Music Business

The roles of artist managers, publicists, and agents DEFINED

A great team can take any artist’s career to the next level, but collaboration only works if everyone understands one another’s roles.

A guest post by James Shotwell from Haulix.

Nobody is an island. You think you can make it alone, and you might go pretty far, but everyone that becomes a headliner does so with a team of supportive people at their side.

Artists are no different. A great song and an invigorating live show can put you on the map, but unless you understand every element of a successful music career, you’ll soon find you need help. Which brings us to a very important question: Who do you need, and what can they do to help you?

We speak with musicians weekly who are actively building a team without fully understanding the roles they are trying to fill. Some believe their publicist should develop a great marketing campaign, while others assume their manager can get them on SNL. The artists in both examples ask the wrong person for what they want, which can only lead to frustration and wasted money. 

With that in mind, we feel it is important to explain the roles of an artist’s team. That way, you know who you need and what they can do for your career. Check it out:


It is a publicist’s job to create and maintain a positive public image for their client. They have connections to local and national media outlets, and they create press releases, urging media coverage for their clients’ work. Most publicists work for a publicity company and handle a number of clients at the same time. Today’s publicists have to be knowledgeable of internet resources as well as standard print and television outlets so that they can best promote their clients to the public.

Job responsibilities of a Publicist include:

  • Preparing information and press kits for the media
  • Handling inquiries from media about their clients
  • Arranging interviews and other press meetings
  • Designing publicity plans for their clients


Managers handle business and career decisions in collaboration with their clients. They develop overall strategies for clients so that they can plan for a productive and lucrative career. At times, managers negotiate contracts for their clients. They also work to find alternative income sources, such as marketing or promotional tie-ins to the work their clients do.

Job responsibilities of a Manager include:

  • Developing a strong network of contacts within their clients’ industry
  • Scheduling appearances and signings for their clients
  • Building a career-long plan for a client’s career
  • Managing a client’s financial decisions


The main focus of an agent’s job is representing their clients in negotiations for work. They represent several clients at once and do their best to promote and secure work for them. Most talent agents are bonded and licensed by the state they work in and are limited in what they can do for a client. Agents commonly work for a talent agency.

Job responsibilities of an Agent include:

  • Staying updated on current trends within their clients’ industries
  • Being aware of union, state and industry rules that may affect their clients
  • Collaborating with talent agency executives to develop strategies advantageous to clients
  • Explaining negotiations to clients before and after decisions are made

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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