Here’s a difficult truth: most performing artists aren’t ready to be managed, even if they think they are.
So, how can you know when you’re ready for management?
There are a few key signs we’re going to share. But before we do, here’s some background about why we here at iCadenza are so familiar with management.
Our sister company, Cadenza Artists is a talent agency and artist management company representing music, dance, and multidisciplinary projects.
Since Cadenza Artists opened its doors, we’ve had a steady influx of inquiries from hopeful musicians looking for representation — which is a wonderful thing. We are constantly on the lookout for new talent, and we give thoughtful evaluation to every artist who submits their materials to us.
However, only a very small fraction of cold inquiries ever get serious consideration for our roster because, as we mentioned earlier, many aren’t ready for management.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about the difference between an agent and manager. In the classical music and performing arts world, these roles are often one and the same (though not always). In the entertainment industry at large they tend to be separate.
The agent’s job is to book you gigs, plain and simple. A manager’s job is to provide larger career strategy and branding and direction.
Given the nature of our work at Cadenza Artists, and the industry trend in the performing arts, we will use these terms somewhat interchangeably in this article. But we want you to be aware of the distinction.
Signs That You Are Ready for Management
#1 You Have Something to Manage
Most managers choose to take on artists who either have an active performing schedule at reputable venues, or the potential to have an active performing schedule in the near term.
Agents look for artists who have clear, external signs of validation from venues and audiences, whether they be competition wins, performance history, guidance from important artists or teachers, or a substantial online following.
#2 Your Promotional Materials Are in Order
Before you can expect to be managed, it’s important to have a complete promotional package that makes it easy to explain your value to potential presenters.
That means you should take the time to create or refine your biography, headshots, video footage, website, social media, programs, repertoire, and technical riders. All materials should be of professional quality.
To start, collect your current promotional materials and assess them with a critical eye: do they accurately reflect who you are and what you do? Ask a few people whose opinions you trust to look at your promotional materials and share their feedback. Then, make adjustments as needed.The more complete your promotional package is, the easier it is for your agent to pitch you to venues. Click To Tweet
#3 You Know How You Want to Be Positioned as an Artist
Knowing how you want to be perceived is one of the most important drivers of your music career.
To begin to clarify this, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your musical background? How does it differ from other people’s?
- What are your experiences and interests? How do those set you apart?
- What do people remember most about your performances?
Next, think about how you can portray yourself accurately, both visually and in words. How can your website and other promotional materials reflect who you are as an artist and performer? What makes watching and hearing you perform a unique and noteworthy experience?
#4 You Take Ownership of Your Career
Before you’re ready for professional management, it’s important to create a track record for yourself as a performing artist.
That means you have to know how to demonstrate your value and successfully understand how to represent yourself.
You are responsible for your long-term career strategy, booking your own engagements and performances, and establishing meaningful relationships with your network.
If you’re uncomfortable with marketing yourself — which includes everything from attending events to writing emails to engaging with your audience on social media — we recommend you begin to learn more about the business side of art. Our book, Awakening Your Business Brain, is a good place to start. There are also plenty of blogs and online resources to help guide you through self-promotion.
Other Pieces of the Puzzle
“But wait a second,” you might be thinking, “you didn’t say anything about my talent! Besides, isn’t it a manager’s job to develop a talented performer into a marketable artist who performs a lot?”
These are certainly very important questions. Let’s break them down.
Doesn’t talent matter?
Of course, the substance and quality of what you do is critically important. From the standpoint of an agent, talent is a baseline consideration. The artistic quality must absolutely be there.
It is the responsibility of the artist, and their teachers and coaches, to make a realistic assessment of where an artist is and whether he or she can produce at a high level of quality and consistency that merits a professional career.
However, talent is a small piece of the puzzle. Just because an artist is supremely talented does not guarantee s/he will get signed to an agency, nor does it guarantee long-term success.
That’s because there is a big difference between the “talent factor” and the “people-love-your-work factor.”
The (perhaps sad) truth is that, the more points you have in the “people love your work” category, the fewer points you need in the talent category. Now, in many cases people will love what you do because of your talent. However, talent alone might not be what makes people A) find out about your work, B) drawn to you as a brand/persona, and C) become diehard fans and supporters.
Our point with this post is to draw your attention to all the things beyond your talent that you can and should do in order to reach the goal of getting an agent and/or manager (if that is your goal).
Isn’t this all a manager’s job?
Yes, and no.
As mentioned above, the agent’s job is to book shows for you — end of story. So in that sense “all this” is not an agent’s job. An agent will not be successful in booking you jobs unless people know about you or can be sold on what you do and want to hire you.
A manager’s job is to provide larger career strategy and branding and direction. So in a sense, yes it is a manager’s job.
However, managers will rarely take a gamble on investing this time and effort in an artist who hasn’t already created demonstrable traction. Why? It is very costly to run a talent agency/artist management company, and investing in an unproven artist is too risky if one hopes to build a sustainable business.
In our view, the empowered stance is to develop your own marketability, both for your own benefit and to help persuade an agent and/or manager down the line, if that is your goal.
Before Your Take the Leap
Before reaching out to an agency, we recommend you learn how to create opportunities for yourself and get comfortable taking the reigns of your own career.
Remember, even after you have management, you will always play an active role in creating opportunities for yourself.
Do you feel like you’re ready for management?
What questions do you have about preparing for management?
Which of the steps outlined above is most challenging for you?
Leave a comment below.