Manager Vs Agent - What's The Difference?

agent manager music business music career tips Dec 13, 2020

When I first started my career, and for many years after, I thought that a manager and an agent were the same things. While they sometimes can be, there is a difference in the role between the 2 of them. It depends on what your career goals are as to whether you need a manager or an agent. It also depends on what or how much your manager takes on in their role. 

I have an agent, I don't have a manager, although I do have a mentor, which is something entirely different again. I don't want a manager for my career because I like to dip my toe into too many other sections of the music industry so the focus of a manager would be wasted on me. 

So what is the difference between a manager and an agent?

Manager: Primarily a manager is employed to do precisely that, manage your career, they often work with a team of people to ensure that you are fulfilling your commitments, that you are being offered every opportunity possible and that you are being paid for your time and work accordingly. A manager will liaise with publicists, agents and media. They will take enquiries, organise performance opportunities, recording deals, and they are basically in charge of ensuring that your career is growing. 

Now many people offer to be someone's manager based on the fact that perhaps they love what you do, or they care about you. They might be family or someone that is in the industry, but make no mistake, a decent manager needs to have the experience, they need to have many contacts within the industry, and they need to be focused on growing your career. A manager usually works on 20% commission, so it is definitely in the best interests of your manager to work hard for you. However, this is where the question of "do I need a manager" comes into play. The thing is, if you aren't a very well known artist and you don't make a lot of money, then it will be tough to convince an excellent manager to spend the time building up your career when they will be paid peanuts. But on the other hand, you don't want to have a manager for the sake of having a manager either because if you get the wrong person, they can damage your career. 

Agent: Now an agent is not a manager, an agent is someone that looks after your bookings, which sometimes a manager will do, but generally they will liaise with an agent to get you the work. I have a fantastic agent who has me working three gigs every week unless I choose not to. An agent usually takes about 10-15% of each show or gig that they book for you. An agent, or, booking agent, will liaise with venues and they will book your gigs, now if you are doing a tour and you have a manager, then your manager would work with the agent to secure the run of shows in your tour, however without the manager, you would work with the agent to book your tours. If you want to play gigs, tour or get out in front of an audience and play to be paid, then you need to have the right agent. 

So a manager manages your career and works with a team of people to provide you with opportunities to help build your overall profile as an artist, while an agent will book work for you. 

Think hard before you get a manager, if you get a good one, then they can be priceless if you get a bad one, then it can end your career. 



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