music career trend self-management

Music Career Trend: Managing Yourself

music career self-management McLane & WongBEN MCLANE
Attorney, McLane & Wong

Ben McLane founded McLane & Wong 22 years ago. It is a full-service global law firm specializing in entertainment law and the music business. McLane’s client list reads like a “who’s who” of music, with an amazing array of superstars, record labels and general entertainment companies.

Have you noticed more artists managing themselves?
Early in their careers most artists will manage themselves by default. Mostly because there are very few managers willing to take the time to develop them. The business has changed and the skill set for managers is different. Today, managers don’t just develop artists for a record deal––they have to develop an act’s brand and business model… and that takes a while.

Are there any legal issues artists in groups/bands should know about?
In almost every group, one person (sometimes two if they’re lucky) takes care of business like a manager would. Their efforts will often determine whether the group succeeds or fails. As such, they may be entitled to a larger share of revenue, or have greater voting power. Those issues should be addressed in a group/band contract.

(Note: Nickelback paid lead singer Chad Kroeger a monthly salary to handle the band’s business.)

How about booking shows, which managers are not allowed to do in many states?
It depends if the band member is officially the group’s manager––and getting a manager’s commission. It also depends on whether the group is a corporation, LLC or a partnership. They should talk with an attorney, or get a booking agent, to be safe.

Do you know of any successful acts that manage themselves?
For a while Bon Jovi managed themselves and did a good job. In fact, there are many artists who managed themselves after they were well-known. However, most of them went back to management because it’s hard and took time away from their music.

You have managed acts before––would you consider doing so again?
I’m not averse to it, but I’m more likely to give career counseling. I’m not a babysitter and it’s difficult to find time to properly develop an act. But, if an act got me excited, I probably would consider it.

When should an act consider management?
If an act has a lot going on, management could be very helpful. Artists need to understand that managers work off of a commission, which only works if the artist is generating a significant amount of income. If an act is not making serious money most experienced managers will pass. Of course there are exceptions, but don’t count on being that exception.

Is self-management a good idea?
I think so. At the very least, artists will learn about the business. And if they do well, they will attract a higher level of manager. They will also be able to evaluate whether or not their manager is doing a good job. •

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