Everything You Need to Know About Band Management Part 1: Understanding

(photos by Chris Rahm)


Everyone who plays music loves to do it. Some people are content with music as a hobby. Then there’s people like us, people who love it so much they have to do it all the time. To me, that’s a musician.

If you’re one of the millions of musicians out there who identifies with these goals, you need a manager:

• I want greater exposure to acquire more fans.
• I want to tour the world playing my music for ever larger audiences.
• I want to pursue music as a substantial income-earning job.
• I want to play music seriously the rest of my life.
• I want a music career that can support a family.

What most musicians without managers don’t realize is that until they have a manger, they are the manager.

So, congratulations on opening a small business. Oh, wait, you didn’t want to be a manager, you wanted to be a musician? Of course, we understand.

But here’s the rub: If you’re serious about your music career, you should be serious about finding management, whether from an outside source or within yourself. And it just so happens, you is what you’ve got to start with.

You don’t need to become a businessperson to manage your own music career. You just have to learn how to think like one. You’re still an artist. You’re focused on the music, not the money. We may be about to cross the art/business divide, but I promise we’ll make it back to the art side safe and no worse for the wear.

In this special eight-part series, We’re going to help musicians get into the right mindset to grow their music business, find bigger and better business opportunities and partners, and get equipped with some tools to get you that much-needed management.

Parts 1-3 deal with understanding where the value is in music, while parts 4-7 give specific advice for growing that value. We’ll wrap the series up with a post on music coaching, which is fast becoming the solution for many musicians to get into the self-management game.


Music Careers Start with Understanding the Music Business


photo by Chris Rahm

Is it possible to attract the attention of potential partners based on incredible music alone? Does the industry guy in the suit really ever walk up after the show and say, “You got the goods, kid”?

Finding a successful career musician that doesn’t think like an entrepreneur is like finding Dom Pérignon in a dive bar. This is the cardinal rule: Successful musicians understand the music business.

Music history is full of depressing stories of an artist’s business naïveté being exploited for millions.

I was talking to my accountant the other day, he works with a lot of musicians. He did some work for the late Levon Helm (The Band). As a legendary figure in music history, Helm’s legacy contains one of the most famous cautionary tales of a musician being screwed by lack of business awareness and knowledge. Like most artists, Levon was so focused on the music, he lost control of the business. Eventually he regained control, opened the performance/recording space of his dreams, and ecstatically played music for sold out crowds until he passed away.

His former accountant told me, “Every musician that does well has an entrepreneurial spirit.”

I hear this same anecdotal evidence from everyone I talk to in the music industry — musicians, labels, lawyers, promoters, and of course, managers. After all, what more could a business partner ask for than a musician who both makes great music and understands how to succeed as a business?

Again, successful musicians don’t become businesspeople, they learn to think like them. They understand the music business so they can work with it, not for it.

When you write a song down or record it, copyright law instantly gives you the right to exploit your work for profit. So not only are you already a business, but if you’ve written any songs, you’ve got assets. The value of those assets is part of what you and your management team (which may be you) are looking to increase. The other part is growth of your fan base, which goes hand in hand with building value around your copyright.

If you’re daunted by the prospect of starting to manage your own band, don’t be. You’re already doing it. You just haven’t formalized it. You managed to get an instrument, learn to play, write some songs, play some gigs, record some tracks. The income may be dwarfed by the expense right now, but that just makes you in debt like most businesses!

It is still possible to attract the attention of potential partners based on incredible music alone. But it’s not easy or likely. For every incredible musician making a living from music, there are dozens that fail to establish sustainable careers.

Great music does not automatically make money. A musician business develops value around music. A quick listen to Top 40 (or is it Top 4?) radio clearly demonstrates great music is not necessary to create top market value around a song.

Wait a minute… music careers don’t start with great music? That’s right, and you’ll find out why in part 2.