A business manager handles the financial affairs of entertainers, athletes, and other high-profile public figures. This person may work for a large management firm with several clients, or as a dedicated partner to one group or individual. In the absence of a large business team surrounding the client this person may wear many hats, serving as publicist, booking agent, and personal manager.
It is important to note that is New York and California, hubs of the entertainment industry, a talent or booking agent must be licensed by the state. By this distinction a manager is not the same as an agent. However, in states that require no such professional license, the manager may perform the functions of an agent: booking concerts, appearances, auditions, and other paid work like endorsement deals. In all cases, the manager will negotiate with third parties (promoters, booking agents, record labels) on behalf of the artist. This person is paid a commission for his or her services—industry standard is 10 to 20 percent of the client’s entertainment income.
The business manager is primarily concerned with financial matters, including negotiating the client’s fees or salary and following up with third parties to ensure payments are made to the artist on time and as agreed. This person also performs many of the tasks of an accountant, monitoring accounts payable and receivable. The manager is (usually) not a licensed accountant, but with the permission of the artist will pay bills on their behalf. An artist may also employ a separate personal manager who is more involved with promoting the artist and designing a marketing plan. This includes handling PR issues and networking with radio stations, press outlets, and entertainment news producers. Typically managers are involved in the development of an artist’s image, hiring stylists and photographers for PR appearances, consulting on the design of the live show for a musical act, and selecting a tour manager. In the case of actors, directors, and other film/TV personalities, this person will advise on which projects to accept and actively court studios and casting directors.
As the notoriety and earning power of a client expands, the business manager will help build the artist’s team by bringing on board an entertainment attorney and publicist. Until that time, the manager deals with all administrative tasks, damage control, and money matters.
Skills & Education
A manager with aspirations of making it big in the entertainment industry must be dedicated, passionate, and have an insatiable ambition to succeed for his or her client. You must be tenacious, resourceful, and a creative networker. Since most managers begin as freelancers for rookie artists, a specific degree is not required, but an education in entertainment business, marketing, public relations, or equivalent experience is recommended, whether it’s from a university or just the school of experience. However, traditional coursework in finance, entertainment law, and accounting is invaluable in this career.
What to Expect
A good manager should be both business adviser and friend. In selecting a client, it is of the utmost importance to partner with someone you plan to stick with for the life of his or her career. You should provide objectivity and guidance, protect your client’s interests at all times, and ferociously defend them. If you can create a trusting relationship with an artist you truly believe in, you will have a long and lucrative career. That being said, it is important that you think of the manager-artist relationship as a marriage; there will be good times and bad. Always outline clear terms of payment and responsibility in a contract at the start of the endeavor to avoid a bitter divorce, and never work without a prenup. At the start of your career, do not expect to immediately hop on board with a large firm. Instead, most managers who are new to the industry get their start by representing a close friend or upstart local musician or actor. Along the way you will gain experience and a greater understanding of the inner workings of the business. If you are persistent, that first client may be your ticket to the big leagues. There is no substitute for hard work, aggressively pounding the pavement, and 24/7 networking. Opportunities in show business almost never land on your doorstep; you’ve got to make your own luck.
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