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A Musician’s Guide to Finding and working with a Manager

Guest blog by Ella Gregg, Manager of Lucy Mair, and co-founder of 321 Artists

For a musician, especially a solo-musician, the idea of introducing a manager into your project can provide a whole host of thoughts and emotions, and it can strangely be quite a lonely experience making a decision like that for your project. As an artist manager, I thought I’d talk about a few things to think about when looking for a manager, where to actually find one, and how to build your relationship together. I also asked my artist, Lucy Mair, to give her opinions too.

I personally started working in artist management at the age of 18, and fell into the role very accidentally. I was already working for an artist development platform, and through that work I was introduced to a band called Blushes who I started to get to know. I was introduced to their manager at the time, and he invited me to work with Blushes as their social media advisor and booking agent. As time progressed, I got closer to Blushes and their manager was no longer able to put time into the band which led to me managing Blushes. 

Previous to that, I had had no experience at all in artist management, but from believing in the band and being passionate about doing well for them, I worked hard to expand my knowledge and contact list, and within six months the band were featured by NME and played on BBC Radio 1. And casual artist management is becoming a lot more popular, managers aren’t sitting in big offices as a team anymore, it’s done by individual people sat on their sofa, and there is nothing wrong with that. You don’t necessarily need the most experienced manager, you just need someone who is very dedicated and passionate for your project. 

It’s important for you to think about if you necessarily need a manager. Are you at a stage where you just enjoying writing music and playing songs live, or do you want to be an artist? When you get a manager on board, you’re hiring someone to shout about your project, and there may suddenly be a lot more demand for you and your music than you’re used to. If you just want to write and play music whenever you feel like it, a manager might not be the right step for you. And that doesn’t mean you don’t take your music seriously, that just means your motivations might be different to another artist. 

Lucy Mair

Lucy Mair says “I always found it really difficult to balance the ‘corporate’ side and ‘creative’ side of music, I would constantly focus too much on just one and fall behind with the other. Having a manager means I can now almost solely focus on the creative aspects which is the side that I really love and therefore improves the quality of what I put out as I have more time to focus on the music. I knew I was ready for a manager because I knew what I wanted to create and had already established myself as an artist as I had released music with no team whatsoever around me and built the foundations for myself. I guess it is now a case of 321 [Ella Gregg’s company] helping to build on those foundations and progressing to a level of which I could not reach by myself.” 

It’s no secret that managers of emerging artists make very little money, therefore they are often the most passionate people in the music industry and they are putting a lot of time and effort into an artist purely because they believe in the artist they’re working with. For that reason, it’s absolutely vital that you’re willing to replicate that time and effort yourself. Bringing a manager into the project doesn’t mean you can kick your feet up and your manager will work around you; if anything, it intensifies the project and you will be worker even harder than before. I’ve worked with artists who have had the attitude of “I write the songs, what more do you want from me?” and safe to say, that won’t get you very far today. 

Another thing that can sometimes be difficult for artists, especially solo musicians, is the idea of passing over some control over to a manager. From the start, you’ve been the only one making the decisions for you and your project, it’s been like a baby you’ve been protecting, and now you’re passing the responsibilities onto a manager, and that can be intimidating for some people, which is absolutely understandable. A manager doesn’t set out to make your life miserable, you’re forming a partnership, which means you still have a lot of control, if not more than your manager. 

“I was a little bit nervous about passing over control, but only because I have had managers and labels in the past control what I create. The difference this time around is that, with Ella, she had already heard my music and she believed in what I was creating when I was completely in charge of my music, therefore I knew she was not going to try and change what I wrote as she wanted to work with what I was already doing. Whereas, in previous experiences, I had not released any of my own content therefore I was not sure how I wanted to sound and others had an idea of how they thought I should sound.” 

You should be prepared and capable of taking criticism or to be potentially met with negative opinions – as mentioned, you’re a partnership and your manager has your best interests at heart. If you don’t think you can take constructive criticism, it might not be the right time for you. After all, the criticism is there to help you as feedback for you to build on.

“I really enjoy feedback, I trust Ella’s opinion and never feel as if she is trying to push me towards a sound that I do not want.”

Before approaching a manager, you need to understand what you actually want to achieve, and why having a manager will approve your chances of achieving these goals. If you have vision you can share with a potential manager, this will give them a better idea of what you can do together, and it will provide the manager with the confidence that you know where you want this project to go, and shows confidence and passion for success. 

If you do think it’s the right time to find a manager, knowing where to look for one can seem tricky. As I said earlier, freelance artist managers are becoming a lot more popular and can sometimes seem hard to find. I would recommend using social media – find artists similar to you and see who they’re being managed by, maybe see if any other management companies follow them, contact smaller blogs that have featured artists similar to you and see if they recommend any managers. However, don’t forget that I said artist management is becoming a lot less formal, and the role of a manager is changing. If you have a friend who would just be able to help you keep on top of emails, or help transport you and your kit to gigs, or could advise you, that’s a lot of what a manager does. It’s about passion, not experience. And having someone you know and trust already means you’re going to feel more comfortable quicker. 

Having a manager doesn’t have to be as scary as you first thought, and it can be really useful having someone there to fight your corner and someone who will be there for you at 3am if you needed them. But a manager is as much or as little as you want it to be and it’s important to remember that bringing a manager in doesn’t detract any of your passion or power for your project. 

Visit 321 Artists and check out Lucy Mair on Spotify