Nowadays you can get instant access to almost any piece of information you require by simply typing a few words into a search engine. You will not be surprised that you can even download free music contracts (read more about here: why you should avoid free contracts). Everything from manager’s contracts to band agreements, to publishing licenses can be found online, filled in and given to artists to sign. Artists are happy to sign away their rights and let the label take control of the promoting, bookings and content pitching as this leaves them with all the time in the world to do what they really want to be doing, which is writing music and/or performing it.
The problem is, the industry is full of horror stories about contracts gone awry and this not only happens to bands that are just starting out. Some of the biggest names in the industry have fallen foul of a bad contract. You have to take this seriously, and you have to get some advice, real advice, not the sort you get from your mates or the drummer’s mum.
So let’s look at some things you need to pay attention to when looking to appoint a manager.
Your manager needs more than just enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a good thing, but experience is more important in the greater scheme of things. A good friend does not always make a good manager, but someone who is willing to spend their resources promoting your music and has real ready-to-run contacts waiting to let you play, is way more important to you in the long run than that guy you went to school with and who did a business course in college.
Track record is important in a manager as well. What have they done before? Who have they managed? Who are they managing now and how is that going? And don’t just take the manager’s word for it, talk to some of the clients he or she is managing already. Would they recommend this person as a manager for you? Remember, your relationship with your manager is as important as your relationship with your band mates and, I would dare to say, family members and life-partners!. You both need to understand each other’s little foibles and know if it’s all right to call at two in the morning when you are lost in that deep dark place you sometimes fall into.
So, that’s the manager. What about the contract?
If you are a new artist, the artist management contract is the most important contract you will ever sign. For the first time, you will allow another person to represent you and your music and negotiate any subsequent contracts so a bad decision taken while choosing your first manager will definitely affect your career prospectus.
When you are presented with the management contract, get some real legal advice – and not from the manager’s lawyer, you want impartial advice. The contract should agree the manager’s commission which should be between 15-25% of gross income, that is all the money you earn before tax. Commissions from tour and merchandise should be based on net income after you have paid all related expenses, which are often high.
There are some items, however, that should not be included in the managers commission and the contract needs to spelt this out. Things like the costs for making videos and recordings and any contributions towards touring costs should be deducted before the commission is calculated. In the early days, earnings from touring are going to be fairly hit and miss so you will not want to pay your manager a commission, for example, if the tour makes a loss.
A good lawyer will charge you money to advise you on this, but trust me, it will be money well spent. If you are looking for affordable fees, there are services like Avenant Law, which can be useful for saving on legal fees without compromising the quality of the work.
Also, make sure that the contract has what is known as an initial (or trial) period clause. This should be about six months and is there to allow you both to make sure the relationship is going to work. You are the boss, though, so include goals that your manager should be able to achieve in the time period, including an expected earnings figures. There also needs to be an incentive for the manager if the goals are achieved, after all, we all need some motivation every now and then, don’t we?
Finally, as we are in the twenty-first century, you need to make sure your management contract covers all the online aspects of your band. Your manager should be organising your Facebook page, posting tweets on your behalf, putting teasers out on Soundcloud and YouTube, managing your website… in fact they should be actively marketing your music online and on your behalf. Of course, they should also be as active at marketing you through traditional channels as well.