What Does an Artist Manager Do?

A brand adviser, business advocate, and 24/7 ally, the artist manager—or in the entertainment industry, simply the "manager"— is one of the most impactful professionals in any artist or band's support team, weighing in on every career decision from long-term goals to what's for lunch. An artist manager's specific duties vary depending on the industry in question as well as the size and stage of their client's career, but often include some combination of those typically associated with an A&R representative, PR agent, business manager, or talent agent in addition to overseeing the artist or band directly and representing the artist's interests with employers. Almost all artist managers share a close professional relationship with their clients—they're in it together, for better or worse.

The most successful managers are egoless, thick-skinned, and tenacious, ready and able to advocate tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of their client.

Artist managers shape their clients' careers both in a day-to-day and long-term sense. They often help clients book gigs, plan album projects, orchestrate record releases and tours, create marketing and merchandising strategies, get paid for their work, and establish and pursue long-term career goals. However, a manager's job can extend far beyond this; they are their clients' advocate, which can mean negotiating record contracts, mediating interpersonal conflicts within the band, fighting on behalf of a client who's not receiving the treatment agreed upon in the contract, lobbying on a client's behalf with labels, producers, agents, and promoters, and even helping a client improve their mental and physical health. Recently, in response to shifts in the music industry, managers devote more time to leveraging a band's brand equity to create revenue streams and strategic partnerships. 

People in the Field

Nils Gums

Name:

Nils
Gums
Class of 
2006
Position: 
Alumnus Berklee Trustee; CEO and President, The Complex Group

Artist Manager at a Glance

Career Path

Artist managers tend to fall into two groups. Some managers possess little training or professional experience, falling into the career when a family member or close friend catches a break and needs a trusted adviser to guide their fledgling career. Others gradually work their way up from managing local acts in their hometown, climb the corporate ladder at a management company, or switch careers from working as personal assistants, project managers, talent agentsA&R representatives, or song pluggers. Those who make artist management their long-term career usually manage multiple clients at a time, and the most successful among them can go on to found management companies—or "agencies"—based around their roster of clients.

Finding Work

As with many freelance-oriented jobs, it can be difficult to find one's first gig as an artist manager. Some start by managing artists or groups they already know, while others apply for positions at management companies, found their own, or join an artist's team in a different capacity—as a business manager, agent, or personal assistant—before taking over management duties. 

Professional Skills
  • Music business experience
  • Record industry contacts
  • Record production process
  • Music publishing
  • Music licensing and performing rights
  • Tour planning
  • Schedule management
  • Budgeting
  • Negotiation
  • Networking
  • Organizational skills
  • Verbal communication
Interpersonal Skills

In order to be a successful manager, one must be intelligent, creative, egoless, hardworking, organized, and thick-skinned. It's not a job for those who crave the spotlight, as artist managers must be ready and able to work tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of their clients. Perhaps most importantly, managers should have the flexibility, communication skills, and emotional intelligence to adjust their management style to fit their clients' needs.

Work Life

A career as a manager is consuming, with very little divide between work hours and pleasure hours. As a result, it suits impassioned and driven individuals who are comfortable working around the clock. Most days are packed with meetings, small business transactions, and planning for the future, while nights are dedicated to live music and networking events. Depending on the client, an artist manager may travel frequently as part of the job—including on tour, although successful clients may have the funds to hire a separate tour manager.