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Managing an unsigned artist can be a challenging yet immensely rewarding experience. As a manager, you have the opportunity to shape and guide the career of a talented musician, helping them achieve their dreams.

But managing an unsigned artist also comes with its own challenges. Without the backing of a record label, you (and your artist) will have to take on multiple roles and responsibilities to ensure their success.

However, don’t let that discourage you! As artists like Macklemore and Chance the Rapper have shown, there’s no limit to what an unsigned artist can achieve.

In this article, we'll discuss eight tips for how to manage an unsigned artist and help them navigate the music industry.

1. Establish clear goals and expectations

Before you begin managing an unsigned artist, it's crucial to establish clear goals and expectations for both yourself and the artist. This includes discussing their musical style, target audience, and long-term career goals.

It's also essential to have open and honest communication about the responsibilities and expectations of each party to help establish any necessary boundaries. As a manager, you may be responsible for booking gigs, promoting the artist, and handling finances, among other tasks. Conversely, make sure the artist understands their role in the partnership and is willing to put in the necessary work to achieve their goals.

2. Develop a strong online presence

A strong online presence is crucial for any artist, especially for those who are unsigned. As a manager, it's your responsibility to help the artist establish their personal brand and maintain a strong online presence.

This includes creating and managing social media accounts, consistently publishing new content, building a professional website, and promoting the artist's music on streaming platforms. It's also essential to regularly engage with fans and potential fans online to grow a loyal following.

To this aim, an artist management app like Artist Growth Workspace can help you keep track of and manage everything you and your artist are doing (more on that in a bit).

3. Network and build relationships

Networking is a crucial aspect of artist management. It's your responsibility to build relationships with industry professionals, such as publishers, record label executives, music producers, other artists and managers, and so on.

Attending industry events, conferences, and showcases is an excellent way to network and make connections. You can also use social media and online platforms to connect with industry professionals and promote your artist's music.

Networking isn’t just your responsibility, however, and while not every artist is the most outgoing, it’s important that you push them to also network as much as possible. 

4. Create a strategic marketing plan

Without the backing of a record label, it's essential to have a strategic marketing plan in place to promote your artist's music and grow their fan base. As a manager, you should work closely with the artist to develop a plan that aligns with their goals and budget, and is authentic to them.

This includes creating a press kit, reaching out to music bloggers and influencers, getting your artist’s songs on popular streaming playlists, planning releases, and utilizing social media and online advertising to promote their music. It's also crucial to regularly track and analyze the success of your marketing efforts to make necessary adjustments and improvements. Speaking of…

5. Collect and harness data

Beyond marketing data, you should be collecting all of the data you can for your artist. From weekly and monthly streams to album and merch sales to show attendance and social media engagement, if you can measure it, you should.

Not only will this data help you to make better decisions, like where to book shows or what merch to keep on-hand; in the event you do decide to pursue a record deal, labels are also going to want to see the data when evaluating your artist.

6. Keep a close eye on finances

Managing an unsigned artist also means managing their finances. As a manager, it's your responsibility to keep track of income and expenses, negotiate contracts, and ensure the artist is being paid fairly for their work.

It's essential to stay organized and keep detailed records of all financial transactions. This will not only help you manage the artist's finances effectively but also protect them from potential legal issues. And as mentioned previously, if getting signed is the goal, labels will most likely want to see aspects of your artist’s finances.

7. Lean on tools to stay organized and do more

Clearly, strong organizational skills are one of the most important traits of a successful artist manager. Fortunately, there are tools to make keeping track of it all easier — from basic spreadsheets and web-based calendars to dedicated artist management software.

Optimally, you want to choose a tool that enables you to track and manage everything from shows, promotional appearances, and social media posting to finances and historical data, while allowing you to share access with your artist and anyone else who is working with you to make their dreams a reality — like Workspace

You should also make sure that whatever tool you go with scales with your needs, should you wish to bring in additional team members or add artists to your roster.

Not sure what to look for in an artist management tool? Read our post, 10 Questions You Should Ask When Choosing Artist Management Software.

8. Be a support system

Artist management is about more than just managing the business side of art. In your role, it's crucial to be a support system for your artist and help them navigate the ups and downs of the music industry.

This means being a good listener, providing emotional support, and offering guidance and advice when needed. 

Laying the foundation for music success

Managing an unsigned artist requires a combination of hard work, dedication, and a strategic approach. 

By establishing clear goals and expectations, developing a strong online presence, networking and building relationships, creating a strategic marketing plan, staying organized, and providing emotional support, you can help your artist achieve success.

Try Artist Growth Workspace free for 14 days to see how an artist management app can help you keep organized and do more with the resources you have.