Have you been thinking about management and whether or not it’s time for you to start working with a manager? But, before you jump into a 1-2 year contract with a manager, what are the questions you should ask yourself?
What is a management agreement?
A management agreement is the documentation of a relationship – but not every part of the relationship will be in the contract. So, it’s important to have a clear understanding of aspects of the relationship such as communication, mutual respect, honesty, and creative empathy before the relationship even progresses to a written contract. There is no lawyer in the world that can draft language that can ensure any of those vital considerations will be provided by the artist or the manager!
What does a healthy manager-artist relationship look like?
I like to think of the manager-artist relationship as the same as a business partner relationship. You are ultimately choosing to go into business with your chosen manager and so you should ask yourself, would I partner with this person if it were a separate business? If your answer is immediate no, you know this may not be the right manager for you!
Your manager should be organized, proactive, passionate, and excited to be working with you. Likewise, you as the artist should be giving just as much as you expect. The term “diva” has been thrown around a lot when referring to artists and this is often because the expectations are one-sided. If you expect your partner to do all the work and you do nothing, then this will impact the relationship negatively. In addition, remembering that you work with your manager and that your manager doesn’t work for you is important.
If you want someone to work for you, where you direct their every action, then what you are looking for is an employee, not a manager. One of the benefits of having a manager on board is that they will often have strengths that you don’t. You should use this to your advantage! Let them execute their strengths to the best of their ability for the benefit of your career. If you keep a manager under strict direction and micro-manage their every move, you will not gain the full benefits that they can provide. In addition, you will ultimately have a glorified assistant rather than a manager.
Ask yourself the following
What are the expectations you have of a manager?
What do you expect of a manager? Do you want them to attend every single show you perform? Perhaps you only want them involved in certain aspects of your career, to begin with. If you don’t have a clear answer to this, you cannot expect a manager to automatically know something you don’t. Write out your expectations and the scope of your relationship so you are clear on this from the beginning.
You can also test a new manager by showing them these guidelines and seeing how they work within them. If they breach your guidelines, you can reign them in and remind them of your agreement. On the other side, a manager may push back and say that some of your expectations are unreasonable or perhaps too low. It is important that you are open to feedback when working with others.
Do you expect your manager to book shows for you? What about driving you to your recording sessions? Make sure you set boundaries from the start. Your manager should know what falls within their realm of tasks and what doesn’t.
What is the scope of your manager’s authority? Can they make executive decisions on your behalf? Do you rely solely on their advice on important matters? Do they have a say in the musical direction at all? Or, perhaps they only work on the marketing side of things.
It is up to you how much scope you give your manager. Make sure that you are entirely comfortable with what you give. And likewise, if they ask for more, make sure you understand why and that it makes sense for you. Some bands may want a totally hands-off approach when it comes to their music. Other bands may want musical advice as well as industry direction. Nothing is set in stone, it is up to you and what feels right. If you are not sure, consult your bandmates or other emerging artists!
What finances will your manager be entitled to? The industry rate for managers is 20%. But the big question is, 20% of what? Does your side hustle as a photographer count? Or perhaps a modeling shoot for Rolling Stone you did a few weeks back? You need to decide if your manager gets 20% of only music-related work and where that begins and ends. For example, if you get a magazine shoot because of a new song you wrote, and the magazine will pay you $200 for the shoot and an interview, does your manager get 20% of that income? Would you count this as musically related? You need to draw very clear lines on what a manager has access to and what they don’t.
Are you offering ownership to your manager of any of your songs? Do you expect your manager to invest in your career at any point? And if they do, what do they get in return? Does your manager have a right to collect on things that you accomplished before you signed with them? What about after your contract ends?
If you got a grant of $30,000, will 20% of that go to your manager? What about if you get a sync that pays $50,000? Do they get a cut? Make sure you have thought out all of this and you understand how much work a manager puts in in order to get you opportunities.
Is your manager handling you and 10 other bands on the side? Do you require exclusivity from them? Are you in a position to really demand exclusivity? Do they have an assistant or work with a team of managers? Will anyone else be managing you at the same time? When you sign with an agency, this arrangement is entirely possible depending on time constraints and capacity. Make sure you are okay with this setup before signing!
Also, will you have the ability to employ another manager overseas and just have this one manage your home country? Or is their scope worldwide?
It is always a good idea to have a trial run before signing with them for a long period of time. This allows you to see how you might work together and whether this will be a fruitful relationship. There are no rules about the trial period, but you may want to agree to a short time frame like 3 months to allow for proper insight.
Some managers may ask you for an hourly rate during a trial period so they are compensated for their time. This money is worth it if it gives you peace of mind and clarity on whether to go forward with the relationship.
Want to learn more? Check our Vampr Academy’s course on Management Contracts >> HERE