What is a music manager and what do they do?
A manager helps you manage all of the business aspects of your career. Different managers have different strengths and weaknesses – some could be strong on touring, some on marketing and some lean into A&R direction. A manager steers the business in the direction of the vision of the artist.
At Sundowner, we work with our artists after they’ve made their music and we connect them to the other people in the industry to help them tour, promote and distribute their music. We are the people who manage all the other team members who are in the artist’s career.
What is a good next team player after a manager?
It depends. You have to put a whole team together, so a lawyer can be a good next person. When you start having a conversation with other people, you will need to navigate a contract, so a lawyer can help you know that what you’re setting up for the artist is legally sound. But in terms of growing the business, presenting and distributing, we tend to go for an agent before a label.
We work with artists who tour so we want to help build a live audience and momentum through a live audience and make sure there is an audience there before releasing music digitally because it’s very hard to get visibility or traction if you don’t have an audience.
How do you build an artist’s team as a manager?
The conversations we are having with booking agents are the same conversations that we’re perceiving as managers before we get involved with artists – which is the story of momentum. Where an artist has come from, what they’ve managed to achieve before you jump on as team member and the potential of where they have to go. How many fans do they have embedded, where’s the evidence that it’s already rolling because management and booking agents can’t move a steel boulder – it’s got to be moving already.
It’s never a guarantee, but it’s certainly easier if an artist has done alot of early days work to build an audience, build their Instagram followers, build their Spotify followers, release some things and have some evidence of traction.
And then management joins and we become further evidence of traction and momentum. Then managers go to the booking agent and tell the artist’s story of momentum, showing evidence and then the agent goes to their promoters and venues and say “here’s the story of the artist and their evidence”.
The professional business and commercial end of the music industry is extremely cagey about working with artists directly. Talent alone is not enough. They want evidence that there are experienced professional people around them to help bring talent to a commercial place that makes it worthy of the investment of everyone’s time and energy.
What are some of the daily activities of a manager?
Every manager would be doing different things, but on any given day I am planning tours, which involves having conversations with booking agents and tour managers, or booking flights and hotels; looking at ticketing reports and having conversations with artists around promotion, or liaising with PR people about enhancing ticket sales. Or looking at recording contracts or coordinating merchandise design and manufacturing.
If we’re working an album campaign, we might be facilitating rehearsal spaces for a band, strategies for recording, planning and booking producers, recording spaces, timelines for delivery, artwork, press photos, coordinating with labels.
It’s a mix of reacting day to day to opportunities that are coming up whilst holding a mid-long term strategic view of where the artist is at and where they want to be in 3,6, 12 months and lining up things that are going to be in service of where they want to be in that time frame.
Why be a music manager? What are the pros and cons?
I work in the industry that I love. I’m a deep music fan. I get to bring value to artists whose work enriches my life everyday. I get a lot out of it, and I give a lot to it. And it makes for a really good life.
Management is a gamble. And it’s really hard work. You get on in the artist’s career early in the hopes that it will turn profit making in the future. It’s a huge amount of work at the front end when you’re not making any money. People are hesitant to manage, because you need a lot of evidence that that gamble will pay off. Also there are not enough good managers and there is an ocean of incredibly talented artists in the world.
How do you get the music industry to pay attention to what you’re doing?
Success in the music industry is a weird dance where you shouldn’t be asking people directly to be involved with you, they have to think like they’ve come to you.
People want to feel like they’re discovering you and are just ahead of a tide of people who are interested in you. If there are two people interested in you it builds a sense of competition.
The industry will hear about you because there is a buzz about you. And the buzz is often where the audience is. Going up to someone and asking them to be involved with you rarely results in them working with you.
A manager isn’t going to make your career successful. They are going to help you to grow it in a really strategic way, but they are not ones who are going to get people to pay attention to you. They can’t move a steel boulder, so focus on your content and building your audience. That’s the best you can do.
If you’re self-managing your career and want some guidance and support, check out our Professional Development Mentoring Opportunity – Level Up Club here.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
5.17 – What is a manager and what do they do?
7:40 – What is a good next team player for an artist after a manager?
9.44 – How do you build an artist’s team as a manager?
13.26 – What are some of the daily activities of a manager?
18.35 – Why be a music manager? The pros and cons.
25:25 – How do you get the music industry to pay attention to what you’re doing?
48:00 – A practical path to establishing yourself in a new genre.
About Simone Ubaldi:
Simone Ubaldi was named the Australian Association of Artist Managers’ inaugural ‘Manager of the Year’ in 2022 and won the 2023 Lighthouse Award celebrating Australia’s female and non-binary managers. Simone has pursued, developed and managed The Sniffers’ partnerships with Rough Trade Records/Beggars Group, Universal Music Publishing, ATC Live Agency and Virgin Music Australia, amongst others, and oversaw The Sniffers’ extensive, strategic international touring and a successful international debut album release pre-Covid. She managed the production and release of The Sniffers’ ARIA #2 album ‘Comfort to Me’ (Top 25 Album Charts in the UK, Germany, Spain, Top 20 Billboard Physical Sales Chart USA).
Check out some of the Sundowner Artists here:
Amyl and the Sniffers
Girl and Girl
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