Smallfish Artist Management Agency

Artist Manager Roles; Do You Really Need one ?

When you ask an artist what is the role of an artist manager, I always get various answers, and I totally understand.

  • Some will say: an artist manager will book shows or festivals for me
  • He is the guy who got me signed on a label
  • An artist manager is the person who will help our band with all marketing aspects
  •  Or eventually: our artist manager is the guy behind the merch table
  •  An artist manager is the person who will help us with our finances

There are no wrong answers in all that. His role is very wide in terms of scope. Also the way he works with one artist might differ with others as they have different needs (one artist may require more support to find gigs while another band may request more sales expertise to develop their acquisition funnel on some specific markets).

Definition of an artist manager:

Artist managers shape their clients' careers both in a day-to-day and long-term sense. They often help clients book gigs, plan album projects, orchestrate record releases and tours, create marketing and merchandising strategies, get paid for their work, and establish and pursue long-term career goals

His/Her Roles:

An artist manager (also called music manager), by representing and advocating the interest of the artist, will always look to ensure all the rights components are present for the career development (from an artistic and also business point of view)of his client.

He will be the one having a 360degree view of the artist development. It implies being in contact with various key actors from the music industry (as explained below).

To get a better understanding on how various are the roles of an artist manager, I listed a series of key activities where his role is instrumental:

Build & Coordinate any touring activities:

As you can see he/she will be in touch with one or more booking agencies (also called talent buyers) handling a specific territory. 

In this case, he/she will inform the booking agencies of the touring plan (dates, territory, recent release..) and the agent will start looking for events, festivals, clubs that fit your criteria).

If you are an artist manager and your client is not under the umbrella of a booking agency, then it means you will certainly have direct contact with local promoters, club owners, festivals etc..

Your job will be to :

  • Building a tour (if you don’t have an agent)
  • secure slot for your band
  • Agree on a time slot, soundcheck time, load in.
  • Collect the technical spec of the venue that you give to the band or their sound/light engineer
  • Negotiate the fee and other incentives provided (catering, accommodation)
  • Agree also on the form of promotion the venue will do (or not) for the band
  • Who will take care of selling merchandise (does the venue has a dedicated person or the band need to have someone)

Note: in some cases, the artist manager can have a double hat and act also as a touring manager (especially if you are an emerging artist).

Orchestrate all the Marketing activities:

  • Get in touch with the various PR agencies and serve as an in-between with the agency and the artist
  • Agree on the how and when and budget with PR agencies or digital marketing agencies about the future campaign 
  • Facilitate the work of the PR agency by making sure they get all the requirements requested to launch a campaign

Advocating while  Networking:

The aim for a manager is to build a complete eco-system around the band and consequently develop a series of stable and strong partnerships within the music industry such as:

  • Finding booking agencies for specific territory, festivals promoters
  • Finding publishers, sync, lawyers, publicist
  • Be present at Music Showcase Conferences and present the artists to a certain number of delegates present
  • Find and meet distributors, labels, A&R, medias
  • Meet your dedicated Music Export organisation (mostly for European artists) and discuss eventual funding a band can get

Recording process coordination:

Agree with the artist or bands, on which studio they want to record (it’s not always the case, often for emerging band, they know already the studio they will record and they may contact directly the studio…)

Get in touch with sound engineer or producer, to check their timeline, budget (and see if it fits the plan of the artist)

Key role in Accounting:

Being an Artist manager, you need to have also an overview of the finance state of the artist and be in regular contact with an official accountant.

You will need to ensure that:

  • All invoices are sent on behalf of the band are properly handled and paid
  • All the expenses done by the artist are paid on time by the artist 
  • You have a constant monitoring of the budget and the expenses are allocated as agreed with the artists
  • Invoices and bills are sent to the accountant on time

Facilitate all legal aspects:

Every artists should have a lawyer. I always consider an artist as a legal entity (like a company) therefore you need to have a dedicated lawyer. As an artist you will have to sign a various number of agreements/contracts such as:

  • Distribution contract with your label or distribution company,
  • Partnership contract with another artist (maybe for a remix or song project..), 
  • Sponsor deals
  • PR services
  • Artist management contract
  • Live event contract (for a participation to a festival for instance or a regular show)

You need to be very well acquainted with the regulation in place and be able to understand the law jargon and how to navigate around it.  For this purpose I highly recommend you get in touch with a lawyer. 

The artist manager can provide his assistance by finding one legal attorney and serve as a liaison between him and your band.

Also, you will need to make sure that all major contracts signed or have your own template contract (for live event for instance) got the green light of the lawyer.

Ensure Royalties collection: 

Make sure that your artist/band is registered to a royalties society in their home country.

