Top 5 Things To Look for in an Artist Manager
Andreas Kalogiannides | October 26, 2015
There is no single person that will have a larger impact on your success or failure in the music industry than your manager. In many ways, your manager is your CEO or COO. Hire a good manager, and you are setting yourself up for success and achieving your goals. But, hire a bad manager, and you are setting yourself up for disappointment, a stalled career, and high management fees (not to mention the resultant legal fees when you want out of the deal).
I have seen far, far too many artists sign management deals with managers that either a) do nothing (literally) or b) provide actual value, but charge a high management fee with a long initial term and sunset clause (click here to see what a sunset clause is) and want a big piece of the artist pie. Once the artist has had enough of chasing around the manager through emails and phone calls, they come to me to see how they can get out of the deal.
Here are the top 5 things to consider when hiring a manager:
1. The Manager Works for You
You are the manager’s boss. They work for you – you do not work for them. They will advise on choice of producers, song-writing, wardrobe, tour, and procure endorsements, label deals and opportunities for you. But, you should have the last word in terms of what opportunities you accept and the ability to control your creative voice; at minimum, they should seek your written approval. This should be in your contract. If not, get it in there.
2. Have A Written Contract
If you do not have a management contract, get one – especially if this is a new management relationship and the manager is not one of the few with a stellar track-record of success (as evidenced by an office lined with platinum records).
While there are many excellent managers who do business on a handshake, they are the minority – most managers will want you to sign a management agreement setting out the terms of your relationship (click here for a discussion of the important aspects of a typical deal).
The main reason you want a written agreement in place is because some managers will often promise the world, particularly when they want you to sign on the dotted line. There may be implications such that they can get you in a studio with X superstar producer, that they have already generated label interest, and that their “people” are very excited about you. But, in many cases, once you are contractually bound to them and paying them a commission, you would be surprised at how quickly those promises disappear.
Further, managers may even verbally agree on X , but then offer you Y in writing; for some artists, it is often a shock how “corporate” that friendly manager (and their lawyer) gets when you are negotiating that 10-year, 20-page deal.
3. Don’t Work with the Manager Until you Have a Signed Deal
I cannot stress how important this one is.
In many cases, particularly when they want you to sign with them, a manager will get you to work with their songwriters, producers, studios or affiliates because they want to demonstrate their abilities and showcase their network of industry pros. Notwithstanding the manager’s arguably good intentions, this may place you in a tough position.
Consider that if you end up recording a new song at the studio and with his producer, and that song starts to generate that buzz for you, you may not actually own the recording (or the composition, for that matter). The manager will argue that s/he owns it because s/he put up the money for the studio and made all the recording necessary arrangements (and, generally, that is correct under copyright law). Even worse: your manager may claim to be a joint owner of the copyright in the musical composition (it happens). But, there is no management deal in place yet – so can you just walk away from the deal? What happens to that recording and song if you do decide to walk away? What about all that positive industry buzz your new recording has generated? Well, now the label that wants to sign you on the strength of that recording may not be able to because you do not actually own the recording (this actually happened to a past client of mine). Note the leverage the manager now has over you…
Further, because many management agreements provide that recordings, songs and other products you create in the period before you sign a deal (sometimes as much as the one year period prior to signing), these new creations may even be commissionable.
You do not want to be caught in this situation.
Negotiate the deal. Then begin working.
4. Appearances can be deceptive (but sometimes incredibly accurate)
Be on watch for a manager who meets you at Starbucks and does not have a car (without any prejudice to people who choose transit or their bike). If your manager insists on meeting you at coffee shops and restaurants every time, then think twice because this is often not a good sign. Take the time to properly vet your manager – check out their track record of achievements, and past and current clients.
Your manager should have years of experience in the music industry and a great network across the country and the world; having an understanding of copyright, publishing, touring, royalties and accounting is also very important, with a business or legal background being a bonus. A manager with a good reputation and nothing to hide will be happy to share this information with you.
Remember: anybody (and do I mean anybody!) can call themselves a manager. There is no regulatory body for music managers.
5.Your Manager Needs a Plan for You
If your prospective manager is making promises, then make sure they have a detailed plan on how to make them a reality. Your manager should have a written, detailed plan (not dissimilar to a business plan – you are a business, after all) on how to build, brand, market and sell you in a reasonable amount of time.
If you are unsatisfied with your management relationship or you are stuck with a manager who is negatively impacting your career, then please get in touch with us to discuss your options. We have successfully helped our clients get out of bad management deals.