The Legal Beat: Your Manager Works For You-Not the Other Way Around

This article will discuss things the recording artist should know about their relationship with their personal manager.

The basic point to remember is that your personal manager works for you, not the other way around. Especially with new or young artists, some managers can be overbearing and act like he or she is entitled to make decisions for you. That is not the case.

Of course many experienced personal managers will know a great deal about the music business and will give sage advice. And you should listen to their opinions and suggestions. But ultimately, the decision is yours and you are entitled to reject their advice. Your manager should be willing to communicate with you on a regular basis and advise you on opportunities that present themselves.

Before you consider entering into a personal management agreement, you should do “due diligence,” meaning you should research the background and experience of the personal manager. What is the manager’s reputation for honesty and integrity? What artists have the manager represented and what success has he or she had?

With that being said, if you are starting out in the music biz you probably won’t be able to attract the most experienced manager. But every successful manager had to start with their first artist. So an inexperienced manager may have to be considered and may turn out to be a good manager. It may be helpful if a novice manager worked in the music biz in some other capacity, such as working at a label or music publisher.

You should usually retain a music attorney before entering into a personal management agreement. I have had a number of clients approach me over the years asking me to get them released from a management agreement with a manager when they did not have a lawyer negotiating the agreement for them.

Some of the important provisions in your management agreement will be the compensation (usually 20% in the music biz), what income is commissionable, the term (how long it will last), options to extend the agreement, and “Sunset” clauses (commissions that can be earned after the term ends).

Often, management agreements in the music biz are three or four years. You usually should not agree to more than that. If the relationship is working, you can always renew the agreement.

With regard to commissions, the typical management agreement provides that all entertainment industry income is commissionable. But sometimes, depending on the circumstances, you can exclude certain income. For instance, if you are an established actor and branching out to be a recording artist, you may be able to exclude or limit the manager’s commissions on your acting income, since it existed before you entered into the management agreement.

You might consider a binding arbitration provision in your management agreement so you can avoid litigation in the event of a dispute.