Note you can use the service of a company like Songtrust.

 Distribution channel growth:

If you work with a label, you need to inform them well in advance of your release cycle, so they can help you to prepare the distribution and the promotion. So in this particular case, you are delegating and the label will update you in due time.

In case you don’t have a label, but you are working with distribution company, then it’s a very similar scenario, you need to get in touch with them, inform them about your release plan, check with them their promotion offers (if they have).

Nowadays, a lot of artists (at least the emerging) work in a hybrid way sometime with a label for a specific territory (let’s say Europe and Americas for instance) and eventually use some specific distribution partnership (for some countries in Asia like Japan, China, Korea..).

Merchandise sales

A great way for an artist to generate income is through the sale of merchandise (throughout all the year).

If the artist don’t have a dedicated team in place, the artist manager will need to provide assistance on:

  • Get in touch with various march providers and proceed with ordering
  • Ensure stocks are available for sale
  • Set up and Launch sales campaign and funnel
  • Make sure to have a proper sales platforms in place

It's a lot of content to digest already.  I made a quick summary, you should check the infographic below:

roles of artist manager infographic

How managers get paid?  

The commission and consultant model

I listed 3 options here:

  • The band and the artist manager agree on a specific percentage (commission) based on the artists activities (touring, merch sales, ..)
  • The band/artists agree with the artist manager on a fixed fee to be paid on a monthly/quarterly/yearly basis 


  • An hybrid solution gathering the 2 points above.

Where to find an artist manager

There are multiple ways to find an artists manager, check below

  • Attend showcases and dig into the delegates database 
  • Recommendations from some artists you know
  • Labels: they all know a bunch of artist managers.
  • Linkedin/Google

It’s not complicated to find one, the most complicated aspect is to find one that matches your vision and who can really level up your career. 

Ideally, the artist and the music manager need to have a real synergy and ready to have a long relationship.

How to become an artist manager

No real recipe here.  It's clear you need a certain level of commitment, passion, a certain understanding of the music industry (even if I believe you can learn on the spot) but also you need "ideally" the following skills or mindset:

Being a data analyst on:

  • The incomes and cost generated on a monthly/quarterly/yearly basis
  • Streams and followers acquired on streaming platforms on monthly basis
  • Audience growth on specific period or yearly across social medias and mailing list..

Being a planner based on:

  • Goals and objective agreed with the band
  • Touring activities on specific areas in specific months
  • Release single/albums that would required actions from PR/social media marketing/labels
  • distribution coordination

Being a business developer on:

  • Constantly looking to develop revenue in current and emerging international territories

You can also educate yourself:

I listed a lit of places where you can gain knowledge and become an expert in artist management

Useful tools:

If you are looking to get a snapshot of the band activities across the WEB, you may consider use the following (but keep in mind they are paid tools, and you can live without if budget is an issue):

Chartmetric - cool tool that allow you to check the analytics of the bands on various platforms such as : Facebook/Youtube/Instagram/Spotify/Deezer. They have a free version and if you want to upgrade to Premium, you need to open your wallet big time as the monthly fee is about 140 euro/month.

Soundcharts. Similar as Chartmetric, a lot of data in their dashboard. Very cool segment about the airplay (even if they don’t cover all territories..). No free account possible like in Chartmetric, here they give you 7 days for free and get an taste of it and then you need to pay 40USD/month. Not cheap for young artist manager.

While those tools exists, i had to mention them, keep in mind you can retrieve most of those data by yourself. It’s more DIY and you may need to use an excel sheet.

Google Analytics: to check the website activity of the band

Mailchimp (or any other email marketing platforms such as DRIP): to check the growth in terms of email subscribers

Merch Sales platforms such as Click Funnel, Wohoo Commerce, Thrive cart: to launch and monitor sales activities of the band

Do you need an artist manager or not ?

This is a tough question. It really depends on various factors such as on what goals you want to achieve with your bands, also on which phase you are currently (do you just start, or you have been touring and releasing for the last several years..). It also depends if you are ready to allocate a budget for an artist manager.

If you are unsure, you should discuss with an artist manager and explain what is your current situation and what you are aiming for. Based on a realistic assessment, the manager might tell you if it's the right time or not.

Also, you could get an artist manager and work for a period of 3 to 6 month first and see how it goes. At the end of the time, you should be able to see if the collaboration was fruitful or not.

Remember the following: it’s not because you are hiring a manager that all of sudden you will become popular and get loads of concerts.

Keep in mind, it can be a long process paved with bumps, there is an observation & review phase followed by an implementation phase . So you may need to wait for a couple of months or a year before seeing the first effect of his actions.