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Inside Look: The Key to Becoming a Successful Band Manager

Agents and managers of artists, athletes, entertainers and other public figures can make $101,380 annually

Inside Look: The Key to Becoming a Successful Band Manager

Photo courtesy Can Ahtam

Artists are a tough bunch to manage, musicians perhaps the most demanding of all. Bandmates love to feud and the press is quick to pick it up.

John Lennon versus Paul McCartney. Mick Jagger versus Keith Richards. Paul Simon versus Art Garfunkel.

Anyone who has watched Rob Reiner’s 1984 classic rock satire, This Is Spinal Tap, fully understands the kind of work that goes into managing musicians. Better make sure that Stonehenge megalith stage prop is 18 feet not 18 inches.

The challenge only seems to grow when there are more than a few musicians to manage at once. Band manager Maxx Stofman knows this well. Stofman has been managing seven-piece funk rock group Ripe for about three years now, which is currently his primary artist and main endeavor. With so many heads involved and opinions circulating, keeping everyone on the same page can be a challenge. But Stofman maintains that often the challenge of numbers can also be one of the group’s biggest strengths.

“Managing a band is like running a company,” Stofman said. “Within every successful company there is a strong team behind it. With Ripe, I have a co-manager, Mike Blatt, whom I work closely with to ensure maximum productivity.”

Crucial Skills

Communication is key, Stofman stresses. Keeping the ideas flowing and allowing everyone in the group to be heard is essential. Organization, too. Along with a detailed calendar everyone shares, the group holds weekly full-band meetings to resolve any issues there may be.

With the music industry changing at a breakneck pace, communication between all parties and organizations is more important than ever. Finding the right opportunities and acting on them, even if that means pivoting from the original plan, is crucial. “Most of those doors close just as fast as they open and knowing that the best time to act is now is an essential skill to any manager,” he said.

Defining Success

But what defines success as a band manager? In Stofman’s opinion, it’s keeping everyone happy, which depends on the goals the team has set. “In general, success as a band manager is found within having a sense of direction for your artist to grow, while best serving their needs so that they can focus on what is most important — the music.”

A Band Manager’s Career Path

Stofman’s beginnings in band management go back to his first year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. As a freshman studying music production, managing a band was not a job he expected to take on.

But when Ripe formed within the first few months of college, his closest friends at the core, his role began to form along with the band’s successes.

“I found a great deal of parallels between management and the things that attracted me to production,” Stofman said. “I was teaching myself as we went and everyday is still a learning experience. I found myself getting into band management through a natural process harvested from my desire to work closely and intimately with artists.”

Stofman went on to add, “There's something special about the artist-manager relationship that is unique to the rest of the music industry. Someone once told me that it is the closest thing to an actual marriage in this business. I grew invested in production because I'm fascinated with deciphering why people love the things they are passionate about. I was always curious about what specifically was going on within the music that made people move.”

Expected Salary and Reward

And while of course the real payoff for band management comes by way of love for the music, some of the top artist managers take home a serious salary. Although it varies widely depending on experience and industry, the annual mean wage for agents and managers of artists, athletes, entertainers and other public figures is $101,380, as of 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since working as an artist manager is often an entrepreneurial venture and not associated with a particular corporation, wages earned can depend on a combination many things — managerial fees determined and the artists’ overall success, among other factors.

“When you're a manager, you're essentially an entrepreneur building your own company that you want the world to love in the same way as you do,” Stofman said. “As a manager, I get to practice this every day through developing the brand and seeking to create a ‘culture’ that can attract passionate and loyal fans amidst an incredibly saturated market. With that said, after working so closely with an artist/band since day one, there is no greater feeling of reward than seeing them grow through these stages and create a tangible place within this world.”

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