Anna Keizer
October 14, 2021

How to Start a Management Company

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Curious about how to start a management company? If you’re among those who want to find, develop, and possibly even collaborate with creatives, starting your own artist management company is a good first step. And while, initially, it may feel like a massive undertaking, executed in strides and steps, will simplify the seemingly daunting goal. 

And we’re here to help.

From picking out your business name to deciding on your artist management business model, we’re breaking down the high-level steps you should know before you get started. 

So, let’s get into it. 

Considerations before you start a management company

A couple quick things to note before we talk about how to start a company like this. 

Like any business, much of your time will be tied up early on, but representing artists as a business has its own set of unique struggles in the beginning. While this business won’t be about “perfecting the product,” it will be about perfecting...well...you.

1. Remember, the entertainment industry is a relationship industry

Have people skills! Be comfortable networking with anyone and everyone. Your job is to manage someone else’s entire career, so introducing them to the right people is everything, so it won’t hurt if they also like you. But most importantly, if you’re genuine and caring to your client, over time attracting more won’t be as difficult. The genuine relationships you build with others will be noticed. 

And the same is true the other way---using people will also be noticed. It will only hurt you, your client, and your company.

2. Signing artists for the very first time isn’t easy, but it is possible 

Be patient with everyone---yourself, your client, your co-workers. 

Building a business is hard, but creating good art, all of the time, well, that’s a lot harder. 

Honing craft, no matter what medium you’re working in, can take years.

You might be working with an artist that hasn’t piqued yet---but this can be a good thing. If you’re patient and are there for them, you’ll also be there when they do reach their potential. 

Or, maybe you’re managing a very successful musician who is in the early stages of creating their next album. You likely won’t see money for a while from them---how are you treating them? Patience will almost always move the needle. 

3. Have you worked as a manager before?

This one is a big deal. Before you start a management company, think about what experience you have. 

A lot of people decide they want to start their own management company after they’ve already worked for another management company. Maybe this is you. You’ve worked your way up to associate manager and have been working off that larger company’s roster for too long. You’ve made enough solid connections and feel it's time for you to spread your wings. Kudos to you. We’re excited for you.

If you do have this background, you’re likely already connected with agents, talent buyers, publicists, tour managers, radio promoters and the like. This is obviously a huge advantage because without any connections or knowledge of how to manage and who to talk to, it will be quite difficult to start your own company. 

So if you have little to no experience...our best advice if thinking about starting a management company?

Don’t quit your day job just yet!

Like any other business, wait until your clients have fully supplemented all of your income before getting rid of any other part-time or full-time work. We know it’s hard, but until you build an impressive roster or the percentage you’ve agreed on per each client, really makes financial sense for you, keep the day job just for a little bit. 

But whether you have little to none experience, don’t let that deter you.

4. Drive and devotion can go a long way

Devotion may sound aggressive but if you want to sign clients for the very first time and even keep clients for the long-haul, devotion to their art will help build trust with them and will also keep you motivated to work harder for them when the valleys get too low. 

You have a huge responsibility --your career is managing someone else's. If you clearly communicate your dedication and awareness to this level of responsibility each and every day, your clients will recommend you and they will have a hard time leaving. 

How to start a management company 

But the truth of it is - drive and devotion only goes so far. Having an entrepreneurial spirit and some business acumen will be vital. But there’s good news. You really don’t need to be an expert in everything to start a management company. You just need to know what you need, and go from there. 

So now, with all of this info in our toolkit, I think it’s time to get into how to start a management company.

1. Choose a management company name

Seems obvious, but when starting a management company, don’t underestimate the importance of your business’s name!

Especially given how many entertainment management companies are popping up, yours should stand out. The name you choose should reflect the personality and mission of your management company.

You could look to companies like True Artists - Talent Management Company, or Exclusive Artists Management --- they have some personality and exude a level of artistry and exclusivity, but more importantly, both clearly communicate what they do.

And while it should be a name that can get someone’s attention, it should not be so eccentric that it appears unprofessional or would make a client reluctant to sign with you because of it.

2. Know the specifics of who you want to manage and draw up a business plan

Let’s get down to brass tacks. 

When there are already so many entertainment management companies out there, why does the world need yours?

