Be The Manager!!!

Kenny's Tip of the Day - Be The Manager!!!

If you’re like me, as a producer, you’re probably being asked all the time by bands or artists to produce you for free or on Spec. What does that mean? It means the artist has no money and wants you to invest in them with your production talent and time.

It’s an understandable arrangement but it’s also a tough one. I mean, is this artist talented enough for your investment? Most likely, they’re going to fail no matter how good or great they are. That’s just playing the odds. So why even consider it?

Well… there are many reasons. One of them (hopefully) might be because you’ve been so successful that you can afford to take on projects for free or on spec. One can dream. Right?

Another, might be that this artist may be so talented that you see them as helping your career. This is an important one. Can you name a great producer who didn’t get known for producing a great artist? Not likely. So if you want to be at the top of your profession, you’re going to need to work with great artists. Not just the ones who can pay your bills.

My favorite reason is because it’s fun and rewarding. I like to produce music I like and do it with talented and inspiring people. That’s why I started doing this in the first place. So if someone sends me something that I really want to produce, I will want to produce it. Even if the artist has little to no money.

The next step comes compensation. How are you going to get paid back? And this is the purpose of this article. Because as producers, we never think of ourselves as Managers.

In fact, those two skill sets rarely overlap. But I’m not talking about skill sets. I’m talking about acquiring something of value. An asset that you can trade in or to be paid back for your hard work.

Years ago, I would sign the artist to my production company. Then I could try to get the artist a record deal, and split the artist royalty with them. It could be a 50/50 deal (a bit greedy) but I usually settled on around 60/40 or 75/25. So all the “points” that the artist received from sales of their record, would be split and shared with my company.

But then the industry changed. Record sales became a small part of the income that artists could get. Do I really want a cut of $.000007 of a stream?

As the industry changed, professionals had to change with it. Record labels started doing 360º deals where they took a piece of the touring and merch in addition to the record sales (or streaming). Many people felt this was greedy but when one well dries up, you have to start drinking from some of the others. Records aren’t going to make themselves.

One thing they haven’t touched (hopefully) is publishing. And that’s a sticky situation because I don’t like to take publishing (songwriting) from an artist when I haven’t written the song. I’m a songwriter too and holding publishing rights is important to me.

So what do I ask for as my compensation? Management. Why? Because it’s simple. If I manage an artist, I get a percentage of everything. Usually 20% but any good artist can get that down to 15% or less.  

So it doesn’t matter what success this artist has. It could be a publishing deal, a record deal, a song licensed to be in a commercial, a video or a movie. It doesn’t matter. The manager gets everything.

But the other interesting part is that you don’t own anything either. I don’t own their songs, their masters or anything that I can have forever. In fact, it’s designed for the artist to take it away from me when their career is doing so well that they don’t want a producer being their manager. Because, to be honest, I’m not going out and doing manager tasks. That’s what your “real” manager does.

So what happens is that they eventually buy me out. If they make a record, and want me to produce it, I could just walk away from the management side and just be paid as their producer for their record. Or their new manager or even their record label can buy me out. I have a right to a piece of all of their touring and their merch but I would only care about any of that if it became substantial. I wouldn’t chase an artist down for t-shirt sales on shows with 30 people.

The goal here, is that if this artist takes off the way they promised they would, I should have the chance to be a part of it or paid fairly for my investment. And at this point in time, that is by being their Manager.

You can learn more by watching my videos at

I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia