A Guide to Roles in the Music Industry
Building your team as an artist can be incredibly overwhelming – especially when roles in the music industry are so loosely defined and everyone does a bit of everything.
Still, there are some hard and fast rules about which team members do what. To get you started, I’ve compiled all that research into one, handy mini-field guide. Happy team building!
"I need the artist to know that there will never be a time where a manager, label, [or] agent will do the hustle and hard work, and they can just sit back and wait for the phone calls and checks to roll in. They need to be hustling more than anyone else on the team." – Louie Lavella (La Vella Nightlife and Music Marketing)
This is one of my favorite quotes about the music industry, because it’s spot on, and it’s a piece of the puzzle so many artists overlook. It’s your responsibility as the artist to make great music, but at some point you’re also going to be everything else on this list.
As daunting as that may seem, it’s going to come in really handy when your budget is too tight to bring on new team members, as well as when you do hire a team, because you’ll know what to look for and you’ll have a better understanding of what their jobs entail and what your role in all of that is.
Hiring a team will allow you the advantage of having experts to guide you and tackle the things you don’t know how to do or don’t want to do, but it doesn’t mean you stop working. Your team members are your partners, and how each of you works affects the other.
So if you turn into dead weight, you can’t expect your team to perform miracles. Remember this throughout the article, and whenever you start thinking, “If only I had XYZ, everything would be better.” Having team members is tremendous help, but only if you’re willing to work with them.
What they do: “Anything and everything that is necessary to develop and further our artists' career and success.” – Jake Turner (Loophole Management)
Managers are responsible for furthering the artist’s career, and there’s a lot that falls under that. This means that, at least in the beginning, many managers for emerging acts take on most of the roles listed in this article.
What they don't do: Just about the only things they don’t do are grow your social media numbers or handle the day-to-day operations that connect you with your audience.
The artist’s role: If you can’t provide them with the tools they need to book you shows and get you in front of the right people, they can’t do much. Like everyone else on this list, they can only work with what you give them.
So if you’re not updating social media, you haven’t had a new song in two years, and you're furious your manager isn’t booking you gigs every weekend and getting you on Stereogum, you might want to re-evaluate your role.
What they cost: Usually 15 to 20 percent commission on sales, though some will work on a monthly retainer of a few hundred dollars, particularly for emerging acts.
What they do: Publicists are your best friends when it comes to gaining you press and building a name for yourself. While it’s out of their control to guarantee you press (and if they do, run the other way because it’s probably sketchy), they’ll do everything from write and send press releases to personally pitch various media outlets in the hopes of securing you album reviews, guest blogs, features, news posts, and anything else that can highlight your band.
What they don’t do: Most publicists don’t do radio promo, licensing, or booking, and most of all, PR is not a sales tool. You should not go into PR expecting to boost sales or social media numbers – that’s marketing.
The artist’s role: A publicist relies on new content, so without a new album, video, single, etc., there’s not as much they can do to secure you coverage. PR campaigns around albums and EPs start eight weeks ahead of release, so don’t wait until after your album is out to get in touch.
Make sure you have all final materials (masters, promo photos, etc) and then get in touch at least 12 weeks before your release, preferably sooner.
What they cost: This will vary, but most PR companies will charge anywhere from $500 to $800 per month on the lower end and up to $1,000-plus per month on the higher end with a six- to eight-week minimum for single/video campaigns and a 12-week minimum for album/EP campaigns.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that hiring a pricier agency will result in more placements. While larger companies may have stronger connections at the high-tier outlets, if your band isn’t at the right stage of the game, no one is getting you into Pitchfork.
What they do: They, alongside your publicists, are the brand builders. Marketers take your event, your album, whatever it is you’re “selling” and create a long-term strategy for exposing that to the perfect audience and accomplishing a certain action, i.e., ticket sales, fan growth, album streams, etc.
What they don’t do: While they aim to get you gigs via their marketing techniques, they don't actually book gigs.
The artist’s role: Have a strong work ethic. Again, this isn't a case of hiring someone and then sitting back and watching the sales and gigs roll in. When your marketing team member outlines the work you'll need to put in to make your career a success (things like daily social media posts, engaging with fans, etc.) you have to be willing to work.
What they cost: Price varies a lot, but it can be anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a month and up depending on their services.
What they do: Pitch your songs to radio. Depending on the company you hire, they may only pitch college and non-commercial, or they may include commercial, community, and specialty stations around the world. The exact reach will vary.
If a station is responsive, they may also try and set up contests, promos, interviews, etc. It’s been my personal experience that one of the best times to hire a radio promoter is just ahead of or during a tour to start to build buzz in the cities you’ll be playing and see where your music is hitting hardest.
What they don’t do: They don’t reach out to digital press (such as blogs), print, or TV. They also don’t do licensing.
What they cost: An emerging act should expect to spend at least a few hundred per week and commit to six to eight weeks of campaigning on a typical college/non-commercial campaign. A budget of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 is a safe bet.
What they do: Just about everything falls to the label, including artist management for their roster, A&R, distribution, graphics and media, all the legal mumbo jumbo that you don’t want to deal with, and a whole lot of everything in between.
What they don’t do: Most labels don’t do things like booking, although they’ll generally work with you find someone to help with that.
The artist’s role: By now it should come as no surprise that what’s needed here is a hustle mentality, along with a high-quality product, engaging social media, and the desire to grow, as well as the motivation to make it happen.
What they cost: Unfortunately, this isn’t as cut and dry as it once was, but most indie labels will do 50/50, splitting costs and revenue.
What they do: TMs are your savior on the road. They’re in touch with venues and promoters to iron out all the details prior to a show, book travel and accommodations, plan the routing, and work with other team members (publicist, agent, manager) before the band even hits the road to make sure everyone has the info they need to do their part in making the tour a success.
What they don’t do: While they’re excellent at managing all aspects of the tour, they don’t do the actual booking. That falls to the band or a booking agent.
The artist's role: Clear expectations, strong communication, and trust. If you're working with other team members (management, publicist, etc.) it's important that your TM be in close touch with them to keep the tour running as smoothly as possible. Make sure your TM gets all that info up front and as it comes in, and you'll be free to focus on performing your best each night.
What they cost: TMs are paid a day rate plus a per diem while on tour.
"This includes off, or travel, days as well - not only because you're paying for my time (like with a band member), but also because there are rarely – if ever – days that are truly 'off' for a TM while on the road. While everyone else is sightseeing (or napping!), your TM is more than likely getting ready for the next show day and the rest of the tour." – Jen Ochej (tour manager)