Last updated on May 18th, 2023
Artist managers are the true Swiss Army Knives of the music industry. A few weeks ago, we spoke to a couple of artist managers about their many varied responsibilities, the importance of a strong artist-manager relationship, and more.
Since then, we’ve had more artist managers reach out to us, ready to share their wisdom and experience with us all. One thing that we’ve found throughout this process that no two artist managers are the same. They all carry different responsibilities, which may even vary from client to client. Even so, there are a couple of universal details which can’t be ignored:
Management is a partnership between the manager and the artist, and relationships are everything.
Today, we have two more artist managers in our midst to share their perspectives, and they are:
- Alex Halloran, Founder of Help The Bear Records and an artist manager with AGD Entertainment.
- Nicolas Larsson Billett, CEO of Midas Music, Inc.
Get their insight below. After you do that, sign up for Muze and share what you’ve learned with your community!
First, tell us a bit about the day-to-day responsibilities of your artist manager role. What kinds of hats do you wear?
Alex Halloran: In 2020, I started my own artist management and development company called Help The Bear Records. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to sell a portion of the company to AGD Entertainment, a music company based out of Nashville, TN. My day-to-day responsibilities vary greatly, depending on who I am meeting with that day, and where certain artists are in their rollout campaigns.
We focus on building with structure. Whether an artist is working on an album, EP, or just releasing singles, we always have a structured plan for the next 6-8 months. We work in “phases,” which are Discovery, Setup, Activation, Release, and Cycle. We also break up our focus into five “pillars,” which are Operations, Branding, Marketing, Publicity, and Performance. We need to make sure we move through each phase, for each pillar in a cohesive manner.
For example, we need to finish discovery tasks in all five pillars before moving to set up. From there, we need to get all of the work done in set up for all five pillars before moving to activation. This work includes market research, building assets, creating content, and more. If artists have budgets for PR and marketing companies, I will handle the budget and make sure the money is being spent where we need it. There is a lot of strategizing involved, and making sure things get executed.
I can negotiate, do outreach, research, and anything else… but I can’t make content for anyone. So, a manager has to be on their artists to make sure they hold up their end of the bargain. My job is to guide artists, and give them business insight that they may never have thought of before. As a manager, you have to wear many hats. For some, you have to wear every hat.
Nicolas Larsson Billett: Since I started out in this business as a creative myself (songwriter and producer), my day-to-day varies immensely. One day, I could primarily be doing admin tasks, and the next, composing a new song for release. Additionally, because I found myself working with brand new artists early on in my management career, I was forced to learn new skills, like graphic design or video editing, to help my clients with their various and ever-changing needs. When the budgets are low – or in some cases, non-existent – you have to get creative, and it’s often an “all hands on deck” situation. Being a manager has truly made me a jack of all trades.
What types of artists do you work with, in terms of genre and career level?
Halloran: I got the idea for the name Help The Bear from this clip of a Mystikal freestyle. [Seen below]
I loved the energy in which he said, ‘HELP THE BEAR.’ I want my brand to be artists who are that passionate, share the same hunger and drive, and most importantly, have the energy that we’re making it out alive, in any situation.
I started Help The Bear Records with intentions of only focusing on hip hop. While my roster is mostly hip hop, I have decided that I do not want to keep myself in one box. With that being said, I have opened myself up to working not only with hip hop artists, but pop, EDM, and anything that really excites me.
In terms of career level, my artists monthly listeners range from 10,000 to 45,000. I’m hoping to see them grow soon, as well as take on some bigger clients in the near future. Proving results is the best way to level up.
Larsson Billett: I primarily work with pop artists in the LGBTQ+ arena. I basically “fell” into artist management when an extremely talented artist caught my eye who had no team. So, I have made it a bit of my mission to work with up-and-coming artists that just need a bit of help to amplify their brand. I am fortunate enough that my first artist management endeavor has turned into a tiny bit of a success story for me. So, for now, I am loving trying to help make my clients’ dreams come true.
How do you find your clients – or, do they find you? Is there a vetting process they must go through?
Halloran: I find my clients by spreading content, being involved in the scene and community, networking. Any way, really. You just have to make yourself available and visible, as do artists.
I don’t have a structured vetting process, but we need to have a few conversations – ideally in person, when possible. I am a big energy guy. I can feel when someone is ready and wants this. I connect with people and try to understand people. If we click, we can have some conversations.
