Taking responsibility for our career is scary for artists. Most of us don't have the skill set, we only have the desire. This business asks us to be the best singer we can be, the best writers the best live performers etc. And thats a LOT of stuff we have to get GREAT at before we are ready for the world stage. Most of us don't want to include business skills in that package. It just seems to hard, too daunting and too difficult. So we get stuck looking for BIG DADDY (OR MOMMY) to save us.. a manager who will be the answer to all our dreams and make it all magically happen. THAT is mistake number ONE!!
MOST MANAGERS HAVE NO REAL POWER
You think that this new person on your team believes in you and will now take care of everything that you hate to do. Booking shows, making sure an audience is going to be there, finding musicians, arranging band rehearsals, finding the right producer for your project and basically making all the important decisions about what is coming next etc. The manager who signed on to do all of this "grunt" work is generally NOT the same person who has worked for many years successfully in this industry and is connected to the labels, agents, PR, publishers etc who can really help your career. That doesn't mean that having someone who believes in your rolling up their sleeves and helping out is a bad thing. BUT before making any lasting ongoing agreements it is wise to consider whether their strengths will best serve you in the short term or the long term and make sure there is room for a new powerful manager to come on board once you've created more leverage for yourself!
MANAGERS ARE JUST PEOPLE
Beware believing that any one manager can be responsible for everything "clicking" in your career. Almost all managers have strengths and weaknesses. It's good to know what they are before building up big expectations which will lead to terrible disappointment.
Some managers are really good at getting you gigs..some never touch that part of your career and will leave that to you or an agent. Some managers have a special knack at putting together recording deals for artists. Some are excellent at designing a marketing approach. The truth is that most will not be good at everything and it's YOUR job as the defacto manager to see the holes and get proactive to fill them yourself or with other members of your team.
YOU ARE ALWAYS THE ACTUAL MANAGER
Successful artists always retain control of their forward motion. If you remain in a position of responsibility you will always be protected from the worst outcomes of someone else's bad decisions. YOU are the one watching the company store. Your career and your future are no one else's responsibility but your own. A manager acts as a guide and as an advisor. Regardless of how powerful or well connected your manager may be your hand never leaves the steering wheel! Why? You are the person who must ultimately live with the decisions you make as a partnership.
IT STARTS WITH A QUESTION
I almost always suggest artists play the field for a while before signing anything with a manager. Better to start with dating before any real "commitment" happens on either side. A lot of times the relationship starts when an artist is stuck and looking for a specific solution and reaches out to a manager that they may know and trust and have access to ask that all important question. "Can you give me some input about this decision I have to make"? If things go well the artist may be invited to "call anytime with anything you need help with". If things progress and a certain amount of trust is built up then a relationship may start to get deeper.
BUILDING THE TEAM: MANAGEMENT (DON'T CALL US WE'LL CALL YOU!)
Seeking management is one of the main things artists feel they should be "doing". But thats not a useful goal to the working artist. How come? Interestingly enough most successful artists I know have had their managers seek them out. Why? Because as artists they were already doing the music and making the audience and creating the energy and buzz around their work and their career, enough so that a manager seeking a new act to work with would end up hearing about them through their network.
People in the music industry talk to each other. There are listening and watching for the truly "special" and "unique" artists that stand out.
Sometimes it's the combination of talent and looks and drive that clicks, sometimes it's because the artist has something really "fresh" in their approach. Sometimes it's simply dollar signs that get the manager interested...
but it's always the manager who takes an interest first almost NEVER the other way around in my experience.
START A RELATIONSHIP!
SO..if you are seeking a manager there's nothing wrong with starting a relationship with a couple of well placed folks where could bounce your challenges and ask questions. Usually the manager is watching carefully to see what kind of a person the artist is. Will you make the managers life difficult? Do you follow through on suggestions? Are you taking responsibility for your own forward motion?
There are a million new acts trying to break into the publics consciousness each year. How do you get heard about the din?
By doing what you do the best you can do it. Pretty simple really.
Do what YOU do so well that you attract the team you need to bring it to the world.