Photo of a busy musician

This post was written by guest contributor Shaun Letang of IMA Music Business Academy. 

It’s No Longer Possible To Simply Be A Musician

Make a demo; send it to record labels; if you’re talented enough– get signed. Do you think this sounds like a good music business plan?

To younger folks just entering the music industry, that may seem like the biggest load of rubbish you’ve ever heard. Previously, however, this was the only business plan most musicians had.

Before the whole peer-to-peer sharing thing, musicians didn’t have to worry much about the business side of things. They only had one job: to be the best musician they could possibly be. They would spend all their time creating tunes, writing lyrics, and practicing live performances. They would record demos and send them to multiple record labels hoping they would get signed and be the next big thing. In terms of promoting themselves, that’s as far as it would go.

As I’m sure you’re aware, these days are long gone!

Being More Than A Musician

It’s no longer possible to simply be a musician. You now have to be a proven artist before a record label will even consider signing your act.

So what is the solution for the modern day musician? Simple: learn how to handle the music business yourself. Did I say simple? Please, ignore that part…

While it may not be ideal for everyone, if you want to get your music career moving as fast as possible, you will need to do more than just make music. Among other things, you will need to learn how to create products that people want to buy, how to promote your music to the right audience, how to get your own live gigs, how to make money from these gigs, how to get radio play, and how to collect royalties from any gigs and radio plays. This may sound like a lot of work to you, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Learning all these things will mean you don’t have to rely on other people as much to get your music career moving.

Getting Help With The Business Side Of The Music Industry

Although record labels are unlikely to help you during the early stages of your career, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enlist the help of others. If you want some extra input or assistance, there are two paths you can take:

  1. Seek out a manager, or
  2. Take a music business course (or hire a consultant).

If you’ve got your act together creatively and professionally, I’d recommend getting a manager on board. The exact role of the manager will depend on your agreement with them and how much you want them to get involved in your music career. You may only want them to help get you shows and decide which promotional opportunities you should take part. Or you can have them read over contracts, run errands for you during tour, or anything else that will help your music career.

Whatever role your manager takes on, it’s best to agree to the terms prior to them working for you. Not making things crystal clear can cause a conflicts of interest, bad feelings, and lead to legal problems down the line.

If you’re still finding your feet in terms of your music, it may be better to enroll in a music business course or hire a consultant. These instructional opportunities will teach you the business side of things and allow you to take your career in your own hands while still honing your talents. By the time you’re ready to really push your music, you will have the knowledge to do so.

5 Tips On Finding A Music Manager

If you decide to go down the manager route, the next step is actually FINDING this person. Don’t just hire the first person who says they’re a manager, though. You need to make sure that person is right for you. Here are some things you need to think about when searching for a manager:

  1. Make Sure They Are Enthusiastic About Your Music

    When hiring a manager, you want them to really believe in what you do. There’s nothing worse that having a manager that’s just doing it for the money, it’ll only make you feel like they don’t really want to be there. And what will happen if they start working with another act they DO really like? All their focus and attention will go to them, that’s what. Don’t hire anyone that’s not also a fan of your music, it won’t work out well.

  2. You Can Find Managers On Online Forums

    One way you can go about finding a manager is by advertising yourself on music forums or in relevant magazines. Forums are often filled with music fanatics and people who already work within the industry. If you have the talent and can give people a reason to want to work with you, you are sure to get some interest.

  3. Consider Asking A Friend

    If you don’t want to work with someone completely new, why not get one of your friends to become your manager? You may have a friend that’s just as excited by your music and the music industry as you, but has no musical talent of their own. This may be how they break into the music industry.

    While they may need to learn the business side of things themselves (And maybe even take a few courses on their own to speed up this process), it can work out well in the long run.

  4. Make Sure You Keep Things Official

    If you decide to hire a friend as your manager, you need to remember that this is now a business arrangement. There should be no more verbal contracts; you need to get every business-related decision down in writing. Keep paperwork, have deadlines, and set goals. If they aren’t pulling their weight and are taking advantage of your friendship, find a new manager.

  5. Measure The Success Of Your Manager

    The role of the manager at this stage should be to help move your music forward faster than you could by yourself. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much impact they are making on your career. Are they getting you more shows? Are they helping out with promotion? Are they chipping in?

    You really do want a go-getter as a manager. You shouldn’t always have to tell them what you want doing. They should go out there and help push you forward without being told to do so. After all, the more money you make, the more money they make.

    If you don’t see any real results or benefits after a few months of hiring them, you may want to consider getting a new manager. Also, set the the terms for a “trial period,” after which either party can back out with no hard feelings.


If it was your plan just to make good music and let the promotion take care of itself, it’s time to rethink things. To make it in the current music industry, you need to be more than a good singer or a pretty face. You need to have business know-how, and you need to take action. Getting a manager or taking a music business course will make things a lot easier for you, but essentially you will still have a lot of work to do. But guess what? That work can be fun! This is the industry you want to be in, so you should be willing to do whatever it takes. If you want to make it as a musician, you’ll need to accept that, at least for now, you have to do more than just perform your music.

This article was written by Shaun Letang of the IMA Music Business Academy, a music business course for serious musicians. Shaun also runs Independent Music Advice, a music business website aimed at helping independent musicians.