Music Management Skills: Commit to Your Client

In Music Management for the Rest of Us, I lay out some basic math. If you’re earning 10-15% in commissions from a client, and they’re just about at the point of replacing their “day job” with a full time music career, you probably need four or five other clients to make enough money to quit your own day job.

That’s where commitment can get challenging for a novice music management professional. Maybe you love your day job, and you’re managing an artist because you’re passionate about their work. Maybe managing artists is the side hustle that lets you have fun. Or maybe you’re like other new artist managers, spreading yourself out like peanut butter to cover all your bases. Either way, you’re going to find yourself challenged with priorities.

Committing to your client means being honest about everything you’re working on while ensuring that you’re not overcommitting yourself to one project over another. Making this happen the right way requires setting some ground rules:

  • Be transparent with your clients. Let them know that music management isn’t like the priesthood or the Army. You will have personal obligations and there will be times your clients will have to fend for themselves. Setting up solid systems and relying on a team can minimize the amount of time you’ll get called away from the rest of your life.
  • Stay honest to stay focused. It’s okay for a novice music management professional to juggle multiple commitments. Just make sure your client knows the whole story. If you’re pretending to be a high roller and your client catches you working the counter at Kinko’s, you’re in trouble. On the other hand, if you make it clear that the work you’re doing together is your ticket out of a day job you don’t enjoy, that can emphasize your personal connection to a project.
  • Let clients know about your attempts at synergy. Most musicians understand why managers take on multiple projects. Just make sure you’re not neglecting anyone on your roster. Being seen as “playing favorites” is a surefire way to end up with a voided contract.

Lori and I love watching IFC’s Z Rock — it’s like a Curb Your Enthusiasm for the music business. In one story arc, the band’s manager struggles to juggle multiple clients. In another, she’s wrestling with the guilt that her clients have “sold out” in order to help her get out of debt:

It’s fun viewing, and you can tell yourself that you’re doing music industry research.