What Does a Business Manager (Music or Theater Group) Do?

Business managers are often referred to as “controllers." It's an apt title, considering that when it comes to an organization's financial resources, business managers control almost everything. Usually working for larger ensemble groups like orchestras and theater companies, business managers are the heads of their organization's business department, and may have their own assistants and staff. They have many duties, including devising and implementing a general budget, distributing payroll, paying outside bills (and reviewing them for discrepancies), and maintaining meticulous financial records. Business managers might also be involved in preparing an organization's tax information and reporting it to the government.

Business managers are frugal individuals, capable of honestly appraising which of the organization's expenses are totally necessary and which are ripe for reduction.

When it comes to payroll, it's not the permanent performers and staff that business managers really need to worry about. Instead, what makes payroll challenging is keeping track of payments to all of the outside soloists, guest conductors, outside actors, commissioned composers or playwrights, and contracted technicians who have contributed to the organization. Business managers tend to work closely with the organization's managing director while designing the yearly budget, a difficult task that requires extensive experience in similar roles. Business managers may also collaborate with other department heads, including the head of development, who might set fundraising goals based on the business manager's advice.

Business Manager (Music or Theater Group) at a Glance

Career Path

Business managers often start out as assistants, interns, or entry-level employees in an orchestra or theater company's business department. They are often musicians or actors themselves who want to stay involved with music or theater while supplementing their performance income. Business managers usually advance by finding positions with larger and more prestigious orchestras or symphonies, although they can also become freelance business management consultants.

Finding Work

The League of American Orchestras lists positions across the country on its website. Aside from that, these positions are usually advertised on job listing websites like LinkedIn and Indeed.

Professional Skills
  • Budgeting
  • Payroll
  • Tax procedure
  • Mathematics
  • Organization
  • Record-keeping
Interpersonal Skills

Business managers are frugal individuals, capable of honestly appraising which of the organization's expenses are totally necessary and which are ripe for reduction. Keeping track of their organization's budgets, their current performance compared to those budgets, and their upcoming expenses all at the same time requires excellent organizational and multitasking skills. Suffice it to say that business managers are excellent record-keepers. Finally, a knowledge of and familiarity with the industry—whether it's classical music or theater—is essential.

Work Life

Business managers work eight-hour days during usual business hours in an office setting, although at small orchestras or theaters their hours could be fewer. Neither extensive travel nor overtime are required, but in certain situations business managers may need to resolve pressing financial problems, particularly while the performers are on tour.