10 Tips for a Music Management Agreement Pt.1

The Manager/Artist relationship can be one of the closest and most important in the career of a musician. Managers are the ones who do the legwork, handling the day-to-day business side of an artist’s enterprise with A&R representatives, producers and agents amongst others, in order for the artist to focus on being creative.

It is a business relationship, so all parties need to be sure that this arrangement is the best thing for everyone. You need to be sure of who you are choosing to enter this relationship with. They are going to be giving you advice, they will be your face and voice to much of the industry. You need to be able to trust them implicitly. Once you have decided on this course, here are some tips as to what to look out for in the management contract.

  1. Jointly and severally: As a solo artist, the contract you sign will obviously only apply to you. As a member of a band though you will sign the agreement ‘jointly and severally’. A musician will have signed as an individual but also as a member of the band. This becomes important in two main respects. Firstly, they are bound to the manager as an individual artist as well as a part of the band. Therefore, if a member decides to leave the group, they are still bound by the contract for the remainder of the term. The second element of this requirement is about group culpability and responsibility. Any liability incurred to the manager will be the responsibility of the whole not a single individual from the band.  If one member cannot pay, the other members will have to cover it.
  2. Management Services: Some of you talented musical folks may also have creative inclinations in other areas, such as sculpture or as an actor (I am thinking of Jared Leto here). Note which areas of your career the manager is to provide service for. In some instances, it may state the manager will deal with all aspects pertaining to the ‘entertainment industry’. You may wish to change this to ‘the music industry’ to allow for the possibility of obtaining management services for other endeavours in the entertainment industry without fear of breach of contract. Additionally, the artist will be bound exclusively to that manager for a specified territory, generally the entire world. You may wish to limit the exclusivity to a smaller territory in order to engage managers for specific regions of the world such as the USA or UK.   
  3. The Term: The term of the contract is traditionally between 3-5 years in duration, at which time the agreement can be terminated with sufficient notice. There are many variations to this set up and each artist will need to decide what they prefer. BE VERY CONSCIOUS OF THE TERM, 5 years is a long time to be with a bad manager or an unenthusiastic band. It has become a trend to draft the term as an Album Cycles condition, the period from commencing recording to the end of touring and promotional activities associated with that record. This avoids the potentially difficult problem of an agreement ending mid-cycle at which time parties may terminate, momentum stall and management failing to recoup from their efforts.
  4. Manager’s Duties: Providing advice, working alongside a booking agent to secure employment, obtaining that amazing record deal; these are just some of the things which fall under this heading. It is important to note the use of the phrases ‘best endeavours’ and ‘all reasonable endeavours’ regarding the provision of these duties. Their interpretation is an objective test, determined by what the wider world would consider reasonable and done with their best efforts by a manager performing their duties for an artist.  Despite all efforts on the part of the manager, they cannot guarantee to get everything a musician wants, they are managers not magicians. What is important for the artist is if they feel that the manager is losing interest and is not doing the best they can for them, they need to take special note of everything the manager has initiated or proposed. If an artist is unhappy, they need to approach the manager about their lack of diligence with this evidence. Going to court to prove breach of contract should be considered a last resort as it can be a long and arduous ordeal. 

By: Julia Bell

Edited by Juan David Lopez, Legal Consultant

Image source: Yale Law Library

For a trusted Artist Management Contract template please visit The Music Law and Contracts website.

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