In the life and career of any entertainer, the personal manager is often the most important member of the artist’s machine. The lines between personal manager, business manager, and talent agent can be vague and blurry, but this person has the greatest impact on every professional decision made within the client’s career.
To better understand what a personal manager does, it is important to understand the structure of the mechanism that runs a celebrity’s career. Of course, the client is the talent in the operation and earns the income that supports the entourage. The talent agent is hired to book jobs for the artist; the business manager advises the client on financial matters and contract negotiations; the publicist hustles the press to keep the good news flowing to the public, while running damage control against the bad news. Finally, there is the personal manager, which is the least defined role. In many cases, he or she will take on tasks of all of the abovementioned roles by booking gigs with event promoters, making contacts with entertainment journalists, and playing hardball with a brand manager over endorsement deals.
The personal manager is an adviser that guides the client’s professional choices. When confronted with multiple offers for competing film projects, the personal manager points the client to the production that is most likely to benefit the actor’s career. If a singer is clamoring to work with a particular producer, the personal manager goes to the record label A&R rep and lobbies to make that collaboration happen. When working with a client that has yet to hit celebrity status, the personal manager may front money to the client for necessities like headshots, press kits, instruments, or touring capital. Under such circumstances, this person is investing in the longevity of the artist and will be highly involved in future deals signing with a record label or multi-picture agreement with a production studio.
Skills & Education
A specific college degree is not required for this career, though extensive experience and education in entertainment business is beneficial. Those representing clients within the music industry must be familiar with the process of record labels, recording and producing albums, music publishers, and performing rights organizations. Similarly, representing clients in film and television production or live entertainment requires specific knowledge of production processes and negotiating experience with studios, networks, and event producers. A legal background is not mandatory, but even undergraduate courses in communications law, copyright, and licensing will save you a great deal of grief; the entertainment business is fraught with legal snares.
What to Expect
There tend to be two types of personal managers in the entertainment industry: professionals and friends/relatives. An amateur performer that gets a big break after a chance cattle call audition usually hires a parent or close friend to manage his or her fledgling career, as the artist is certain that a friend or family member has his or her best interest at heart. For some, this wise choice benefits them well into their careers. However, there are countless tales of child stars that have turned on their once-trusted loved ones with court battles ensuing over embezzled funds and broken promises. Professional personal managers, like agents, scout for talent. These managers visit clubs and musician showcases to find talented artists or attend local plays and festivals for tomorrow’s silver screen star. Professionals tend to be less emotionally invested in the client but have a significant economic interest in seeing the client succeed. Just as with an agent, the personal manager usually receives a percentage of the artist’s earnings as compensation. Under some circumstances, the manager may negotiate a salary. All agreements require binding contracts. Personal managers are eligible to become members of the National Conference of Personal Managers.