When is it time to look for a manager?

When is it time to look for a Manager? What should you look for in a Manager? What does a Manager do?

To get the answers to these and more questions, we asked Mr. Bob Roper, Manager of Rik Emmett and Lawrence Gowan (Styx). He was kind enough to supply us with these clear answers.

Guitar Noise: When should an artist start looking for a Manager?

Bob Roper: I believe that an artist should look for a manager when the artist cannot take themselves any further in their career. There comes a point when an artist must place most of the focus on writing and performing.

GN:What preparations must an artist make? (demo, press kit, etc)

BR: An artist must always have a “killer” demo and press kit…and keep it as up to date and professional looking as possible. I’ll need a current 8×10 black & white photo, a biography, lyric sheets, list of upcoming and past gigs, reviews, and other other info that may seem relevant and/or important.

The demo should be on CD or high quality cassette…four of five songs maximum.

GN: What should an artist look for in a Manager?

BR: Someone who is connected (can get phone calls returned)…someone who is not too busy (represents only two or three artists)…and someone who firmly believes in your music.

GN: When artists come to you, what exactly are you looking for?

BR: Talent, image, desire, and a realistic understanding of the industry and their current position in that industry.

GN: There are serious Managers and there are people out to make a fast buck off artists. How can someone tell the difference between the two?

BR: The easiest way is to ask around others in the industry and try to get a realistic picture of that manager’s reputation and credibility. If they are good, you will find out quickly.

GN: For an artist who has never signed with a Manager before, what is the ball-park percentage of his/her earnings that the artist should agree to give a Manager?

BR: Management commissions range between 5% and 25% of gross income. All deals are different and are dependant on the specific needs of that artist.

GN: To what extent should the artist let the Manager run the show?

BR: The manager doesn’t run the show. Like any business, the manager is just that…a manager. It is the business of the artist that the manager manages. The manager works for and should take direction from the artist.

Unfortunately for far too many young artists, they think they work for the manager and can often be taken advantage of.

GN: Is it really necessary for an artist to have a Manager? How much of a difference does it make?

BR: How many hours are there in a day? How many hours must the artist devote to creative activity versus business activity? Some artists feel thay can handle both areas and some are successful at both. Most are not. The artists must decide how hands on they must be in taking care of their own business and career. With the right manager, it can make a huge difference.

Similarly, with the wrong manager, many businesses are doomed to failure.

GN: Record company execs often don’t listen to demos they receive. Or they will listen to a few seconds only. Is this also the way Managers, in general, work?

BR: Record companies get thousands of demos per year. If each demo has four songs, do the math…A&R departments simply cannot keep up with the quantity. Managers do not spend their days listening to tapes hoping to find new acts. I only listen when specifically asked to do so.

GN: Do you search for talent or do you rely mostly on people sending you what they have?

BR: I don’t recall ever having “searched” for an act. I usually get called…by the artist, by the agent, by the record company, by the lawyer, etc. etc. If I think I have the time to represent an act, I quietly put out the word that I am looking .

GN: Do artists come to you with a naive view of the industry or are they at a point where they start knowing the score?

BR: Quite bluntly, most artists haven’t got much insight or experience with the actual inner business workings of this industry. From copyright to publishing to contracts, their views are usually overly general and very naive. I often believe an artist should find a great lawyer before they find a manager.

GN: How difficult is it for you to get a record/booking company interested in one of your artists? Is it a long process?

BR: It is not difficult at all in getting an artist’s work listened to.

Trying to actually get them interested is another story. It can take anywhere from one listen to months of listening to get record company support. With agents, they can tell usually after seeing one or two shows.

GN: Is talent more (or less) important than a willingness to spend many years until, finally, the artist can make it?

BR: It takes both. Without talent there will rarely be success. Similarly, without hard work and considerable sweat, success will prove difficult.

GN: Do you have to keep close tabs on artists that you manage, especially those at the beginning of their careers?

BR: I’m not sure what you mean by “close tabs”. I speak with my artists almost every day either by phone, email, or in person. Communication is the key. Setting short and long term goals is also important. Most companies have weekly or bi-weekly board meetings to discuss progress and set priorities. The management of any artist’s business needs the same focus and attention.

GN: Is an artist’s overall experience more important than actual talent?

BR: Each case is different. I have known artists who have played for many years and really don’t have a lot of talent. I have also known artists who have a lot of talent but have yet to figure out what to do with it. I still believe in the old school of “tour…tour…tour”. Learning how to “entertain” is a lost art.

GN: An artist who signs with you effectively puts his/her career in your hands. Does this put a lot of pressure on you?

BR: I wouldn’t consider it “pressure” If the artist and I have a good, open, communicative relationship, we both will know and understand what needs to be done. This should work into a long term relationship not uncommon to a marriage. We both have to work at this in order to make it work. If one of us slacks off, neither of us will find success and that’s when the pressure may enter into the picture.

GN: When an artist signs with you, how fast can he/she expect (in general) to see results?

BR: This will depend on what the artist wants me to achieve. We together will set three month, six month, and yearly goals, At the end of each time period, we will discuss what we have and have not achieved. Once we both understand how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go, we’ll find out whether we’ve achieved the desired results.

GN: Is there a difference between managing a solo artist and managing a band?

BR: A lot. It is far easier dealing with one person than with three, or four, or five. I try only to work with solo artists.

GN: When an artist is ready to look for a Manager, which resources should he/she rely on to find one?

BR: Networking and reputation. Ask around. It’s not hard to find out who the players are.

GN: Is there anything you would wish to add to this?

BR: Manage yourself until you can’t get your phone calls and emails answered. Don’t sign any agreements unless you are absolutely understanding of what you are signing. It’s your career. In all my years I have yet to meet an artist who has had little success and is honest enough to admit that they write bad songs…their live show sucks…they have made bad decisions – they almost always blame their manager or their agent or their record company for their lack of success. It’s always someone else’s fault. It’s their career…manage it!


Bob Roper
The Bob Roper Company

(currently manages Gowan and Rik Emmett)