Artists are you Considering a Manager? Here’s What to Know About a Management Contract

A band manager hears a song on the internet or catches your act at a local club and approaches you promising recording contracts and headline performances in front of 15000 screaming fans… it’s a seductive offer and you consider giving a percentage of your earnings to this person. Is it an offer you can’t refuse or an offer you should run from?

I have reviewed countless management contracts and, interestingly, they all vary quite a bit. I am more than happy to review any management contract before you sign and I will give my fair unbiased opinion. In the meantime, here are a few important things to look for.

Obtain the manager’s resume and credentials

This may seem obvious, but many artists fail to ask enough questions about a potential manager’s background. Has he ever worked with a successful artist, or are you the guinea pig? Does he or she actually have effective contacts in the music industry? Is he or she familiar with your kind of music – this is essential because a highly successful hip-hop manager might be unable to do anything for a rock band if he has the wrong contacts and is unfamiliar with your genre. Is he or she making promises that can be kept?

Never, ever, ever, sign power of attorney

There is absolutely no reason to sign over power of attorney to a band manager. None. I recently read a contract offer for a very talented artist and the manager was requesting power of attorney over all contracts and bank accounts affiliated with the artist and her music. I can’t say it enough – there is no reason to agree to this. Do not allow a manager to take over your career and make binding decisions with which you may disagree.

Let’s Talk Money

This is probably the area which creates the most need for negotiation. What percentage is fair? Should he or she only take a percentage of work that they produce? Gross v. net? and so on…

Here are some considerations. The average percentage is 10-20% for a manager. At the higher end, the manager should have a great resume and be able to open very lucrative doors. Anything over 20%, is in my opinion excessive. It is also very helpful if you sign a contract in which the manager only receives a percentage profit on work that he or she creates. In other words, if the manager books a paying show, then he or she is entitled to profit. If you contact a venue directly or license your song to a video game entirely on your won without the effort of the manager, why should he or she profit?

Some managers will not take a percentage and instead will work for a fee. These agreements may be appropriate if you have every confidence that the manager can keep his promises. Otherwise, you may lose money on the deal.

In addition, always look to sign a contract where the manager takes a percentage of the net profits and not gross profits. The music industry can have a lot of overhead costs… equipment, road crews, merchandise manufacturing costs, recording time in the studio, etc. The manager should share in these costs by taking only a percentage of the net profits and not the gross profits.

So is it a Good Idea?

Absolutely, if it is the right manager with the right contract. There are hundreds of thousands of bands and artists who sound much like you across the Country and across the Globe. A good manager can open doors that would be otherwise impenetrable and might just be the key to success. That said, a manager should never be a hindrance or a step backward and that is why you have to do your homework.

If you are considering hiring a band manager, or have already been contacted by one, contact my office right away so that we can review the proposed agreement. A few hours with a lawyer by your side could save thousands of dollars in the future and might prevent a horrible contract.

Attorney Joseph Lamy has a great deal of experience in all aspects of the music industry. If you take your musical career seriously, then it is best to have an attorney by your side to review and understand all that contracts that make up the music industry. Call today for a free consultation.


2 responses to “Artists are you Considering a Manager? Here’s What to Know About a Management Contract”

  1. John says:

    Some good advice here, ESPECIALLY the power of attorney part. However, there are other reasons why a band or musician may need a manager, most commonly that creatively, the artist is a genius, but from a business perspective, they are a mess. It is worth giving a manager a percentage of all work whether the manager created it or not IF the manager is the one keeping your business running. There are so many aspects to a musician’s career, and if you are getting successful, you know that at some point you hit “the wall” where you just CAN’T physically do it all. In fact, if you can still do it all yourself, you don’t need a manager yet! The whole purpose of the artist manager is to be the person that you partner with to propell you forward, and that person should be ready, willing and able to step into ANY of the roles you need other than the music itself. The list of things I’ve done include choosing financial software, negotiating getting a website rebuilt for free, negotiating refunds of defective merch, purchasing and training on personal management software, teaching recordkeeping, running a merch table, personal gopher at gigs, and a whole slew of other things. A good artist manager IS the team when the artist is growing, and can MANAGE the full team when the artist hits it big.
    One more gotcha to watch out for is the LENGTH of the contract. Never sign a long-term contract with a manager you are starting to work with. It should be one year or even less for an inexperienced manager, or should allow for the artist to terminate the contract if things are not working out.

  2. Joseph Lamy says:

    Thank you for your comment. You have offered some very good advice here. Are you a talent manager yourself?