As you start your company, ask yourself what you intend to accomplish with this particular business—and how that mission will allow you to succeed among the tough competition. 

What's on the 'how to start a management company to-do list?' Having a viable business plan.

In creating your artist management business plan, you can suss out what your primary objectives are, as well as how you aim to reach them.

Some things to decide as you go through the process are: 

  • Do you primarily want to discover new talent?
  • Do you want to help mid-level creatives reach the next tier of their success?
  • Do you want to help grow an artist’s career as well as be part of that growth as a producer on their projects?
  • Do you want a business that caters to a specific type of talent? As in starting a music management company or literary management company specifically?

Knowing exactly what you hope to achieve will be key when drawing up your business plan. This foundation can help you determine how best to actualize those goals.

Let’s say discovering new talent is your primary goal. How exactly are you going to find it? And once found, how will you channel that raw talent into professional opportunities to benefit both you and your clients?

Again, all of this should be considered in your business plan—especially if you plan to get investors involved. Any investor will want to know exactly what you plan to do with their funds and how they’ll be used to grow the company.

3. Get your management company incorporated

In starting an artist management company, don’t forget to protect yourself. While an eagerness to work with creatives and help grow their careers is admirable, don’t do so at the risk of your own well being.

Starting any company often involves incorporating your business. And while this isn’t the most exciting part, it could end up saving you from unexpected issues. 

A few reasons to incorporate:

  • You’ll have precedents in place that can help to guide you in starting an artist management company.
  • You won’t be on the hook for personal liability if you incur company debts.
  • If one day you want to sell your management company, it’s often easier to do so as a corporation.

You’ll likely choose an LLC or S corp depending on what will serve you best. If just thinking about incorporating makes your head hurt, we get it. Starting an artist management company is a huge undertaking, which is why you should not attempt it on your own.

That leads us to our next point…

4. Hire support, especially for those areas you know little about

If your one true passion in life is to help creatives be seen and heard, you may not also be an expert in the financial and legal aspects of starting a company. And such financial and legal know-how is integral to running a successful management company. 

So, if you’re not an expert, it’s time to find the people who are. 

1. First up, find yourself an accountant

A qualified accountant is massively important. As mentioned earlier, they can not only help you with big picture decisions---like determining if you should become an llc or s corp.--- but they can also make sure your company is legally compliant with all tax, employment, and other financial-related needs.

2. Make sure you talk to an entertainment attorney

Whether you’re starting a music management company or any other type of artist management company, you’ll be dealing with a ton of contracts.

Even if you’re pretty familiar with entertainment contracts, with all the minutiae of different talent deals, they can confuse even the most veteran manager.

So if you’re starting an artist management company, we strongly recommend bringing on board—or at least having one on retainer—an entertainment attorney. Their expert eyes can ensure every contract you and your talent sign have your best interests in mind.

In particular, if you plan to produce your clients’ projects, you certainly want a legal expert who can go over all the different types of production contracts and other legal paperwork needed. 

3. Determine other support needed--don’t underestimate manager-level help 

Pending your professional goals when starting this company, you may want to consider hiring other managers.

I know it often may seem easier to operate from a revolving door of freelancers or interns, but when it comes to artist management, having even a small team will go a long way.

There are only so many hours in the day to devote to your clients. And a sure-fire way to create an environment for disgruntled creatives itching to sign elsewhere, is them feeling like you’re not devoting enough time to them and their careers.   

Onboarding other managers can help offset the load when trying to launch the careers of a dozen or more clients. This extra help ensures that those clients get the professional guidance they need and deserve.  

Obviously in the early stages you have to save money. But even if you’re just starting out, having a team of at least one to two others will save time and stress, enabling you to grow faster.  

4. Determine if you need a payroll provider

In the beginning, if it’s just you and another person, you might not need to worry about this just yet. But once you’re up and running with employees,  or if you’re active in producing your clients’ projects, you will eventually need a payroll provider.  As the company grows and it becomes harder to juggle it all, find a payroll provider that best fits your needs. 

5. Scout talent

When it comes to knowing how to start a management company, you have to have people to manage, right? So, where are you going to find them?

It all depends on whom you’re looking to represent. 

