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Artist Managers Management Contracts

Music Managers & Management Contracts


For many artists and bands the first contract that they have to face is the management contract. The manager will have a lot of responsibility and possible control so it is vital to get the right person and the right agreement.

The manager may come from various backgrounds – he’s a friend of the band, works already in the music industry, is an entrepreneur from a different industry or just has heard about the band’s potential and swoops in.

A manager should have one of the following but ideally all:

  1. Money – it can be expensive process getting the band known;
  2. Experience – knowledge of how the industry works and how it is changing;
  3. Contacts – he has to know the right people and be liked and/or respected;
  4. Enthusiasm – if he doesn’t believe in you then how is he going to persuade others?

Things you should be checking out for in the Management Contract

 1. Make sure the management is not asking for upfront payments from you. That is a big, big no-no! These would be similar to vanity publishing deals but without the benefit of having a product. Stay away as they are simply trying to take money from you instead of making money for you.

 2. Don’t take advice from the manager’s own lawyer – it will not be impartial and will ultimately benefit  the manager. If the manager does not want you to see a lawyer then alarm bells should be going, not only because he sounds like he is trying to hide something but it also shows his business naivety. The reason George Michael was stuck in his “bad” deal with Sony was because he had had independent legal representation from a lawyer experienced in music law before he signed that contract. If he had not had that advice he may have been able to walk away and get a better deal.

 3. Check your manager’s commission. Standard is 20%. It should not be more than this without good reason. Brian Epstein charged the Beatles 25% but reasoned this was because he had been paying the band a wage for some time before signing the contract.

  Make sure you know what the 20% is going to be of. Usually it says artist gross receipts. Things that the manager should never take a percentage of are:

  1. Money to be used for recordings
  2. Money for videos
  3. Money to pay producers
  4. Money for tour support
  5. PR & marketing budgets

4. Don’t be tied into a deal with a bad manager. Make sure that you have an initial period clause (maybe 12 months) in which the manager must reach certain goals to enable the contract to continue for a longer period. These goals may be:

  1. Get the artist signed to an acceptable recording agreement
  2. Get the artist an acceptable publishing deal
  3. Get the band a significant tour support
  4. An income of ₤… by the end of the 12 month period

 If any of these or maybe all of them are achieved the manager can then exercise his option to extend the contract by a longer period (often 3 years).

5. Check what commission is due to the manager after the contract has ended. These are known as sunset clauses. Make sure that they are only for a short period (maybe 3 -5 years) and that the percentages of commission reduce down each year AND that they only relate to work that the manager has contributed to. You don’t want the ex-manager getting paid for recording or songs created after he had split with you.

6. Don’t let the manager sign deals on your behalf. It may seem obvious but it has happened and the artist is left in a contract that he didn’t want and had no say in!

Times are changing:

Today the music manager should not be out there just trying to secure a major deal


-          Running the band’s record label

-          Organizing the myspace, twitter, soundcloud & facebook

-          Creating & selling merchandise

-          Organising marketing campaigns


Francis McEntegart is a Barrister and experienced music industry lawyer at McEntegart Legal Ltd  

Reader Comments (7)

and how much did Elvis's manager get? There is no standard. Just a reminder. Every negotiation is different.

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterR.P.

The reason George Michael was stuck in his “bad” deal with Sony was because he had had independent legal representation from a lawyer experienced in music law before he signed that contract. If he had not had that advice he may have been able to walk away and get a better deal.

Something is confusing here. The point you're trying to make is that an artist should seek legal advice from a lawyer unassociated with the manager, but you kind of cloud the point with the last few sentence. I think there's a word missing.

I deduce that you meant to say that George Michael took contract advice from his manager's lawyer, which is generally a bad idea. Or maybe you meant he took advice from a lawyer inexperienced in music law?

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterP

Manager should have 1 - Money it is a expensive process getting the band known

This is a total fallacy. A manger should never invest money in a band or an artist as they have no ownership of rights. Record labels and publishers have assignment of rights to secure against advances and investment. You are suggesting that a manager invests money in an artist, yet can be dropped after 12 months if specified goals not achieved. Any manager that agrees to those terms has no business sense and the artist should avoid them.

Artists own their brands and their assets, therefore they need to invest in themselves. Remember a manger works FOR the artist and whilst they will invest their time, any costs incurred on the artists behalf should be recharged to the artist.

The advice given here is typical old school legal advice given out to artists and unfortunately distorting expectations of management. It is a new world from the days of a couple of demos and a record deal within 6 months with a huge advance. Artist development to get a deal can take years. Artist development to secure a solid foundation for an artists career takes time and is dependent on the artists ability to convert people into fans and to write GREAT songs. A good manager should help nurture these essential skills rather than chasing the clock/any deal/instant cash to stay in the management deal.

Research your manager before appointing, but please wake up to the new world and let go of these old misconceptions based on legacy acts in the past, when the record business was a completely different world.

November 27 | Unregistered CommenterBob James

Good points there Bob James. The modern time manager should have allso some A&R type skills and ability to make artist try harder and make better.

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterKoivulahti

Hi Fellow! I am a music artist/Producer, and I want to start managing some of my Artists now! My questions is:
1. How do I get my music lawyer?
2. How do I go about the deal with any of my artists?

April 5 | Unregistered Commenterak smile

If you are an artist or producer, and looking to work with new talent. Please do not hesitate to contact by email or text or 252-213-3936 or 252-425-4562

March 3 | Unregistered Commenterljbanga


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