When you're an independent musician, you may feel immune to the pressures and stresses of commercial representation. But, as soon as those management sharks start swimming, you may feel as though you are live bait. Music contracts can be intimidating. While having a knowledgeable music lawyer is very helpful, here are nine of the clauses you are going to see in most artist management contracts and how you can confidently work your way through the terms.
Term: What is the length of this management term? Who are the parties with the say-so? You might not be inclined to stick around after your term is up, but if the other party has an option to extend, you may be bound by the contract. It's important to try and maintain as much control over your career as possible. You'd hate for an ambitious manager to take all of the slices of pie he/she may have had a small role in baking said pie.
Commission: What is a manager's percentage? Agents are statutorily bound; managers have greater latitude to take a greater percentage. A good attorney with knowledge of the industry can negotiate the percentage for you.
Base: Once you're touring and have a lot of ancillary expenses, you need to appreciate how much the percentages "pre-expenses" and "post-expenses" are different. It's wise to work out something that both parties are satisfied with in this regard as no one wants an unhappy management team or artists who feel like they're getting ripped off (see: Boy Bands from the 1990's).
Expense: When multiple artists deal with one manager, the waters can get choppy. There may be times when you feel you, as an artist, are being billed for expenses not really related to your needs. If you are working with a manager who's handling lots of different talent, these expenses should be spelled out. Demand itemized receipts for expenses charged to you; it may stink, but it is necessary.
Accounting: When it comes down to the money, who's cashing the checks? Is it the artist? The manager? Or an outside 3rd party? If the manager cashes checks, are they also the one writing the checks? These are all things which should be carefully considered and decided upon. Learn a lesson from Billy Joel; his own brother-in-law embezzled from him while managing his career.
Resolution: If there are any issues with your agreement and you want to take off, do you have terms for an amicable divorce? Will mediation be a part of the equation? What about arbitration or the courts? You also should have an added stipulation which cites the location for dispute resolution if the management is in one state and the artist in another.
Power of Attorney: Is the manager able to execute agreements on behalf of the artist? Can the manager act on behalf of the artist in a legal proceeding? These are important points to make sure you are both comfortable with.
Post-Term: What are the "sunset rights" of the parties involved? If the artist goes huge and gets major label representation, how much of these newfound proceeds will go to the old manager? And for how long are these agreements in effect? This is something else where artists seem to take a lot of flack but managers may have other talent which are only resource drains.
Too many artists strive to act as their own lawyers and navigate contracts alone. An artist management contract is too important to try to handle without legal guidance, but it is always a good idea to educate yourself about decisions that will affect you for years to come.