A MUST READ Music Industry Q&A – What’s the difference between….

June 23, 2015



From time to time, artists email us questions about the music business.

We reply to them – and share our answers with our email list hoping it will help you also!

Got a question about the music business to ask us?

Email us and we’ll include it in the next round of emails!



Hey Jennifer –

I’ve got a question. I’m curious to know if managers or publicists will work for a monthly income. I know that for the most part, they take a percentage of sales, whether it’s from shows or merch, right? But is it at all normal practice for a musician or band to hire a manager, booking agent, or publicist for a flat monthly fee? Just curious if you can help me with that. Thanks!



Hey Paul-

Well, you’re asking me two entirely different questions here. A manager is nothing like a publicist. And a booking agent is nothing like a manager or publicist.

A manager works for an artist on commission and their job is to “advise and counsel” the artist. You know managers because you always read about them in the press. Justin Bieber’s manager is Scooter Braun, etc.

A manager does almost everything for an artist besides brushing their hair (although I’m surprised I haven’t had to do that) – ranging from shopping them for record and publishing deals to helping promote them in any way possible to their contacts in radio, film/tv, venues, etc. Some managers may even help book shows for you – but in the state of California and New York that is illegal so most reputable managers won’t do any booking in those states.

Managers work on a percentage of an artist’s income, which can often be pennies or Starbucks money in the beginning, hoping that act with get signed and strike it big.

Unfortunately, as you have probably noticed, over the past decade or so, major labels and publishers have consolidated and instead of artists getting 6 (or even 7 figure) advances, you hear of an act *maybe* getting a $50,000 advance…and that’s if they sign a 360 deal.

So, many artists have been telling me that managers now charge them a monthly retainer fee to work with them. This is illegal in some states, like California and no doubt New York, let even big high-profile managers do it because they are doing a lot of work for the artist and they have to get paid somehow.


Publicists are entirely different than managers. Some work in house at record labels. Some work at big (and small) PR firms. And still more work independently.

Most music publicists I know specialize in a genre – whether it’s country or indie rock or metal or singer/songwriters.

Publicists are hired on a monthy retainer, usually ranging from $3,000-5,000 a month for the high profile ones, down to smaller amounts for baby or developing acts. A three month minimum is industry standard.

A publicist’s job is to have relationships with and contact music journalists and bloggers and get them to review your album or promote your music or review your live show. Most of the time, it doesn’t make sense to hire a publicist unless you’re either 1) releasing an album/new EP/new music 2) are going out on tour 3) have something else newsworthy to announce – like you married a Kardashian.

Many artists get impressed by a publicist’s roster of name bands/singers but the truth is, anyone can do PR for Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. It’s finding a publicist that can get press for you when you’re unknown that’s the trick and most “name” or “established” publicists can’t do much for an unsigned singer or band. Also, do you really want to hire a publicist who is so busy with all their big, famous, touring bands that they don’t have time to adequately promote your new EP?

So, do your research and make sure you find the right manager or publicist to bring on board.

One final word about hiring a publicist:

Publicists also need 3-4 months lead time before you release an album or EP in order to secure any press. Music journalists often only want to hear an album BEFORE it’s released on iTunes and to the general public.

So, that means if your album is being released April 1, 2016, you need to hire a publicist NO LATER THAN by Jan 1, 2016.

Also, if you’re an indie artist, never release your album in the fourth quarter i.e. from Oct 1, 2015-Dec 31, 2015 as you’ll be competing with all major label acts and it will be difficult if not impossible to get press.


A booking agent is soley responsible for booking bands into venues. A big agent at William Morris or CAA, etc. would be booking huge superstars like Coldplay into venues like the Staples Center or Hollywood Bowl, while a smaller agent would be booking bands into mid-level venues or small clubs like the Troubadour or El Rey/Wiltern.

It’s very difficult, if not impossible to secure a booking agent unless you’re signed to a major label (or large indie label) as agents know a band’s chance of success on the road is greatly assisted by the tour support major labels give to signed artists. However, if you have done the leg work and build up a large following on your own, an agent won’t care about a record deal and will sign you….all you need to do is make enough money to pay them i.e. have hundreds and hundreds of fans in dozens of markets around the country.

Like managers, agents work solely on commission. Most agents charge 10%. As a result, it’s almost impossible to get an agent unless you’re making at LEAST $1,000 consistently per night as that’s only $100 for the agent.


Question Follow-Up:

So, what you’re saying is that even spending $3,000 – $5,000 monthly on a higher profile publicist will still possibly not be worth it if the artist is unknown?



Absolutely. I would say there is a 80-90% chance you will just throw that money down the toilet….if you’re an indie artist, you need a publicist who is good at getting coverage for indie artists…it’s easy to field requests all day for Taylor Swift….it’s not easy to get press for an unknown artist.



Is it normal practice to find a successful indie rock band who sells out venues across the country, and pay them to open up for them on tour? That way, the band can make fans that are already there for the headliner band?


I’ll give you the advice a headliner artist once told me when I asked her if my artist could open for her. She said, “FIND YOUR OWN AUDIENCE.”

Besides, buy-on slots like these are VERY expensive. Unless you’re signed to a label that can afford this, it’s just not going to happen. You need to build your OWN fan base…even if you tour with a band in your genre, 100% of the fans who bought tickets to that show are there to see THAT band, not you….you may garner a few fans from it…but I wouldn’t waste money doing that unless your rich uncle died and left you millions of dollars.

Bands do sometimes take out other bands on the road that they are friends with. The best advice I have for you is to be nice to the other bands you play with, make friends and hope they can swap gigs with you.


Note: If you need help placing your songs in film/tv, hire us! It’s a relationship business – and with 15+ years of film/tv relationships, we’re really your best bet for getting your music heard by the right people!

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent PR ~ True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity

“Anything worthwhile in life requires time, patience, and persistence.”
–Cheryl Richardson


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