This article was originally written for musicians, but the principles are applicable to actors, writers, athletes, and any other entertainment professional that uses the services of a personal manager.
Here we go …
You can read a ton of material on what clauses, percentages and legal language to look out for in a management contract, but many artists and bands have their eyes so glued on those contract terms that they often forget to ask the manager the most fundamental questions of all—the ones that can make any contract not worth the paper it is printed on. Contrary to popular belief, Step #1 when you are handed a management contact is not to rush off and find a lawyer.
First, your band needs to have a long discussion with your potential manager to see if you want to go down the road of negotiating a contract. During this meeting, every band member must have the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t get lost talking about percentages or contract terms yet.
Instead, the questions should focus on six areas:
(1) What is the manager’s vision for the band?
Does his or her vision involve refinement or a continuation of the band’s current musical, artistic or marketing direction, or does the manager have a drastic change in mind for the music or lineup? This is NOT to find out after you have spent legal fees negotiating a contract, or worse—after you signed it.
(2) Does the manager have a sound business plan?
“Get signed” is not a business plan for a musical artist, it is bullshit. The manager should have a plan to create substantial revenue and an expanded fan base for the band through performances and merchandising, so you can stream revenue towards promotion and publicity. If your band has a substantial revenue stream and fan base, it will make zero business sense for a label “not” to sign your band, and the contract terms will be good.
If the plan is just “get signed,” sell your equipment and buy lottery tickets—it will be faster and you won’t have to lug drums up the stairs. Even if you do get miraculously signed without a fan base and revenue stream, contract negotiations will not be from a position of strength, and you will probably end up with a bad deal that makes no money in the long run (aka, you will not recoup your advance).
(3) Does your potential manager have actual contacts and experience in the music industry?
What is the manager’s availability and time commitment? Does he or she represent other bands or have other commitments with a schedule that might conflict with yours?
(5) The Yes-Men Rule (avoid)
If you have a manager who sees their role as being a yes-man (or woman), don’t waste your time. A good manager gives you an honest and objective perspective so you can improve and make money. Period. Yes-men might make you feel good, but typically add little to nothing to the band in the long run.
(6) Personal References
Ask your potential manager for three of them, and follow up. Entering into a 3-5 year business relationship with someone is not a small commitment, and you are talking about your CAREER. If he or she won’t provide references, walk.
Assuming that you have done all of the background work, then—and only then—it is time for Step #2, the review of the specific terms of the management agreement itself.
The Law Offices of Lee Rudnicki
DISCLAIMER: Neither transmission nor receipt of this information is intended to or does create an attorney-client relationship. All information provided is of a general nature, is not legal advice or a solicitation therefore, is not a substitute for legal advice pertaining to a specific situation, and should not be acted on by readers without obtaining advice from legal or other professional counsel applicable to a particular set of facts.