A FEW years ago I had a client who needed advice on getting out of an artist management contract.
He had signed a seven-year deal (yes, seven years!) tying him to a manager, who essentially promised him everything and provided nothing.
Despite this he was due to receive a large compensation payment if the artist terminated the contract and moved to new management.
Was the agreement unfair? Yes! Was it enforceable? To a certain degree, yes!
The point I’m trying to make is that it is very important to take an artist management agreement seriously if you are in the process of negotiating one. Even if it’s your best friend or you have been offered heaven and earth by a potential manager, it is prudent to seek legal advice to clarify the terms of the contract before you sign it.
WHAT DOES AN ARTIST’S MANAGER DO?
Principally, the manager deals with the business side of the artist’s career and liaises with various people and groups on behalf of the artist which can include the artist's record label, booking agent, publishing company etc. It will usually also involve advising the artist on maters such as marketing, merchandising, publicity, promotion, employment and image.
A manager for an unsigned artist or an artist signed to a small record label, may have multiple roles - for example act as the artist’s promoter, agent, accountant and even legal adviser.
If you decide to enter an agreement with a manager then it is important that you enter into a written agreement. This is because a carefully drafted written agreement will wipe out any uncertainty between you if there is a dispute. It will clearly define your business relationship.
Some of the important issues to be addressed in the contract are:
The term or length of the agreement
You will need to agree on a fixed term for the length of the contract and have a clear cancellation policy. A fair contract term is a 12-month agreement, with an option to extend the agreement at the end of the year if both parties agree.
The duties and responsibilities of the artist and the manager
You will need to define clearly what you expect your manager to do. This usually depends on what stage you are at in your career. If you're a new artist your manager should be introducing you to labels, trying to get you to perform on shows for publicity and generally trying to get you up and running and noticed within the music industry. If you’re more of an advanced act, then your manager could be ensuring that systems are in place for you to promote and reap the financial rewards from your music.
A standard management fee is usually around 15 – 20 percent of your earnings. Your manager will usually take this percentage from royalties of your record sales, or record label advance if you get signed and from any other deals they have negotiated on your behalf. However, the separate income revenue streams such as merchandising or song writing royalties may not have to be included.
A lot of unsigned artists seem to get pressured into signing artist management contracts, believing that if they don’t they will lose a golden opportunity. This has, in a number of instances, caused a lot of grief when the artist has become more successful or where the artist career has turned stag anent. It is therefore crucial that you negotiate the terms of your contract with an artist manager properly before you sign and are bound by it.
Obi Justice Nwokeji is a qualified solicitor and the Principal of OJN Solicitors
7B London Road
Tel: 020 3 232 2135
Fax: 020 8 342 1648
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