Management or NO Management? That is the Question.

This is the only real management photo I could find. SOURCE:

Here’s the short answer to that question:  It depends.

I just blew your mind all over the place with that didn’t I?  Well, it’s true – in so many ways.  It depends on what type of career you’d like to have with music, it depends on whether or not you mind parting with 15%-20% of your profits (even merchandise profits), it depends on what type of manager you can get, the list goes on and on.

What I’m trying to outline here is that it’s just not as simple as hiring a manager.  In most cases, blindly doing so could mean the end to any possibility of you ever really getting ANYWHERE with music.


If making money and having music be your ultimate “day-job” then the answer here is two part.  DO NOT get a manager at first. Instead, do everything you can possibly do, either by yourself or with the help of friends.  I’m serious when I say there really is no other route.  You’re going to be making peanuts those first couple of years and with putting almost everything you make back into the business to help it grow, you can’t afford to split any of it with someone else.

Plus, and here’s the real benefit:  By doing things yourself those first few years, you gain valuable insight into what type of manager you REALLY need.

Do you need a booking manager?

A business manager to keep track of your finances, etc?

Do you need someone mainly with industry contacts that can help with publising, etc?

I suggest doing what Corey Smith has done.  Suggestions below:

1.  Start playing locally

2. Then build a touring base by extending your base one or two cities at a time.  Keep it manageable though.  Identify markets where a scene exists that can help cultivate your music.

3.  Approach friends to help you with some of the duties:  gathering venue contacts, designing posters, website upkeep, merch table, etc.  Pay them from time to time.  But I’ll tell you upfront:  the best ones will help you because they love it, not because you are paying them. If you can’t afford to pay them, reward them in other ways.

4.  Once duties or a portion thereof are no longer manageable by you or your team, then and only then do you seek out and hire a manager.

5.  Start by hiring a manager to take over one portion of your duties.  For example, booking shows.  Try getting a non-exclusive agent and do not sign any contracts.  If you think the agent is going to be really good and they want you to sign something: MAKE SURE THERE ARE PERFORMANCE BASED CLAUSES FOR THEM IN THE CONTRACT and/or put a 90 day “trial period” in the contract.

The last thing you need is being stuck in a two year contract with an agent that sits on his a** while you book the shows and pay out 17%.

At some point, for your career to get to the next level you are going to HAVE TO focus harder on making better music.  If you are still booking shows and dealing with day to day business, your time will be severely limited.  In some cases, if you are playing out 4 nights a week – you’ll have ZERO time to write and release new content.

Here’s the deal in plain English: When your music career becomes un-manageable by you and the crew you’ve built THEN AND ONLY THEN do you look at hiring a manager.

Of course the threshold is different for everyone, Jakob Freely played 175 shows in 2007, released two records, fully promoted/organized/and held it’s own festival, and we did it with no management.  All with the help of everyone in the band a few great friends.

All I’m illustrating by telling you that is you can handle quite alot before taking the plunge and getting a manager.

A lot of the music industry resources for the indie musician are super dry and boring as hell.  Most are filled with the advice centered around the idea that you are gearing your entire career around that bad car loan-ish record deal.  However, some are REALLY good.  And some aren’t necessarily music industry books – but I’ve found them super helpful

Here they are:

1.  I Don’t Need A Record Deal! by Dayelle Deanna Schwartz

2.  Guerilla Music Marketing:  Encore Edition by Bob Baker

3.  The Indie Bible


5.  Making and Marketing Music:  the Musicians Guide to Financing, Distributing, and Promoting Albums by Jodi Summers

6.  Outliers:  The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell

7.  The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell

I have an entire library, but that should get you started.

As always – you can email me at with any questions.

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Let’s tweet yo:  @davemhuffman

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3 Comments on “Management or NO Management? That is the Question.”

  1. Hugh Hession Says:

    Good advice. I’ve managed many bands on a regional level (and busted my butt – I might add!). In my experience as both a performer and in business – most so called “managers” are waste of time in the beginning. Some are just plain stupid (know nothing about the business) and others are just out to make a buck are two from your gigs as an agent, but then claim their 20% stake in all other revenue for minimal effort.

    Another great resource in regard to books: “The Indie Band Survival Guide” by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan. Very comprehensive and up to date. Also, from a detailed business perspective of running your band: Peter Spellman’s “Indie Business Power.”

  2. Keith Mohr Says:

    Excellent advice! I’ll be sure to send my indie tribe here to learn about you and your info. Appreciate it!

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