The Legal Beat: The Role of the Music Manager

IF YOU ARE an artist, your personal manager is the captain of your ship. Your manager will be your main advisor on your entertainment career and will help you choose other representatives, such as booking agents, lawyers, publicists, etc.

The Manager Works for You
If you’re an artist, especially a young one, keep in mind that the manager works for you, not the other way around. There is a frequent problem where an overbearing manager tries to dictate to the artist what to do and when. When you hire a manager, you are the boss.
We should differentiate the personal manager from another representative, such as a business manager, who is involved in only financial matters, such as keeping track of your money, creating budgets, and so on.

Due Diligence
Before you consider entering into a management agreement, you should do your research on the manager or the management company. Check out their clients, what type of artists they represent, their reputation for honesty, etc.

The Written Management Agreement
When you have a manager it is a good idea to have a written management agreement, although an oral management agreement is enforceable (but more difficult to prove). Even if you trust your manager and he or she is honest, a written agreement can prevent honest misunderstandings and will likely cover things you would not have thought of. You should have an experienced music attorney advise you regarding any management agreement before you sign it. I have had a number of occasions in my practice where clients have come to me after they signed and asked me to get them out of a management agreement. It is easier said than done.

The management agreement will often have a three- or four-year term. The manager in the music biz generally takes a 20% commission on the artist’s entertainment industry income. Sometimes you can build in exemptions to the manager’s commission. For instance, if you have had a successful acting career before you entered into the management contract, you can try and exclude that income from commissions because the manager did not have anything to do with creating that income or advising you about it.

Should I get a Manager?
Clients often ask me if they should get a manager. The real question is: have you done enough in your career to interest a manager? Since the manager is working on a percentage, he or she must think you have potential if you are not already making significant money.
When seeking out a manager, try to get to know the person first and their background and experience. See if they are truly interested in you and your career. If you are just starting out, you probably won’t be able to attract an established, successful manager. But perhaps you can find one who is young and aggressive, knows the music biz from working at a label or some other music company, and truly wants to grow with you.

The above is a brief overview of the subject and does not constitute legal advice.