Meet the Band Managers: A Guide to Music ManagementBack
As musicians and bands achieve more success and start dealing with jam-packed schedules, a band manager becomes an important part of the team, on-hand to help organise, promote and guide the group.
We spoke to two experienced band managers - and tutors at the British & Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) - to get the low-down on representing an act.
Whether you’re a budding band manager, or an upcoming artist looking for a representation, here's their music industry advice and thoughts on the logistics and challenges of band management.
How to be a band manager // How to find a band manager
How did you get started in the music industry?
Damian: My career began in the late 80s, selling tees for Madchester bands. You meet a lot of people that way, and my address book was soon full of various band members and DJs, promoters and it’s fair to say, chancers too.
I also sang in an indie band in the early 90s, and had some minor successes with that. It was good experience, particularly playing live. I was surprised at how poorly unsigned acts got treated, so when I set up my live agency in 1998 I wanted to do things differently.
Mark: I started out as a drummer and a producer, then quickly moved onto promoting local nights and management. Made many mistakes, but learnt a lot.
I spent 6 years as a national promoter at Metropolis Music, where I developed a great roster of acts. I recently moved away from promoting to work back in management and with BIMM Bristol.
Which bands have you worked with?
Damian: When I set up Brave Music, I was arranging dates for rock star DJs; names like Mani from The Stone Roses, Peter Hook from New Order, Mike & Andy from The Smiths, and dozens more names you’d know. I organised after-parties on tours for Suede, Oasis, Prodigy and loads of others. All good fun.
I dabbled with management for a while before making it a more formal process, managing Mike Joyce from The Smiths (who I’m still agent for), and a band called Screaming Maldini for a few years - and getting them close to a major label deal before the band fell apart for various reasons! I learned a lot from that experience about contracts and managing conflict.
I now manage a band called The Orielles, signed to Heavenly Recordings. I also have an agency representing Terry Hall from The Specials, Mike Joyce and various other unsigned acts and DJs.
Mark: I found and promoted acts from George Ezra and Emeli Sande to Netsky and Submotion Orchestra. I also worked on larger tours with Oasis, Snow Patrol and Lana Del Rey to name a few. I co-promoted Somerset House Series and worked on events like the Electric Proms and Radio 1 tours.
I now run BOJO management and the main act I look after is KEIR. Other acts I work with are currently in development stages.
"We have a standard Management Contract, but we also have a level of knowledge and trust that paper can’t give you"
How did you find & meet the bands you manage?
Damian: I was invited to see The Orielles (then under a different name) at Sound Control. The band came on and I loved their sound. They had an entire aesthetic around them: sound, artwork, clothes, that I immediately bought into and loved.
Mark: KEIR is a BIMM graduate and I was introduced to him through a friend while at Metropolis Music.
What kind of agreement do you have with the band?
Damian: We have a standard Management Contract, but we also have a level of knowledge and trust that paper can’t give you. I’m as passionate about what they do as they are, and will protect them and their interests. I fight their corner.
Mark: I tend to not use contracts in the early stages of management. It’s all about trust. If I do a great job for them they will want to work with me.
"It’s all about my contacts and relationships. Getting out to meet people is the key"
What does your average day or week as a band manager involve?
Damian: My role has changed a little more recently, as before we had a label, agent, press, radio plugger and publisher in place, I was doing all of those things.
Now I help co-ordinate the bigger team, and everything funnels through me: decisions, finances, planning, diaries. Some days are busier than others, and it’s never 9am to 5pm, but it’s always exciting. I love seeing the band do well. It’s incredibly satisfying.
Mark: It’s very different week to week. I do everything from working on the live shows with our agent CAA to setting up record deals with labels.
The basics are the most important part – getting the songs right!
How do you help your acts secure shows?
Damian: Now we have an agent, but for the 3 years when we didn’t. This was the hardest part of the job. As an agent, I knew how to work shows, and had great contacts around the UK and Europe, but I was used to promoters coming to me asking for DJs. Now I had to ask them to put a relatively unknown band on.
