Before You Sign a Music Manager Contract

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A good music manager can be instrumental in the success of your band. Unfortunately, because your music career means so much to you, it is remarkably easy for a so-called manager to come along and take you for a ride, especially if you are relatively inexperienced. Any contract you sign for any part of your career should be carefully considered by you, but perhaps none more so than your music manager contract. Before you sign, brush up on your music manager contract basics so you can be sure you are making the right decision. Keep in mind that this info is general in nature - your deal may be different.

Music Manager Contract Basics

There are a few basics to keep in mind about music manager contracts.

  • It Doesn't Have to be Complicated: Especially if you're an indie band. Skip the fancy talk, and write a simple document that covers money, the division of labor, and the length of the agreement.
  • It Should be Mutually Beneficial: Even if your manager has been at this longer than you, don't sign your life away for a crack at their expertise. A manager who believes in you won't expect you to do so.
  • It Should be Signed in Good Faith: If you're looking for loopholes before you sign, or your manager is, there is a problem.

The Contract Term

The length of your agreement with the music manager is a good place to start. You will need to agree upon a term and a contract cancellation policy. A fair contract term is a one-year agreement, with an option to extend the agreement at the end of the year if both parties agree. At that point, you can look at negotiating longer agreements, but a one year term is a good trial term for both parties. Be wary of giving the music manager options to extend without your agreement; if you do, you can be forced to stick with a manager you don't want.

Be sure your contract specifies how both parties can leave the deal.

The Job Expectations

What you expect your music manager to do depends on where you are in your career. If you're a new band, your manager should be promoting you to labels, trying to get you gig, and generally trying to get things off the ground for you. If you're further along, your manager should be making sure other people are doing their jobs to promote your music. Simply be as clear as possible about what you need from a manager, and what they are willing to do. For instance, for an indie band, do you expect your manager to get merchandise made, or will the band take that on? Now is the time to get it all on the table.

The Management Fee

A standard management fee is usually around 15% - 20% of your earnings. Your manager takes a cut of proceeds from album sales, any label advance, and from the earnings from deals they have negotiated. Some do not get your money from your merchandise sales, your songwriting royalties, or from deals they have not negotiated (unless you have a prior agreement saying otherwise). Keep in mind that if you are a small band who hasn't started making an income yet, 15% -20% of nothing is still nothing. You may want to keep this earning potential in mind when you are nailing down the details of the job expectations.

The Manager's Expenses

Your manager should not be out of pocket for business expenses for promoting your band, but you need to reach an agreement on how expenses will work. You don't have to pay for your manager's phone costs or office costs, in most instances. You do have to pay for business trips your manager makes on your behalf and reasonable costs like taking a label rep out for drinks. The best way to handle expenses is to pay them at set times, i.e., once a month. The music manager should provide you with receipts for expenses. Include a caveat in the contract saying expenses above a certain amount must be cleared with you first.

Words of Caution

Music manager contracts can be very specific to your circumstances, and so the advice above is a guide and does not represent not hard and fast rules. The best thing you can do is be as clear and specific as possible, anticipating every bump in the road. If you're a small band, and your manager is going to grow with you, be sure to re-examine your agreement often to make sure it is still fair to everyone. If you already have a record deal in place and have a new manager coming on board, you should seek legal advice to make sure your interests are protected.