I once asked a singer the difference between an artist manager and a booking agent. She replied that agents generally book gigs for the performer and managers take a deeper interest in the artist’s career. Her definition was generally correct. Managers provide a lot of value to artists. Managers promote bands at festivals, secure product endorsements, and cultivate a profitable image in the eye of the public. Agents don’t do that.
Artist managers provide more value than booking agents. As such, they generally demand more money. Management fees range from as little as 15% of gross to 50% of all revenue. Great managers demand more money than unproven managers. It may be better for a band to sacrifice more money for a proven professional than risk the band on a newcomer to the business. Half of your revenue sounds like a lot, but don’t forget that Elvis Presley had a 50% deal with his manager. Things worked out pretty well for them.
Bands can negotiate with managers. If the artist manager wants too much money up front, then structure the deal for the manager’s percentage to increase over time. As the manager provides more value the fees should increase. An agreement may provide that the manager gets 5% of revenue under $5,000, then 10% of revenue between 5,001 and $10,000, and then larger percentages from there on. This type of arrangement gives the manager an incentive to work hard and protects the band’s profits.
The problem with managers is that their efforts require large investments of time and energy. Great managers focus on fewer bands. If you want a manager to provide solid service to your band then you need to compensate the manager. Managers have bills and need to make a living as well.
So what kinds of services do managers provide? Managers set up gigs for the artist, negotiate terms of agreements, and oversee the use of the artist’s likeness. In addition, managers promote bands and spread news of the artist’s act. In short, managers are a cross between a booking agent and a lawyer. The only real difference is the degree of investment in the artist’s career.