MUSIC CONTRACT MASTERCLASSES
CONTRACT MASTER CLASS 1
MUSIC MANAGERS AND MANAGEMENT CONTRACTS – THE ARTIST PERSPECTIVE – PART ONE
In this ‘master class’ we will look at some general issues concerning managers, from the musician’s perspective, and some of the basic provisions which you would expect to see in a management contract. The next ‘master class’ will concentrate on the financial aspects of management contracts.
THE MANAGER’S ROLE
There are many management styles adopted by managers in furthering their artists’ careers. Some managers will take total control, and run their artists’ business, setting out a strategy and using their tactical skills to achieve their goals. Others may take their lead from the artists’ wishes and expectations, and play more of an assistant’s role in getting where they want to be. Some managers may be happy to look after your smallest personal requirements, and other will stick entirely to the high level strategic role.
Whatever type you pick, the common ground is a that managers have a duty to act in your best interests, to be reasonably available to you, and to keep you reasonably informed of what they are doing for you.
A good manager will be at the centre of a team of people hand picked to assist you as your career develops. He or she should have a lot of industry contracts from whom to select the most suitable. Basic team members would be booking agent, lawyer, accountant (or just bookkeeper to start with) and tour manager (or van driver). If you are going to release some recordings independently, to raise profile, you would also need a press person, or ‘publicist’ to introduce your material to the right sort of publications and websites, and a ‘plugger’ or promotions person to get you some radio play.
Some managers are happy to work without contracts for their artists. Other are unwilling to do any significant work without a signed contract in place. The manager/artist relationship has to be based on trust from both sides and the reality is that, if a relationship has broken down, it is virtually impossible to continue. However, if a contract has been signed, it will usually be binding and it may not be easy to walk away without incurring, at the least, some sort of financial obligations. It is therefore important that, before signing any such contract, you are fairly confident that you can work with the person concerned on a long term basis. You should also make sure that you have good legal advice from a music lawyer, who will be able to tell you how the contract stacks up against what is normal.
Below are some areas of the management contract which you need to consider carefully – more to follow next time.
This is the length of time during which you will be signed to the manager. Once you are signed, you will not usually be able to involve anyone else in your management, so you want to try to ensure you are not signed for too long. A three year term is generally accepted as being reasonable, and you should really not sign for more than five years (at the outset). Some managers work on album cycles, so that, for example they will want to be involved in, say two albums and the term will run until a certain number of months after the release of your second album.
It is good to have an escape route, if the manager turns out not to be doing very much, you should agree wording that, for example says that, if you have no major recording agreement, or publishing agreement by 12 months into the term, you can terminate the contract.
It is usual for a manager to manage an artist for the world, but sometimes, there can be a different manager for North America. This is a very important territory, so it is important to try to get someone who knows what they are doing there, or at least has good contracts.
You are choosing a manager because you think they are the right person for you to work with. If that manager is part of a large management company, or has a few assistants, you need to make sure that you will have his or her attention and will not be left to work with people you have not chosen. You should therefore insist on a ‘key man clause’, which says that, unless the chosen manager is personally active in the management of your career on a regular basis, you are able to terminate the contract.
As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to get out of a management contract once you are in. If a manager really is not doing his or her job, it can be helpful to be able to point at definite duties in the contract, which they are not fulfilling. You would then be able to point to the shortcomings and this may give you leverage.
Next time – more information on management contracts.