When It's Time to Hire a Manager

Fabienne Leys, Director of A&R, Atom Factory  •  March 28, 2013

Whether you are a music industry rookie hungry for success or a highly experienced creative veteran looking to elevate your brand within the business, there is always that question: when is the right time to hire a manager?

Before choosing the right management, it is crucial that you first identify what you are looking for a manager to accomplish. Many people might assume that hiring a big-name rep will make all their dreams come true overnight, failing to understand that it is up to the client to come to the table with just as much value as the potential manager. You must view the relationship as a true partnership, and recognize that expectations should be met on both sides.

Your manager is essentially the CEO of your business. Therefore it only makes sense to have a manager when there is business to be managed. A manager can then take your career to the next level, by helping to make the right business decisions and by providing resources and contacts that you would not normally be able to obtain on your own.

Here are a few of my suggestions on when and why to hire a manager:

The Music Is Just Right
Perhaps you are a music producer who has gone from making the most basic beats in your parents’ basement to creating great songs that are generating buzz with a new artist, or you are an aspiring artist who has honed in on a solid musical direction, with live performances that are getting great feedback from people outside your close circle of family and friends. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that there is a great product to sell, and the next move is to hire a representative to sell said product to labels, agents and entertainment firms.

The Buzz Factor
If your music is out in the public space and generating buzz within the music industry, it’s important to partner with a savvy manager who can not only navigate your career in the right direction, but also serve as a buffer between you and the onslaught of people now contacting you on a regular basis for a piece of the action. You will make mistakes throughout your career, but you never want to unknowingly fall into a bad deal that might hinder your future progress, and the right manager can help you avoid a lot of those business pitfalls.

Creativity vs. Business
When the business of music starts to feel overwhelming and is demanding all your attention, from balancing your daily schedule (recording, performing, writing, etc.), to making bigger decisions about your career, to merely communicating with various executives about business-related matters, it all subtracts from valuable time that should be spent perfecting your craft. Your goal as the creative individual is to do just that – to be creative, and spend your time developing your talent and music. A manager earns his or her keep by handling all matters that would generally distract from your creative process. A manager can help you filter and prioritize what needs to be done on a daily basis, in addition to having those difficult business conversations that you may not want to have.

Expanding Your Network
If you’ve been handling everything on your own and are hitting a wall getting past the proverbial industry waiting room, it might be time to hire a manager. A manager must constantly work at managing your own expectations and goals, while expanding your base of industry relationships, experience and knowledge. Don’t just be swayed by “big-name” management that may offer an A-list rolodex but does not possess the same level of excitement about your music and consequently does not provide you with the means to grow your career. No matter how small-time or big-time your manager may be, it is always better to have a manager who is as passionate about your talent than one who is not.

Who you have on your business team will ultimately determine your success as an artist. Though there is no handbook or formula for artists and managers to follow while dealing with the everyday challenges of an ever-changing industry, with the right combination of talent, hard work, ambition and resourcefulness, you are already laying the groundwork for a successful future as an artist. Good luck!

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Fabienne Leys began her broad-based career in the music industry over 12 years ago, working in the publicity departments of the famed Arista Records and Def Jam Recordings. In 2005, Fabienne transitioned into A&R at Def Jam, assisting on various artists’ projects including Rihanna, Nas, and The Roots. In 2008 she joined the newly-formed staff at Roc Nation, continuing to hone her artist development acumen with its growing roster, but the company’s multi-faceted business approach also provided an opportunity to expand her duties beyond A&R to include management of producers, songwriters, engineers and mixers. Since 2011, Fabienne has been heading up the producer and songwriter management division at Atom Factory where she continues to leverage her considerable management and A&R experience in guiding the careers of producers, writers and new artists.