Earlier this week, PRS for Music welcomed an audience of artist, songwriter, composer and producer PRS members to our London hub for the latest instalment of PRS Connects, When Do I Need a Manager?.
Chaired by PRS Members' Council President Michelle Escoffery, our quartet of panellists — Nikita Chauhan (Director at TranslateNC), Kwame Kwaten (MD of Ferocious Talent), Gabby Endacott (manager of the artist MORGAN) and Chrystal Lecointe (founder of Mile 767 Management) — offered a host of tips and advice about music management, ranging from when music creators should consider getting a manager to ensuring that the manager-client relationship truly delivers.
Here’s a round-up of the best insights we gained from PRS Connects' When Do I Need a Manager? session.
Timing is everything
Ferocious Talent’s Kwame, a recording artist himself who has previously managed such artists as Laura Mvula and Steve Brown, assured the PRS Connects audience that securing management shouldn't be a primary concern for music creators who are only just starting out. As Kwame sees it, creators should only seek professional management once they’ve raised their profile high enough to be spotted.
He's also of the opinion that budding artists should feel free to have a go themselves at taking on the tasks managers might typically take responsibility for, whether that’s coordinating studio time, booking live performances or handling publicity requests. Creators who have this kind of self-management experience in the bank, Kwame added, typically appeal more to professional music managers later down the line.
'It’s the artist's job to raise themselves to a certain position and understand as many parts of the music management vehicle,' he said. 'We don't like acts that don't understand a manager's worth.'
A manager can help navigate the legal complexities of the music industry
Having worked with Rita Ora and Rudimental’s management team, Gabby, who now manages the London artist MORGAN, is well-versed when it comes to ensuring creators get the value they deserve from their choice of management. 'I've been in situations at labels where artists have signed [deals] without having management representation: sometimes, that's worked against them in the future,' she sagely cautioned.
Having a manager in your corner during important career milestones, such as signing a record or publishing deal, can be hugely beneficial from a financial standpoint. It's therefore crucial, Gabby told our audience, that creators hire a manager who is willing to be transparent during these important processes and open to learning if they don’t fully understand all the legal jargon involved.
As Mile 767’s Chrystal emphasised, creators can’t be worrying about the complicated legal parts of documents when they're already under enough pressure to be in the studio creating: 'The manager forms part of the holy trinity of manager, accountant and lawyer, and they have to get along. [Creators] want to be creative [elsewhere], so you need to trust them, arguably, with your life.'
Find someone you can trust
Chrystal hit on a point that all of our panellists emphatically agreed with: having a good relationship with your manager is of paramount importance. The process of hiring a manager, then, also becomes about finding a person who gets you, has your best interests at heart and is on board with your creative vision — they might even be able to add to or refine it in a way that makes sense to you.
'You’ve got to understand each other as humans and have mutual respect,' TranslateNC’s Nikita said. While choosing to work with a manager who understands the music business can be crucial, a manager must also understand a creator's brand and be able to be an extension of their client. This is particularly important in meetings where managers typically represent their clients’ best interests.
'We’re representing the client when they're not present, we know what they like and what they don't like and we relay this in the proper way, making sure they are being taken seriously,' Chrystal said about the role of the manager. 'If you don’t have a vibe [with your client], it just won’t work — it can come down to sensing if they are excited to go on a journey with you as an artist.'
Know what to look for in a manager
It’s not just about timing when it comes to acquiring management — it's knowing what to look for in a manager as well. 'Managers play a pretty endless role,' Gabby explained. 'We’re a CEO, we’re your business manager, your therapist, your creative manager, your brand manager — but as a main benefit, we allow you to create your art and not have to deal with the background [noise].'
While creators might be approached by managers with an impressive roster of artists who can promise the world, it's up to the former to figure out if said manager can deliver, Nikita says. Going for a drink or a coffee with a manager to find out how they work, what they’re like and if you can align is one way to determine this. 'We’re in an era now where titles don't mean anything: you've got to find people you can get it done with,' Nikita added.
It's also important for creators to find a manager who is willing to build them a team at the right moments in their career, assembling a support network that allows everyone to progress together — whether that’s by hiring a tour manager, an agent, a publicist or a manager for another territory.
A word of warning, though, comes from Nikita: don't go all guns blazing when you're meeting potential managers. 'Don't go in with, "I want you to manage me",' she advised. 'Just get the feel [of their vibe] and ask them to tell you about how they work.'
The magic of music management
Our panel all agreed that, when it comes to the perfect manager-client relationship, there is often a little bit of a gut feeling involved. While creators do have more to do these days when it comes to initially standing out from the pack, it can still come down to a matter of timing and a shared view that something great could happen by forming a managerial partnership.
'It can be spiritual, and sometimes it really is,' Kwame said about that gut feeling creators and managers can share. 'Sometimes I work with an artist because they make my hair stand up on the back of my neck!’