Commercial artist management is a hot topic at 21st Century Musician. Almost half of newsletter subscribers want to know more about artist management, and online events on the subject frequently reach more than 100 signups! We can see why: a good manager can help put you forward to a wide range of promoters and audiences, and the backing of a ‘big name’ can be the catalyst for a long career in music. But representation doesn’t happen overnight, and is often the result of doing a lot of things for yourself first. In actual fact, many very successful musicians sustain their career without ever having an artist manager (Check out our interview with violinist Benjamin Baker for more on this subject!).

The following top tips can help you to be your own agent, whether it’s something you do forever or something you do whilst trying to get your work picked up by a management company. Above all, evidence you have been proactive and are doing this work for yourself already can make you more attractive to potential agents, so what have you got to lose?


1.     Get your website in order:

It doesn’t need to be flashy but it does need to be functional enough so that when people search for you they know what you’re about. Make sure it is easy for people to read your bio and contact you. Pay special attention to your concert calendar and keep it up to date: after all, how will people hear you play if they don’t know when and where they are and how to buy tickets? Check out Andrew Ousley’s tips on website optimisation for classical musicians here

Womans hands typing on laptop

2.     Make sure you have high quality recordings available online:

You won’t have the opportunity to choose the first video people see when they click on you, and first impressions matter! Ask yourself if you would be happy with potential bookers or promoters basing their entire opinion of you on each video, and if the answer is no, don’t have it as part of your promo materials (social media is different). No need for Spielberg-style production values, but make sure the sound quality is good and you are happy that it represents your playing at its best.


3.     Find a social media strategy that works for you (personality is key):

Being all over social media isn’t necessarily the secret to a sustainable music career, but it can help bolster your connections and get your music seen by new people. It doesn’t have to be as ‘polished’ as the promo materials on your YouTube channel or website, and instead you might consider sharing behind the scenes footage of your concerts or practice sessions. Remember that what you take for granted as a musician might be really interesting to a potential new fan. Social media is also an opportunity for people to get to know a bit about you, so don’t be afraid to be yourself and even reply to comments to show that you read them: it’s all about creating an image of who you are as a person and building relationships with your audience. 


4.     Cultivate a dedicated audience outside of social media

Outside of social media, an email newsletter about upcoming engagements can be a great promotional tool. Keeping up to date with an audience who may not be on social media or may only be interested in concert engagements doesn’t have to be arduous, but do use the mailing list regularly. Making and sustaining connections is the bread-and-butter of many artist managers’ work, and will be the one of the keys to your career success, too. Many musicians use Mailchimp, which allows you to have 500 contacts for free, so it’s perfect if you’re just starting out with a mailing list and want to try it out.


5.     Don’t be afraid to outsource what needs outsourcing

One of many roles artist managers have to perform is looking over contracts for musicians, so if after doing your research you don’t feel comfortable doing that for yourself, there are people who will do that for you, including as part of membership of the Musicians Union or ISM, for example. You might also consider contacting a branding advisor if you need a hand with marketing. You could of course have contacts within your network you could ask for advice, too.


6.     Keep an eye on the bigger picture

Artist managers working with young artists are mindful of their longer-term career trajectory, so rather than just taking the next thing that comes along they aid artists in cultivating a career ‘brand’ that sustains them into the future. There is no reason why you can’t do this yourself, but it will require knowing what you want your brand or trajectory to be, and making career decisions that correspond with that. Sounds like a tall order, but by thinking about why you do what you do and focusing on that can really help – check out Tanya Bannister’s mini-masterclass on ‘Finding Your Why’ if you need a boost!


7.     Remember that having management isn’t the mark of a successful music career!

There are so many ways to be successful as a musician. For some, commercial management is the key, but this is by no means the only route. There are financial considerations, too, with many agencies commonly taking 20% of your gig fee as commission. This is by no means financial advice, but what if you took that 20% off each gig and saved it to invest in yourself instead, either in getting some great recordings, or hiring a web designer, for example? The bottom line is that being proactive will always yield better results than just waiting for the phone to ring, so happy self-management!

Young Classical Artists Trust 21st Century Musician Toolkit

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