So, you’ve finally found someone to manage the business side of things for your musical career. A music manager can take on all the things that distract you from the creative end of things, such as booking gigs, negotiating deals, promoting the music and the band, and networking with key people.
A contract will ensure that this relationship does what it is supposed to do, avoid unnecessary confusion or conflict and protect you from being taken for a ride.
While each deal and relationship is different, here are some things to keep in mind before you sign on the dotted line.
Keep it simple: Especially for independent artists, the contract needn’t be too complicated. As long as it covers the duration of the contract, the financial aspects and division of duties, you are good to go.
Build reciprocity: The best relationships stay true to being mutually beneficial. A balance in what you’re both getting out of it is very important. Make sure that you’re getting what you want from the deal and the manager is being paid fairly for her efforts.
Base it on trust: Before you sign, make sure to clear all your doubts, ask around about the person’s professional antecedents and be sure. Constant anxiety is something no one wants from a business relationship.
Terms of Engagement
Duration: The very first thing that a contract must make clear is the length of the agreement. One year is a good trial period for both parties to try out each other and see if the expectations are met. If this period yields what both parties wanted from the relationship, a longer-term contract can be negotiated.
Equally important is setting the terms on how to dissolve the contract.
Never give the manager the option to extend the contract without your consent. That way you won’t have to be stuck with a manager you don’t want to work with.
The work: Where you are in your career determines what you want done. For a band that’s signed up with a label, a manager would focus on ensuring that the company is doing what it said it would to promote the music.
For a new band the responsibilities are different. A manager would need to get gigs that get the band the right kind of audience and exposure. A comprehensive plan to promote the artist/s and the music could also be part of the work for the manager. Be clear about what your expectations are and be as specific as possible. For example, if the merchandise for the band is to be created, who controls the creative aspects and who will deal with the production of the merch? It may seem obvious to you that the manager is to follow up on payments from organizers but if it’s not part of the contract, you may be stuck with doing this yourself.
What should you pay: The management fee is usually kept at 15%-20% of the earnings of the artist or band. Each deal may differ, however. Some contracts may count earnings as whatever is made from gigs, record sales, advance received from a record label and deals negotiated by the manager. Others may exclude merchandise sales, deals not negotiated by the manager and royalties.
As you structure the contract, keep in mind that your earning potential is directly linked to where you want to direct your manager’s efforts.
Dealing with expenses: You will need to account for the manager’s expenses but you need to be sure what you’re paying for. If the manager is travelling on business on your behalf, you will be expected to pay for the trip. Similarly, certain hospitality expenses, like taking a business contact out for drinks, will also need to be borne by you. Be very clear about what is a valid expense so you can avoid conflicts.
Receipts will need to be provided for each expense and the manager should get your approval if it is beyond a mutually agreed amount.
Make sure you are both aware of the schedule of such payments, which could be done on a monthly basis.
Seek advice: The above guide should not be taken as the last word on contracts. We would like to stress that this is not a substitute for good legal advice. You can decide to hire a lawyer depending on where you are in your career, how much you are earning from your music, the number, diversity and complexity of business relationships that you have. Just make sure you understand exactly what you’re signing up for and the implications of the contract.
Did we miss something? Do you have suggestions to make this process even better? Please share your creative and constructive feedback in the comments below.