Top tips for self-managing your band

Congratulations and welcome, you’ve been appointed as your band’s manager! It’s common practice for a lot of bands to self-manage until they are at a point whereby their income and level of responsibility become too much, and they have to nominate a manager. Different managers have different styles and strengths and you’ll come to realise over time what works best for your band.  Some bands have great business acumen, others don’t, but if you apply the below you’ll be closer to your desired level of career progression.

Prepare a marketable product for release

Sound good!

A top priority for any successful music release is having a high quality and marketable product. When creating your release, ensure that the standard of audio production and songwriting is at a professional level and if need be, research producers or mix and mastering engineers that can polish off your product to help it reach its potential. You may need to invest here, but it’s a long term investment and you want to start as you mean to go on. Some producers may do deals for independent artists so don’t be afraid to ask. Even just having a reputable mastering engineer to add the finishing touches can change the perception of how your music is regarded, as if they are willing to be a part of your team it shows that the music is good enough for them to contribute to. This can also be used as a  Unique Selling Point (USP) when targeting industry.

Look good!

In addition to the music, ensure that the visual elements such as graphic design, artwork, music videos and photoshoots are reflective of the branding and message that you wish to promote as an artist. Ensure that your branding and up to date information is unanimous across all of your social media, as people should be able to identify which band you are in by looking at the visuals.

Plan ahead and strategise for optimum results

How long do I need?

Around 3-6 months ahead of release, it’s time to start preemptively reaching out to collaborators to help you get the most out of your music. Keep a track of these people and their responses, as it is important to start building your network and familiarise people with your music. Don’t be afraid to follow up if they haven’t responded within a week.

Who should be on my team?

It’s important to build good relationships with companies who help build the infrastructure for your release. You may have a recommendation from a friend’s band about a good merch or CD/Vinyl manufacturing company that they use regularly. Maybe you heard about a great music videographer who can not only help with music videos but also making some more online content for a good price. You may want to hire a PR person to reach out to the media, or to engage the services of a booking agent to book you an album launch tour. This is the time to get your house in order and get the mundane tasks out of the way so that your release has the best chance of success from hereon.

How do I keep all of the information organised?

My preferred way of planning for a forthcoming campaign is to compile everything in a Google Drive folder and to share this with all of the team. This can be everything from a release schedule, to promo photos, Audio files, lyrics, video content and a document outlining every blog, magazine or promoter you’ve contacted so you can keep track of responses.

It is imperative that you identify who your existing and also projected audience is. This will enable you to effectively outsource work to appropriate companies or to take the time to prepare relevant content and contacts for you to proactively reach out to.

What if we have limited funds?

Delegation of tasks within the band camp is a good way to save money. By acknowledging individual members’ strengths and weaknesses and being resourceful,  can be especially helpful for bands with limited access to funding.

There are various grants available to help up and coming artists develop and the main one I recommend is the PRS Momentum Fund.

As a developing manager, you may be inclined to look at the MMF Accelerator Programme, which is targeted at managers who have a proven track record of success but could use some assistance in terms of funding, training and mentoring. The programme is for a year.

Implement your release strategy

Once you have your plan and if applicable, team in place, you can start creating and scheduling content for social media to maintain momentum throughout your campaign.

Plan a release schedule that keeps up momentum and base it around key announcements like a new single, album pre-orders, a tour announcement or an exciting activity that the band is undertaking. Have engaging content to back up the announcements and ensure your team is all on board with pushing each announcement to get as wide a reach as possible.

Focus on time management and organisation

Releasing an album and meeting the expectations you have for your release can be a very stressful process. It is important that you time manage effectively and organise yourself so that you don’t become overwhelmed from being a part of both the creative and business undertakings.

Ensure your webstore and digital distribution is set up ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it. Register your songs on PRS. If you’ve managed to obtain a distribution deal or a record deal, it is important that you either become savvy with the deal points or appoint a lawyer to ensure the deal is a good one.

Setting aside time to be proactive and focus on tasks such as ordering merch in a timely manner,  label pitches, agent pitches, festival pitches or looking for blogs to cover your release is a good use of your time. In the early stages of your career, it’s better to be proactive than reactive, as a lot of the time YOU need to generate opportunities, and not wait for them to come to you. This still stands for even more established bands.

Are there any resources you recommend?

My go-to for all things Music Industry is Ann Harrison’s book ‘Music: The Business’.

If you’re keen to become a beacon of music industry knowledge then this book has everything you need to know (in theory, anyway; it’s up to you to put the info into practice and build your experience).

If you’re serious about a career in management then I would advise joining the MMF (Music Managers Forum), who are a body of active music managers that hold meet-ups, networking events, and training and mentoring sessions for artist managers. These events give you the opportunity to constantly learn and evolve as a manager and stay up to date with developments within the industry.

Don’t lose sight of why you write music in the first place

Some musicians are able to successfully self-manage for a long time and others may need to step back in case of a conflict of interest happenstance. It is important to not fear asking for advice or help or to gain a clear overview of whether you are the best person to manage your act.

Meaningful relationships built along the way will only stand you in positive stead, and if and when it is time for someone else to take over the reigns, perhaps you already have someone in mind who you have worked closely with.

A fundamental part of being in a band is to not lose sight of why you write music in the first place. Sometimes the fun can be overshadowed when business interests override creativity, so be sure to take time to enjoy and be proud of your achievements.

Working towards a common goal and ensuring each band member is valued for their input (including yours) will help keep up the enthusiasm and motivation to achieve your goal.

Believe in your art and believe in yourself! Good luck.

By Lulu Davis

My name is Lulu Davis and I have been running Incendia Music for almost nine years. I spend my days running the business and actively working as an artist manager, publicist and a consultant. I started managing my first ever client at the age of 19 in my University Halls. I spent all-nighters making press packs on Photoshop, sending (mostly unanswered) emails to labels, promoters, festivals and hustling away to get mine and my clients’ names out there.
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