As an upcoming artist trying to pave your way and setup your A-team, the difference between a manager, booking agent, and publicist can be pretty blurred. So, to start out, it is important to clarify the difference (especially since it’s illegal in some states for one person to take on more than one of those roles).

A manager is usually the first person an up and coming artist has or should have to help them out. For many young artists, a parent or both parents act as their manager(s). In essence, a manager is an artist’s consultant – they offer an artist advice and guidance about which steps they need to take to further develop their career. A manager established in the industry would also be able to provide their artist(s) with the necessary contact information to get a hold of record labels, etc. They negotiate on the artist’s behalf and often play the “bad guy” in different situations so that the artist doesn’t have to do it and can maintain their image when and if things go wrong. If you were to hire a manager, they typically charge 15-50% commission.

In comparison, a booking agent gets an artist gigs. A booking agent contacts promoters and venues to book your act. How valuable you are to the agent determines how hard they work to get you gigs. A booking agent will take about 10% of the money you get for a show. One thing regarding booking agents to be aware of, is what is written in your agreement with them. Some booking agents require that they have 100% rights to who gets to book you, meaning you cannot even book gigs for yourself. You want to try to avoid this – at least until you are certain that they will get you enough work.

Lastly, a publicist is the one who gets you exposure to the press as an artist. They send out a press release to television stations, radio stations, newspapers, etc. to try to get you interviewed or featured. A publicist can charge anywhere from $500-3,000 and up a month.

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If you are not up to being your own manager/booking agent/publicist, you may want to hire someone to fill one, two or all three of these roles. However, keep in mind that most managers, booking agents and publicists will not take you on unless you have a record deal, get radio airplay, or are an established artist. Doing all these things on your own can be pretty difficult, but if you find that you want to or have no other options, here are a few suggestions to increase your chances of success:

1. Perseverance – One of the most important qualities to have is perseverance. For every ten times you are told “no”, one person will say “yes” – you just have to have the drive to keep going and trying after you are told “no” so many times.

2. When you are told “no” – An important thing to learn now is that when someone tells you “no”, it isn’t anything personal. Music is a business; they have to look out for the company’s best interests and sometimes, that may not include you. Besides, they probably told twenty other people “no” that day before you. But, when someone does say “no”, take it as a chance to ask about other opportunities. In the case of a promoter, ask about future events that still have openings or contact information for another local promoter that still might have openings. Never let a conversation end at “no”. This applies to anyone that you will talk to – record labels, managers, promoters, booking agents, and publicists. When its appropriate, you may even ask why you were told no and if there is something you can improve upon in the future.

3. Always say “thank you, regardless of the response you get – People in the music business (like any other business) are very busy. You should be grateful you even got them on the phone or received an email response at all. Always say thank you. It will help build the foundation for a better relationship in the future.

4. Be over prepared – Have extra press kits pre-assembled so you can send them out the door last minute. Always carry CDs, promotional materials, and business cards with you wherever you go. It’s also a good idea to change the materials you use depending on the time of year. As you can see on, there are lots of benefits to seasonal promotional material no matter what industry you’re in. It’s always good to be prepared because you never know who you might run into.

5. Be cautious – Name dropping can be very dangerous. Down the road you will find that the music business is a very small world – everyone knows everyone else. You may say something slightly exaggerated, only to find out that the person you are talking to is best friends with the person you were just talking about. NEVER EVER SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT ANOTHER ARTIST. And I mean never. It is the fastest way to make enemies. You may bash someone the person you are talking to dislikes, but they will still wonder what you say about them when they are not there. It is not a good way to network and form relationships.

6. Be honest – Tell the truth when speaking to people, when writing bios, articles, press kit information. If you lie, you will be found out very quick.

For more information about booking your own gigs, and getting work as a musician, be sure to read Part II: Working as Your Own Booking Agent.


Commission – The percentage of money that your manager or booking agent will take off of the money that you make for a gig.

Promoter – Someone who books large events such as concerts and festivals.

Venues – Anywhere that offers or has the potential to offer live music; a coffee house, bar, restaurant, theater, winery, etc…

Press Release – A statement written to the press giving information on an artist or a CD release. (One Page)

Press Kit – a package of promotional material given to the press to inform them about an artist.

Name Dropping – using someone else’s name to make yourself look better.

Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.

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