If you’re starting a music management company, that means hitting up local clubs and bars to hear up-and-coming bands and musicians. 

It probably also means scrolling through YouTube and other social sites where aspiring artists have a platform to showcase their talent. 

If you’re starting an artist management company, with film and TV talent in mind, YouTube will still be your friend. There you can view web series, short films, skits, and even indie features that highlight the talent of the actors, directors, and writers who created them. The plethora of film festivals out there also makes for a great resource in finding emerging talent.

Given that many other managers out there are using the same tactics to discover talent, an important part of how to start an artist management company is finding unconventional ways to come upon “the next big thing.”

6. Build a roster that you love and sign them!

And then you need to convince them to sign with you.

Your sincerity and your kindness will go a long way. Especially if you don’t have a full roster yet. 

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of heartbreak when it comes to starting this kind of company. Because even when you find that next great actor, director, writer, or musician, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to let you represent them.

Especially if other managers are knocking on their door.

Truly loving their music, their acting abilities, or whatever it is they do---will go a long way. If they know you genuinely believe in them, trust will inevitably build. 

Investing time looking for talent is part and parcel of how to start an artist management company---but so is knowing how to communicate with that talent. 

The best way to do that is to ask your prospective talent what they need and truly want out of the relationship. Are you both aligned?

Ask yourself:

  • What is it about my services that will stand out from competitors?
  • Are the goals of your prospective talent in line with your expectations for them?
  • What will day-to-day communication look like?
  • What will the financial compensation be for your services?

You can never be too specific when it comes to signing clients.

In essence, you’re entering into a relationship with them—one that might last months, years, or even decades. It should benefit both of you, so be candid about what that relationship will look like to make sure you both want to be part of it.

Signing clients and contracts

If you have a good attorney, they’ll likely draft an artist management contract for every client. 

From a deal memo to a long-term contract, ensure you have signed the correct paperwork before you add anyone onto your roster. You won't be offending anyone because the contract will serve to protect both of you. 

7. Leverage your network to truly help your clients

How to start a management company means embracing the role of a professional career guide for each of your clients.

And in a town where “it’s who you know,” that means having a network you can use to propel their careers ahead and likewise, your own professional success.

Starting this kind of company is often easier when you have a wide network---this network can help for finding talent, signing them, and naturally discovering more opportunities to grow their careers. 

That’s not to say you need to have half of Hollywood’s numbers in your iPhone, but it does mean networking beyond events and obvious opportunities.

You might have the next Marlon Brando as a client, but how exactly are you going to help them find the gigs and connections to show off that generational talent? 

You may be working with a lot of younger actors. But, maybe, you have the next Marlon Brando as a client, and bringing him around an older group of people might actually help get him to get more gigs, because they see the potential.  Widening your professional network based on the nuances of your talent will go a long way.  

8. Hustle, hustle, hustle

Nobody ever said that working in Hollywood is easy as an actor, director, musician… or manager.

But if you have a true devotion to helping talent find their way through this, often, crazy business, starting an artist management company is a great way to channel that passion into a career that can be hugely rewarding.

Remember, though… The hustle never ends. You’ll always be looking for new talent, as well as ways to bolster the careers of existing clients. If that sounds like a career for you,  there’s no better time than the present for starting an artist entertainment company! 

Wrapping Up

Starting a management company will likely entail some long and sleepless nights, but by taking it step by step, you can put yourself in a prime position for success.  If the time, dedication, and passion are there, it can be the best decision you’ll ever make.

If you’re on the fence about starting a management company, and fare more on the side of becoming an agent, take a read through our Essential Guide to Talent Agencies. Or, if you’re leaning more towards starting a production company, we got you covered. Building an empire isn’t easy, but it’s (probably) worth it.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we're all about providing the very best free resources to producers and their crews. However, this post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Answers do not create a company-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any action that may affect your decisions or rights.

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About the Author

Anna Keizer

Anna Keizer originally hails from the Chicagoland area. After receiving her B.A. in Film/Video from Columbia College Chicago, she moved to California and finished her M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University. She has also graduated from UCLA’s Writing for Television Professional Program and is currently in post-production on the short She Had It Coming, which she wrote and is executive producing.

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