I addressed this by making the band as visible in as many other ways as possible. Make sure there was always something for bloggers to write about and getting a buzz going.
Once promoters can see that you’re working hard on publicity, and there’s enough of a buzz for people to attend the shows, they get more confident in booking you. We built a good live reputation that way. Being pleasant and professional helps a lot too, both me and the band.
Mark: I work very closely with many agents in the UK through my promoting work, so securing the right agent is a major part of the development.
Apart from that it’s all about my contacts and relationships. Getting out to meet people is the key.
"The main thing is to always have an angle, and always have something interesting to say"
How do you help to promote the bands you manage?
Damian: The main thing is to always have an angle, and always have something interesting to say. ‘Band releases song’ isn’t noteworthy, but if you can find more than that to say it will get noticed.
That comes down to what I said earlier about the band creating a world around themselves. You can buy into the look, the influences, the artwork, which make it much more interesting and noticeable.
Mark: Before I had a PR company in the mix I would contact local press myself and look to get coverage for shows. I also use a site called SubmitHub, which very, very good.
What are the main difficulties you’ve faced as a band manager?
Damian: Not many to be fair. Initially inter-band relationships are a toughie. If people aren’t getting on. That old classic ‘creative differences’ rears its ugly head. I’ve not had that with my current bands.
Sometimes the band agree to stuff and then haven’t told me, and we have to extricate ourselves from agreements, but that’s rare and they’ve learned not to. Time-management is important, and some bands are terrible for that – so I hear!
Mark: Major labels don’t seem to be very good at developing artists, so it’s down to the manager to do the hard work and this takes time. Don’t rush things.
Using service providers like Kobalt is the best way to develop artists. It takes more work for my side but well worth it.
"Don’t be blinded by your love for their music, step back and be rational"
What are the most rewarding things about being a band manager?
Damian: Incredibly cheesy as it sounds, it’s seeing a band achieve all the things they set out to do, and enjoy it. My job is to allow them to do that. Professionally, if I get a bit of glory for that it’s a bonus.
Mark: Seeing an artist really develop and getting the best from them. There are plenty more incredible moments, like the times when others finally see what you have seen all along.
What advice would you give to budding band managers?
Damian: Choose wisely and check out the band’s background. If they’ve been going for ages and not got anywhere, what’s the underlying reason?
Don’t rush in, be mindful that months or even years of work could go down the pan because you find out that the act isn’t mentally prepared for success. Or maybe they entered an unwise contract years ago that only comes to light later, or they just don’t have more material beyond what they already have.
Don’t be blinded by your love for their music, step back and be rational. Otherwise, enjoy it and always take advice, don’t be arrogant, you can never know everything!
Mark: Get out there and make friends at venues. Offer to assist others for free to get a foot in the door. I started on the door at the Fleece in Bristol before having a go at putting on my own local nights.
Off the back of that, the manager asked me to run all local nights, and then offered me a job as head of local and press. The managers best friend happened to be one of the biggest UK promoters. The rest is history!
"Create the very best music you can and record it well. If it’s good people will talk about you and managers will follow"
What advice would you give to bands currently looking for a manager?
Damian: Get good and one will come, honestly. If you’re attracting fans you’ll attract the manager. Do all the checks and have the same caution I’ve just previously advised for managers looking for acts. Take good advice from music business professionals. In my experience, if someone’s offering a load of money but no contacts or strategy, run for the hills. If they have the latter and will help you get the former, that’s a more sensible bet.
Joining the Musicians Union is a good bet too, there's a great team there and top legal advice for hardly any money.
Mark: Create the very best music you can and record it well. If it’s good people will talk about you and managers will follow. Until then, get a friend who is keen to help you out. Or even better find a BIMM management student!
Many thanks to Damian and Mark for taking the time to offer their expert advice on band management.
If you want to find out more about BIMM, their colleges and courses in both Music Industry & Performance head over to bimm.co.uk.
Do you have any questions about managing a band? Or are you in a band looking for a manager? Let us know in the comments below and don't forget to share this advice with your friends!