It’s important that the business arrangement between a manager and their client (artist, musician, songwriter, producer, engineer, etc) be put into writing and signed by both parties in the form of an artist management contract or music manager agreement. This should go without saying, but it seems that it does indeed need to be said; judging by the number of artists and managers who only have a verbal contract between them. While verbal contracts can be valid, they leave an opening for the often-irreconcilable “he/she-said-she/he-said” scenario when things go wrong.
Even though disasters cannot always be avoided, obligations can be made much clearer and responsibilities more easily understood with the presence of a written artist management agreement. Before you get an attorney to draft a contract for you, however, you should first take stock of what you are prepared to do with and for an artist and what you expect out of the relationship.
Some important elements of the relationship that need to be decided and questions that need to be answered before you draft an agreement include:
• What do you bring to the table that is of value to the artist?
• What should an artist bring to the table that is of value to you?
• What do you expect out of the relationship with your artist?
• What should an artist expect out of their relationship with you?
• What are your responsibilities to your artist?
• What should your artist’s responsibilities be to you?
• Since a manager is paid a commission based on what is earned by the artist; what will your commission be, what income will the commission be based on, who will collect the money, and how will payments be made?
• Will the party that receives payment be able to audit the books for accuracy?
• Will you have the right to sign certain agreements on behalf of the artist?
• How will communication between the artist and manager take place?
• What actions or inactions will constitute a breach of contract, and how should notices of breach and attempts to correct such breach be handled?
This list is not exhaustive and these are just a few of the things you need to figure out before you put an artist management agreement or music manager contract together. Once you have a handle on some of these important items, you can then retain an attorney to help you draft a contract that spells out in clear terms all the details of an agreement. Except for certain clauses, it is best not to simply use “standard language” to define important elements of your relationship that may be unique to your situation. Furthermore, even though you have an agreement drafted, expect to “tweak” it for each individual artist during the negotiation and signing process.
The reason why you should think long and hard about some of the questions prior to drafting an agreement is because the most common point of contention between an artist and their manager is the one brought about by ‘breach of contract’ against one of the (or sometimes both) parties. This is usually a result of either the artist or manager failing to correctly do something that they agreed to do in the contract, or conversely doing something not expressly allowed in the contract.
If you fail to think about your expectations and promises before you draft a contract and simply use “standard” language in your agreement, you may find yourself in breach of contract simply because you didn’t fully comprehend or appreciate what was expected of you, or that you agreed to take on responsibilities you couldn’t actually handle.
Once you’ve thought about all of the important things you expect out of a management relationship with an artist and are ready to put together a contract, a good directory of attorneys can be found at places like the Music Business Registry and others. You could also inquire around your local area for reputable entertainment attorneys or even contact the Volunteer Lawyers for The Arts for assistance. If you are able to get an artist management agreement or music manager contract template from somewhere, it is still best to edit it with the aid of an entertainment attorney to fit your individual needs and not simply use it “as is”.
For more detailed information on important considerations for your artist management agreement or music manager contract, pick up a copy of the Artist Management Manual available in our online store here.