Music Management Skills: Help Clients Understand Your Career Development

I wrote Music Management for the Rest of Us to help novice artist managers avoid the kinds of mistakes I made when I first started managing acts. I also wrote the book to help musicians understand that it was becoming easier to convert a trusted friend or family member into a competent manager than to find an experienced management professional that you could inherently trust.

One of the things I got better at over the years was letting go of the “agency sheen,” that thing that all entrepreneurs like to do. It’s fun to spend time picking out logos, buying business cards with just the right heft to them, and overanalyzing your website.

So little of that matters to your clients’ success.

In fact, focusing too much on looking “professional” can result in a kind of “bait and switch” that poisons your clients against you.

Instead of worrying about getting potential clients to notice you, to think you’re special, and to believe you’re “connected” in just the right way, all you really have to worry about are your results and your goals. I can think of three key questions that you should be able to answer for prospective (and current) clients:

  • What have you done for a client artist lately that they couldn’t have easily done themselves?
  • How do you develop clear growth strategies for artists, instead of acting as an assistant or an investor?
  • How large do you want to grow your business, and how would your plans impact the level of service you provide your clients?

Most of all, it’s important to check in with your clients around your personal and professional growth. Explain how they’re influencing you, and how the work you’re doing with other artists on your roster can benefit them. If their trajectory eclipses your own, this kind of relationship can help you part friends and colleagues instead of as bitter enemies.

If you’re splitting time between careers and you want to develop a management practice on the side, disclose that to your client. Let them into your own dream, and maybe give them an incentive to help you get close to what you really want. It’s not just about managers who help artists quit their day jobs — the right project has the power to propel a manager into orbit.

A client that doesn’t like where you are in your career right now doesn’t need to be your client. Veteran music managers understand that plenty of acts will come and go, but only the ones that “fit” in a roster can really benefit from the manager/client relationship.

You have the power to choose the kind of professional you want to be, and we’re no longer in a business that rewards only bullies.