Larsson Billett: I generally have not had to look very far to find clients. I consider all of my clients friends, and our relationship more like a partnership, due to me being so heavily involved in their process. This has allowed me and my clients to have wonderful relationships, but also limits the number of clients I am able to take on without spreading myself too thin. With that being said, I am always open to checking out exciting new talent as I scale my business.
What makes an artist “ready” for management?
Halloran: It’s pretty simple to me – an artist needs to have things going on that need to be managed. A manager doesn’t create for an artist. We can’t make the content. An artist needs to be at a point where there are events, shows, and fans.
Larsson Billett: This is a really tough question, and one that probably elicits a million and one different answers. I think a large proportion of managers would say that if an artist doesn’t have much going on and is not creating an income for themselves, then there is nothing to manage. However, I have always approached management from more of a producer’s perspective. If I find a talent that I believe to be undeniable, I am happy to put in the legwork to develop their brand. This could be in the form of a production deal, consultant, or solely management. I understand that this is not everyone’s approach, but it’s actually the part of management that I enjoy the most, and part of my business model.
How important is it for artists to build relationships within the industry, and how can a manager help facilitate those relationships?
Halloran: Relationship building is one of the most important things you can do in the music industry. Hands down, no question. There are millions of talented people in the world who want to be musicians, but you need to outwork everyone if you want to make it – and part of outworking people is being out on the front lines, shaking hands. If you leave a good impression on someone and stay connected, they will remember you.
Also, relationship building doesn’t mean you met someone and ask them for a favor. You really need to develop relationships before you can even make an ask. You have to find a way to provide value to others in order to put yourself in a position to make an ask. A good manager should always be hustling to build relationships. It’s honestly one of the most important parts of the job, in my mind. You have to put yourself out there.
For example, I am based out of New York, but I am spending the summer in LA. My team and I decided to host a networking event last night with a panel of guest speakers. It went amazingly. I was nervous; it was the first event I ever hosted, but it could not have gone better. After our event, we ended up heading out to another networking party. I met some really incredible people throughout the night. You must make yourself, your team, and your artists visible.
Larsson Billett: I am a firm believer that the artist has to make networking an integral part of their day-to-day. As I stated before, my relationship with my clients is very much a partnership, and we all need to be pushing the brand together. I have found that there are times when I need to place myself as the liaison between someone and my client, but there are also times when it suits the situation best for my client to have a direct line of communication. It’s really just about reading the room and doing what’s best for the brand.
With that in mind, what part of the relationship building responsibility falls to the artist?
Larsson Billett: I think it’s 50/50. We both need to be looking out for opportunities and relationships all the time. Being an artist is like having three full-time jobs. It’s a lot of work!
As management, we are there to help lighten the load, but there are times when it’s best for the artist to do the relationship building, without having myself or my team step in.
Halloran: There are a few ways (for artists to build relationships). One is to just make sure they’re not off-putting when introducing themselves to people. The next way is by giving me, the manager, something to talk about. Whether you are putting music out twice a month, or every few months, there needs to be something moving at all times. If it isn’t content, then you have to be hosting events, or creating a community.
Whatever it is, something always needs to be in motion. If I am connecting with someone, and they look into my artists and they see no engagement, no content (or bad content), and no events, it’s a bad look. Artists can help with relationships by busting their asses in one way or another. Industry people can tell when an artist is doing that, and it makes building relationships much easier.
We’ve talked about the “dos,” but what about the “don’ts?” What should artists not do if they’d like to secure and retain management?
Halloran: This is a fantastic question. Artists need to not stop working. They cannot expect that, just because they have a manager now, they can coast through and let the manager take care of everything. An artist who does that will never succeed. They cannot lose focus or get complacent.
Larsson Billett: I would say don’t expect anyone to work harder for you than you will. A lot of artists think that getting a manager will solve all their problems and make them a star. It just doesn’t work like that. I’m not Harry Potter; we are not magicians. If an artist isn’t working hard enough for their career, no one is going to just swoop in and make you famous.
I would also say don’t think that a manager is your personal bank. I’ve run into a lot of artists that don’t quite understand the hierarchy. We technically work for the artist, meaning that they pay us – not the other way around. Of course, there are those who will invest their own money into projects, but managers are not a label, and should not be expected to bank roll your career.
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