Many people view contracts with trepidation; however, they are really about communication between two parties regarding an agreement about how they will work together. An artist management contract is no different, although sometimes the initial agreement will be informal and lay out a few details about their working arrangement.
These informal agreements are also known as the “dating phase” since both parties are getting to know each other and working out the details of their arrangement. This post will discuss the details of an artist management contract, the essential elements that should be included, and list some of the many types of artist management contracts. The post also addresses some of the common frequently asked questions many artists and managers have about these types of contracts.
What Is Artist Management?
Artist management covers a very wide spectrum of responsibilities and activities. Not all artists are comfortable delegating specific activities to a manager, and not all managers are comfortable taking on some responsibilities. The scope of responsibilities can be quite large, and there may be a need to hire additional resources on a contract or permanently. As a manager, do you have the budget and decision-making authority to hire people? Are you promoting the artist’s career and have a say in the outcome of various decisions, or are you consider a jack of all trades for the artist?
Managing an artist takes special skills and relationships to make things work. We mentioned the dating phase earlier. A dating phase is important because it provides time for artists and managers to work out their relationships and the division of labor between them.
The dating phase also provides an opportunity to experience and develop a professional relationship that can be used to form a longer-term business relationship. There is a tendency for many people to form friendships and to be familiar with many personal issues on both sides. While this is considered a positive development, the success of the artist and the arrangement of the artist contract depends on the professional, honest and trusting relationship developed between all parties.
What is an Artist Management Contract?
The artist management contract in the dating phase is a contract that covers the period where the artist and the manager are getting to know each other and understand whether a longer-term arrangement can be set up. After the dating phase, an artist management contract is usually more detailed and specifies the accountabilities and responsibilities of the manager. It manages the expectations of both parties in the business relationship.
Before working on a contract or even an agreement for the dating phase, it is important to determine what activities and responsibilities the manager are willing to perform on behalf of the client. What are your objectives, what do you expect from the agreement, and what does the artist expect from the agreement? These are a few of the major items an agreement or artist contract should cover. Every situation is unique, and the expectations of the artist and manager are unique based on the experience and type of work involved and the unique circumstances of the artistic endeavor.
The scope of an artist management contract can include all of the following activities, depending on the artist and the career stage they are in.
An artist can have more than one manager; however, there must be clearly defined objectives, goals, and responsibilities between them. Depending on the artist’s success, one manager may take on several roles and divide these roles as the artist gains in popularity. The following are some of the typical managerial roles that an artist may require depending on their career stage and focus:
- Touring managers
- Music artist managers
- Music business managers
- Technical music managers
- Production managers
- Road managers
Artist Management Contract Templates & Examples
Essential Elements of an Artist Management Contracts
Whether you are in the dating phase or a more serious long-term artist management situation, all agreements and contracts have the same essential elements. The artist management contract will be more detailed and more specific based on the needs of the artist, what the manager is willing to take on, and the level of professionalism that exists between the parties. The artist management contract will also be more detailed, reflecting what was learned during the dating phase. There is also no specific term for the dating phase. It depends on what each party is comfortable with.
The essential elements of an artist management contact include and in no particular order:
- Management Fee
- Division of Labor
- Breach Conditions
- Signature Area
Management Fee – compensation varies based on the division of labor and the scope of activities; however, fees can range from 15% to 20% of the client’s earnings. Earnings include sales, label advances, and other deals negotiated by the manager and the artist. This may include merchandising or software royalties. Don’t forget to include how the payments are made and who collects the funds earned. Typically, costs of transportation, clients expenses, and other business expenses are not the responsibility of the manager. For the protection of the client and the manager, expenses exceeding a specified amount should not exceed this amount without the approval of the client.
Division of Labor – who looks after promotion, arranges for gigs, and many other activities that are needed for you and the artists to be successful. Initially, you might handle everything; however, over time, as the artist you are managing becomes more successful, there may be too much for one person to handle. The agreement should cover hiring additional people and the expectation that the manager would be responsible for managing their activity as well. Include other growth-related items as they are identified.
Term – the term for the dating phase may be relatively short and can be extended. Artist management contracts typically last one year and are renewed annually. In both cases, the agreement can be extended, and additional clauses negotiated and included based on what was learned during the previous contract and the success of the artist. The dating phase agreement is the basis for the final contract between the manager and the artist.
Breach Conditions – everyone wants to succeed, and certainly, contracts are built with the idea of success being the focus; however, there may be conditions that are not met in the contract or expectations did not materialize as projected. A breach clause describes how the parties can suspend the contract in a reasonable professional manner.
