How to Become a Hip-Hop Manager

By M. Skylar Ezell; Updated July 05, 2017
Portrait of a African-American businessman.
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Hip hop has experienced many transformations since its humble New York beginnings in the 1970s. As it grew from inner-city self-expression to mainstream popularity, the need for savvy hip hop managers became paramount to help lyricists, producers and other artists of the genre capitalize on its popularity. Some hip hop managers build their own management companies while others assimilate into existing organizations. While there is no one way to make it into the industry, an aspiring hip hop manager must embrace new trends and possess keen business savvy in order to be successful.

Learn the Music Business

Hip hop is a multi-billion dollar industry and managers of hip-hop artists must be extremely business savvy in order to protect the interests of their clients, as well as their own. One way to learn the ins and outs of the music industry is to seek professional education in the field. Georgia State University, Berklee College of Music and New York University are among the growing number of renowned institutions with accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees in music business. These programs offer courses on music distribution, contracts and regulations regarding music publishing. Read magazines and books on the industry, such as, "The Game of Hip Hop Management," by Walt F.J. Goodridge.

Internships

Interning with a hip hop music studio, radio station or production company can be an important step to becoming a successful hip hop manager. These opportunities provide an avenue for aspiring hip hop managers to work with current industry professionals, who will help mentor and develop the interns' strategic business acumen. An intern can help seasoned managers develop marketing plans for artists and promotional campaigns for new hip hop music releases. This can be anything from leveraging social media to generate a cult following, or being a member of the street team that delivers copies of an artist's mix tapes at key locations. Interning can also provide a wealth of industry contacts.

Build a Network

In a 2012 interview with IndieHipHop.net, manager David Leeks said, "A manager has to be charismatic, open to criticism, and have the network." Leeks is the manager for the rapper 2 Chainz and hip hop group Travis Porter. These popular hip hop artists have benefited from the strength of Leeks' network of colleagues, producers and industry professionals. Building a solid network takes time. They must attend hip hop showcases and underground shows. Producer and rap battles at local clubs are also a great way to meet other producers, writers and other industry professionals who may be able to help your artist in crafting a unique sound.

Artist Relationships

Many hip hop managers have a personal connection with their artists, having worked with them in the earlier days of their careers. These managers take the time to understand their clients on a personal and creative level, which establishes a higher level of trust and credibility between them. This foundation of trust can pay off if the artist and the manager become a truly united team as they navigate the complex world of the hip hop industry.

Generate Buzz

Securing a major record deal for their artist is a common goal of aspiring hip hop managers, but doing so often requires generating acclaim without the backing of a major label. Hip Hop artists such as Drake, whose work has earned him a coveted Grammy Award, gained his first major acclaim with the release of his mix tape, "So Far Gone." The mix tape became a social media sensation and helped him eventually find major-label success. A creative hip hop manager will leverage street buzz and social media to help build a strong following for the artists, much like Drake's management team did.

About the Author

M. Skylar Ezell has been writing about politics, entertainment, urban culture and career-related topics since 2007. His communications work for Fortune 500 companies in health care, technology and hospitality has resulted in international recognition, including the Association for Talent Development BEST Award and Achievers Global Award. He is a graduate of Georgia State University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and public relations.