator, such as putting together records with Producers and finding artwork. Managers also help their clients with career direction, artist representation, tour management, and attaining corporate sponsorships.
Phillips’ company is somewhat unique, in that in addition to management services, they also work as a music marketing company and record label. “When you’re a Manager, you just have to do anything” to get the client out there, he says.
He works with a “full plate of different people,” including “Producers, Promoters, Booking Agents, record distributors, Lawyers, Business Managers, tech companies, record label reps, marketing people, brand management people and overseas Agents and labels.”
On average, Personal Managers earn approximately $51,400 annually. The salary range for Personal Managers runs from $35,000 to $92,000.
Managers who make a regular salary are rare. In general, the industry standard is that Managers make “10-20% of gross, depending on the client,” Phillips says.
Some days in management are slow and relaxed, but these are few and far between. “During tour season, you’re on the road a lot,” Phillips says. “I was gone pretty much every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May through September. I’m always on my phone and email. I’m pretty much on the clock all day. [Sometimes] I have meetings in the office from 9am-7pm. You’ve always got to have your phone and email handy, but you’re out at shows a lot.”
For a Personal Manager, advancement would come in the form of working with bigger, more successful and higher-earning artists. For a Manager who works with developmental clients and indie artists, it could mean getting hired by a management firm and bringing clients along to benefit from the company’s connections. For those who are already employed by a management firm, it could mean becoming successful enough with a couple clients to branch off and create their own firm.
Phillips says his company usually hires new Managers in one of two ways. Either they “started as an Intern as part of our Intern program or have been managing a band independently and then brought the band to us.”
He says, “Anytime we find a creative person we can bring in with a like-minded personality and goals, we’re pretty willing to collaborate.” So basically, an aspiring Manager shouldn’t just wait around and wait to get hired. He or she needs to show that they’re actively managing one band and helping make things happen for them.
He advises aspiring Personal Managers to look into “companies with great Intern programs if you’re in college, and if there’s a young band you really love, go help them out. It’s instinctual. You either have it or you don’t. It’s not something you’re going to learn.” At his company, just as in many others, Interns and former Interns are “usually the first people we call” when there’s a job opening.
- Go help out a band.
- Intern for companies you’re a fan of.
- Start studying music.
- Learn more about “tech and marketing” because it’s no longer a “sign a band and be successful” business climate.
- Be aware that “it seems a lot more glamorous than it is. People who are going to be the most suited are the ones who really love music and know how to get it to the consumer.
Experience & Skills
The most useful experience for a Manager is actually managing a band and learning the time management, marketing, and business skills needed through this experience. So how does someone who’s just starting off get this experience? Ask a small, local band you like if you can help out. It also doesn’t hurt to have experience in other facets of the music industry.
Phillips says, “I started [Silverback] with my brother when I was in college. I was working for Skunk Records and one of the bands I worked with was Slightly Stoopid and I started managing them. I left school and went back because things were taking off,” Phillips says. “The owner went on tour and pretty much told me, ‘I just put out this SS record. Can you project manage it?’”
Management is the right career for someone who “doesn’t really have an ego,” Phillips says. It’s also important to have “resilience. You’re kind of the cog in the middle of the wheel” between Producers, record label people, and the artist.” Managers must also possess “patience. You’ve got to love the job and the band.”
Education & Training
“I didn’t go to a music industry program,” Phillips says. Instead, he focused on marketing and communications, which provided some industry-related skills. “You apply basic principles of what you learn in school to music,” he says. Although many schools now do offer music industry degrees, Phillips believes that finding a good internship is the best way to get training as a Manager.
Although there are no real trade unions for independent Managers, “we should start something,” Phillips says. “If you stay independent, there’s no real coalition,” but it’s worthwhile to remain indie because those are the people “doing more artist development and cool creative stuff.”
How do I become someone's Manager?
“It must be a mutual agreement between the artist and the Manager. You can contact an up-and-coming artist who needs a Manager or work for an artist management company.” –Cheryl Flowers Briggs (Manager, Faith Evans)
What are the 5 key managerial skills?
- “Must be organized
- Time management
- Communicate well
- Plan 6-12 months in advance
- Believe in your artist”
Source: Cheryl Flowers Briggs (Manager, Faith Evans)
What defines a good Manager?
“A good Manager puts their client first, must be able to handle any crisis with grace and never takes no for an answer when you are advocating for your artist.” –Cheryl Flowers Briggs (Manager, Faith Evans)
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Find a band you like and help them out or getting an internship are the two best ways.” He adds, “If you believe in yourself, that’s the biggest thing. There’s no real rocket science to being a Manager.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Anyone who has the attitude that things are going to happen overnight. It’s great to have dreams and goals, but to expect it’ll be easy and a party is a mistake. It takes a lot of hard work, resilience, and time to develop. You have many more tools with the internet, social networking, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify.“ Some people are “in it for the more glamorous side and don’t realize how much work it is.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“They should ask themselves if they really want to do this, and then believe in themselves.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
“Resilience…and love for the music.”
Matt Phillips co-founded Southern California’s Silverback Artist Management with his brother Jon in 1998. Their current roster includes Slightly Stoopid, Fishbone, The Expendables, The Beautiful Girls, Mat McHugh, The Aggrolites, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, and The Grouch & Eligh.