Managers know that live performances are more important than ever. They realize that live shows and tours could generate considerable income and exposure for their artists. That’s why many managers are eager to have their acts hit the road and play as often as possible. But, many states have laws that prohibit managers from soliciting and booking gigs. In fact, the consequences for doing so are severe. In the following article, Music Connection explores ways in which up-and-coming artists can develop their live performance income––without breaking the law.
Is Your Management Breaking the Law?
By Bernard Baur
The role of a manager is to advise, counsel and direct an artist’s career. That statement is commonly found in management contracts to define the extent of a manager’s responsibility. There is no mention of soliciting or obtaining gigs. In fact, most management contracts specifically state that the manager will not do so. There are several reasons for that language, but the main one is that many states (particularly California and New York) make it illegal for a manager to solicit or book a gig, unless they are also a licensed agent.
That’s why smart managers avoid booking gigs and tours. As it is, many managers consider that activity the province of agents anyway. They note that agents have the relationships and contacts needed to book a show. But, most importantly, managers don’t want their contracts voided and their commissions forfeited.
THE AGENT’S ROLE
A Talent/Booking Agent is generally licensed by the state. The reason for this is to protect artists from unscrupulous individuals. Licensed agents are fingerprinted, bonded, and subject to oversight. Even their contracts must be approved.
Often an agent works in conjunction with a manager to plan, organize and facilitate a live performance or tour. But, it is the agent who solicits and obtains the bookings, not the manager. This is especially crucial in states that have licensing requirements.
The problem, however, is that agents are not usually interested in representing acts until they are generating considerable performance fees. This puts managers and artists in a tough position, especially since many artists expect their managers to get them gigs.
ASSESSING THE LAW
“The law sucks,” says Burgundy Morgan, an entertainment lawyer who teaches music law classes at the Musicians Institute and is the co-author of a book titled, But Where Do I Sign? “But,” she points out, “it’s never a problem until the artist says it is. Artists have all the power. It only becomes an issue when there are problems in the artist-management relationship. Then, it’s the first thing an attorney will ask about.”
Morgan goes on to say, ”You don’t even have to go to court to assert a violation. You just file a claim with the State Labor Commission. It’s easy and inexpensive.”
THE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION
The Agency Act does make it tough on managers. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Resourceful managers, however, find a way around it. Mary Lyon manages a young band named Acidic. They’ve played numerous festivals, opened for several big name acts (including the Higher and Hawthorne Heights), did an Armed Forces tour overseas and have a mini-tour planned with Marcy Playground.
Lyon relates, “We’re at a point where we’re getting offers, so I don’t have to solicit gigs. When an offer comes in, I just bring it to the band and discuss it. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll accept it. In the beginning, though, it was harder. We’ve done pay-to-play, bought spots and paid agents upfront fees to book us.”
The turning point, according to Lyon, occurred because the band goes out of its way to make a good impression. “They’re polite, professional and helpful. They even help other acts load equipment.” That sort of behavior has garnered Acidic a lot of fans and gotten them invited onto more than one stage.
Jared Levy has managed Keaton Simons, a former CBS recording artist, for several years. “ Keaton plays 200 dates a year,” Levy reports. “And he booked most of the shows himself.” Because he’s such a road dog, Simons has attracted independent booking agents. Additionally, Levy has occasionally employed third parties to secure bookings. “I never directly book a gig,” he says.
Due to his tour schedule, Simons has attracted an investor and is traveling in style. “Now,” Levy relates, “we have a tour bus and are in complete control. An indie agent helps with the bookings and the only thing we concern ourselves with is whether or not a gig fits our demographic.” Simons has even opened for several national acts, and is planning a major tour in 2011 after his exposure, playing a song live, on Celebrity Rehab (Keaton is Eric Roberts’ step-son).