Music Agent or Music Manager

I like to think of this series of articles as the steps to becoming a musician/performer in today’s society. I’m drawing these steps from my own personal experience and that of my fellow musicians that I admire and respect.

Every good musician has to know the history of the art they’re creating, which is why the first two articles were necessary. Then, as I explained in the previous article, every artist must figure out what their process is. Where it needs to take place, what needs to happen in order for you to focus, what environment you work best in, etc. These are all questions you should consider when thinking about yourself as an artist.

Now we’re going to take a look at the differences between an agent and a manager, if you really need one, and what to do if you do decide to hire one.

Let’s start off by defining manager and agent.

Talent Manager

People commonly mistake managers for agents and vice versa. Some people need one, some people need both, and some don’t need either. It all depends on you and your personal needs. But before you know what you need, you should educate yourself on what each one can do for you. Then you’ll know if you need one, both, or don’t need any at all.

First things first, a manager is someone who can be there for you as much or as little as you need them to be. Think of them as your overbearing helicopter mom or. Managers have been known to do things like provide guidance on a client’s career choices, counsel a client on their personal and professional decisions, and help them out in their day-to-day life.

If you prove to be a more hands-on client, meaning you’re someone who likes to walk on the wild side and spend your days off in rehab or jail, chances are your manager is going to be more hands-on. They may be the one picking you up from rehab or jail, or taking you there. They may be on-call 24/7 for you if you tend to be a flight risk.

Sometimes they don’t play an active role in your personal life at all. If you’re the golden client (AKA golden child), they’ll only get involved in your personal matters when it’s absolutely necessary. If that’s you, your manager will take care of the many jobs and various responsibilities you have to tackle on a daily basis. They’ll be the one to arrange your interviews, be your date to a premiere or release party, play accountant for you when you start making those big bucks, and set up your CD signings.

Booking Agent

Notice that though managers do a whole lot of hand-holding and personal-assisting, they never actually book jobs for their clients. That is the sole purpose of a booking agent.

Their job is to find you jobs, book those jobs, and then help you keep those jobs. If necessary, a booking agent defends, supports and promotes the interest of their clients.

Booking agents deal directly with the promoters of shows at various venues. 

Here’s the catch though: many booking agents will not represent an artist that is not signed to a major record label. They won’t even consider you. Even if you’re able to secure an independent record label contract, more than likely you’ll have to go through an independent booking agency. If you aren’t represented by any record label, an independent booking agency is your best option, too.

Another downfall when it comes to hiring a booking agent is that they will take a cut of your pay depending on how successful you are. Most of the time it’s only 10 percent of your salary, which is why agents are commonly referred to as “10 percenters.”

What’s With All the Confusion?

One of the main reasons for the confusion surrounding these two terms is due to contracts. Managers have been known to take on many roles, such as: press agent, promoter, booking agent, business manager, tour manager, and a personal assistant. As you read that list, you probably noticed the term “booking agent” and are shaking your head at me because I just clearly explained that the two are not the same so they shouldn’t be treated as such.

Well, it turns out managers technically can perform all the duties of a booking agent if you want a two-in-one version, but a booking agent’s various responsibilities cannot be listed in a manager’s contract, meaning a manager is not legally obligated or state regulated while performing these tasks. Which is why you should err on the side of caution when it comes to hiring a do-it-all manager. Booking agents are required to earn state licenses, which ensures them that they are allowed to perform these responsibilities and they will be held to a specific (higher) standard while doing so.

When considering hiring a talent manager and a booking agent, you should consider how far along you are in your career and how much more progress you believe you can realistically make on your own. If you feel like you’ve reached a point where you need professional help, look into hiring a manager or agent. Make sure you trust them. A lot can look too good to be true, and most of the time, that’s exactly the case. Not all of them are con artists or just out to make a pretty penny off of you and your music. Find ones that genuinely want to make you a better artist and look out for you well-being. This may significantly narrow your search down, but it will be worth it in the end.

Next article, we’re going to talk a little about an artist’s image or brand and what that means, how you go about creating one for yourself, etc. I’ll also talk more about my biggest influence in music, Chelo, and why he inspires me so much.

I hope these articles help you in your journey to becoming a better, more established musician. If you’re not out to be a better musician, I hope these articles are entertaining and you feel like you’re learning something.