The Music Industry - Who Does What

Music industry FAQ

Go on, you can admit it, no one's looking - musicians sometimes are not the best at organizing the more "business" aspects of their careers like booking shows negotiating contracts and promotions. Sometimes, they need someone to step in and help take care of the humdrum side of things, so they can concentrate and crafting their next masterpiece. But managers, agents, promoters - just what exactly is everyone's job, and just how much of a piece are they supposed to be getting? And whose job is it to separate the M&Ms by color? Here's your how-to guide:


What your manager does depends in part on where you are in your career. If you're just getting started, your manager might wear many hats, including that of agent and promoter. For our purposes, let's leave those jobs out of it and look purely at traditional manager's roles.

Think of your manager as a kind of business manager and secretary who keeps the hours of surgeon - on call all the time. They should be the point of contact for anyone wanting to get in touch with you. If you are signing a new record deal, your manager should liaise with the label to negotiate your contract. If you have a record deal, they should be in touch with the label to make sure everyone is doing their job - keeping track of how sales are going, what press campaigns are coming up, and what kind of money the is label coughing up to help with a tour.

They should also be in touch with anyone else working for you - they should be talking to your agent to see what kind of tour they can get together for you, talking to promoters to make sure your shows are being properly advanced, and talking to press and radio pluggers to make sure you get some press coverage. They should deal with your accountant, your lawyer and oversee any contracts that come up. If you don't have an accountant, lawyer, agent, label, or anyone else - they should help you find them.

For this general "boss of the band" work, you should expect to pay your manager around 20% of any advance and income you receive which they were involved in negotiating, plus expenses. You can make negotiations with your manager regarding what constitutes income to which they are entitled, and what doesn't, and what you consider to be reasonable expenses. Remember, however, to do this beforehand. Your relationship with your manager is your single most important music relationship, outside of the relationship with your bandmates, so you want to make an effort to make it go smoothly.

Get a contract with your manager, even if your manager is your best friend. It doesn't have to be complicated, or even written by a lawyer - just one piece of paper, here's who is going to do what for what money - and sign it. Contracts save more relationships that they kill, and you and your manager are bound to butt heads at some point. Take the time to make sure everyone is being treated fairly, in writing, before the argument, for smooth sailing.


Agents take care of booking your shows. They're great people to have, and sometimes they can make or break your career even faster than a record label. You can find an agent in much the same way as you find a record label. Do some research into who is booking the shows for bands you like, and send those people demos. Invite them out to your show. If you have a label, they will likely do this on your behalf, but if not, you (or your manager) can approach them independently.

One benefit of having a good agent is not only being able to take advantage of their relationship with venues when booking shows, but if they work for bigger artists, they can get you on a tour with a bigger band, immediately bringing you to a bigger artist. Playing live is the A+, number 1 way to create a buzz and your agent is your best pal in this regard. Agents also have more sway with promoters when booking shows, so they can usually get you more money for playing than you could booking on your own - in some cases, that means any money at all.

Agents can work in two ways - first, you can have an agent who books tours for you all over the world, or, you can have different agents in different territories. If you agent works as part of a large agency, they might have different agents in different countries available to you under one umbrella. There's no right or wrong answer here - just judge each offer as it comes.

Agents would like to take around 15% of the fees for shows which they book. Remember, an agent who wants to work with you won't charge you up front to book shows - they earn their money when they succeed in booking your tour.


A promoter will work with your agent and manager, unless you are booking solo. The promoter is the person putting on your gig - they've booked the venue, they get the gear you need, they provide the rider, they promote the show to the local press, and they pay you for the show. Your agent, your manager, or you should be in touch with local promoters when you have a show booked to see what they need for the local press (promo cds, photos).

If you're playing mid-size and up venues, the promoter and your agent will exchange contracts confirming what the fee will be, and what will be provided for you in terms of backline, accommodation, and cheap beer. If you're playing small clubs, you likely won't get a contract - that's ok, but it doesn't hurt to keep communication by email in case there is any dispute down the line.

Promoters' pay varies greatly - sometimes, on a small level, you will do 50/50 splits of the money collected on the door, less any promotion expenses. Sometimes, the split will be 70/30 or 80/20, in your favor. Sometimes, you will have a set fee, regardless of who turns up. If you're not packing in the crowds yet, trade being cheeky about the money for building strong relationships with good promoters.

Other Music Industry People

Aside from these three, you will come across many other people working in different capacities in music, like tour managers, roadies, and sound techs, and they will all be important to your career, but they will be managed by one of the three mentioned above. As for separating the M&Ms, don't be such a cliché - do it yourself!

The Music Industry - Who Does What