Most of the time, the question artists should be asking is not “Do I need a manager?” but instead, “When do I need a manager?” For example, do you need a manager to help you get a record deal, or do you need one to handle the complex business arrangement after signing a contract?
The truth is there is no steadfast answer to when getting a manager will help you as an artist, as it all comes down to your situation and business plan. If the band can take care of all business duties themselves, there’s no point in giving away part of their income to a manager. However, there will come a point in even the most business savvy band’s career -- if they become successful -- that they will have to have someone to take over the business aspects of that career.
Put simply, a music manager takes care of the aspects of a band not related to writing and performing music. This ranges from negotiating booking rates to paying taxes to setting up the band as a business and much more.
The actual role of the manager will vary depending on the artist and what they need done. For example, larger artists will have multiple managers (tour managers, business managers, etc.) to take care of various career aspects. Smaller artists typically will use managers to book shows (or connect with booking agents) or take care of all financial matters.
Typically, managers charge a percentage of income, and the standard amount varies from 15-20 percent. Therefore, they will take a cut of what they are responsible for bringing in.
When it comes down to it, few musicians are also great business people. Even the ones that are, will eventually run out of time to not only write, record and perform music, but also to handle the business aspects of their career. This is where a manager will come into carry the business portion of the load.
In some cases managers are brought on pretty much specifically to try and get the artist a record deal. In fact, this is often the best way for a manager to make money, as if the artist is given money by a record label after landing a deal, then the manager gets his or her percentage as a reward for the contract.
However, that doesn’t mean that it is necessary to have a manager to get a record deal. Again, it comes down to your situation as an artist as to whether this can help you, but it often can as you bring someone with business experience to work with the labels and obtain the best deal possible.
It should be remembered, however, that whether you have a manager or not, you should be sure to involve a lawyer in the process of reviewing any contract to make sure you are signing exactly what you think you are signing.