Signature Area – signatures are important for both parties. Once you sign the contract, it indicates that you will abide by the conditions and stipulations in the contract. If there are several artists involved, then all must sign the contract as well as the manager. Everyone signs, and everyone receives a copy of the signed contract.
Types of Artist Management Contracts
There are several types of artist management contracts. We have already mentioned the dating phase contract or otherwise known as a short-term contract which can last three to six months with options for renewal as a short-term contract or a long-term contract lasting a year or more. Long-term contracts often have a 3-month notice provision for each party to provide notice if they want to opt out of the contract.
Managing an artist without a contract is not recommended since neither party has any protection, and there is lots of room for misunderstandings unless you have an extremely good relationship. There needs to be a lot of trust in the relationship, and often money can upend the relationship if one party feels they are being treated unfairly.
There are many questions that both artists and managers have about the artist management contract. We have addressed a few of the more common frequently asked questions as follows:
Does an artist need a manager?
There are many activities involved in developing and promoting one’s career as an artist. All careers, including artists, need to develop their skillset, i.e., Music, learning to play, finding gigs, and promoting yourself or your band. All of these activities take a great deal of time and energy.
Artists that are just starting need contacts and promotions, which a good manager can provide; however, the manager may not be interested in helping the artist with day-to-day activities of booking hotels, travel, and paying your band.
As the artist and their group become more successful, there are many more details to manage, and it quickly becomes unmanageable for the artist to look after all of these details and stay on top of their game. Hiring a manager becomes imperative to enable the continued success and growth of the group.
Does an independent artist need a manager?
Many independent artists consider a manager to be overhead and an expense they do not need or want. However, without a manager, it means the artist must handle all of the day-to-day details of gigs, travel, promotion, and arranging interviews. An effective manager with experience in the industry and contacts frees up the artist to focus on their art, creating quality music and meeting their long-term goals.
Managers should also set up public relations campaigns, get you noticed, find work and help develop the strategies to take you to the next level.
How long is an artist manager contract?
The length of an artist manager contract can vary a great deal. From a manager’s perspective, they want to reap the benefits of the work they put into developing the artist and their income. A longer-term contract is often favored by managers. From the artist’s perspective, they do not want to get stuck with someone who does not meet their needs, or they don’t get along with. Artists often favor shorter contracts.
Typical contracts last for one year with provisions for extensions with possible additions in terms of accountabilities etc. short term contracts are typically three months and are often referred to as the dating phase. This is where you find out if you can work together, what additional activities and responsibilities need to be added, and salary adjustments are needed leading to a long-term contract.
Who pays the artist manager?
The artist manager gets paid from the proceeds of the artist, whether it is record sales, gigs, promotions, etc. the artist manager is responsible for paying all of the bills, including their share of the sales receipts. This can be in the 15% to 25% range. However, most artist contracts have a required stipulation that any check over a specified amount must be countersigned by the artist. Depending on the income levels, the success of the artist, and trust levels, these numbers can vary a great deal. Many successful artists will also employ a 3rd party auditing firm to check the books to ensure that all income and expenses meet the standards and guidelines for proper accounting as well as those set by the artist.
Can an artist have two managers?
An artist can have more than two managers; however, it is important that there are clearly defined objectives, goals, and responsibilities between them. Depending on the success of the artist, one manager may take on several roles and divide these roles as the artist gains in popularity. The following are some of the typical managerial roles that an artist may require depending on their career stage and focus:
- Touring managers
- Music artist managers
- Music business managers
- Technical music managers
- Production managers
- Road managers
They may report to the artist directly or report to an artist manager responsible for all aspects of the artist’s career and business activities. However, while the artist is delegating all of these activities, it is important for the artist to remain involved and aware of all of the major decisions regarding their career and financial activities.
Artists benefit from hiring highly qualified managers to assist them in developing their careers. As they progress through their careers, their needs and requirements will expand and evolve. Contracts help everyone to understand their roles and expectations along with safeguards to protect the artist and the manager financially. Most contracts will have a requirement for all checks to be co-signed by the manager and the artist over a specified amount.
New managers may be asked to follow a dating phase contract or short-term contract. This gives both parties an opportunity to work together and decide if they mesh as an employer-employee team. Can they work together, do they get along, can they provide the relationships needed to help the artist, and does the artist have what it takes to become successful? These contracts may be as short as three months with renewal options.
Long-term contracts are typically a year in length with options for renewal and opportunities to modify the contract adding or deleting responsibilities. Artists may have more than one manager with clearly defined accountabilities and responsibilities.