The Life and Business of a Music Manager
Several musicians employ untrained, unqualified and inexperienced friends, parents, or fans as their managers. While nothing and no one can guarantee the success of an artist in the administration of a professional music manager, a realistic match between the musician’s needs and the manager’s skills is important. In the selection of a manager, it is vital to consider the following factors: the manager’s managerial experience in the music industry; his network of music professional contacts and business connections that will help the artist’s career; performance skills in all management functions and compliance with management contract; reputation as a manager; negotiation skills; level of success in the management of previous artists; genuine interest in the artist’s talent and music; and values on honesty and integrity (Simpson 2006: p. 75).
The music manager is responsible for shaping the music and entertainment career of a singer. It is the duty of the manager to guide the artist on almost every phase of the career. The manager helps in securing a recording contract for the artist, assists in the selection of songs, develops schemes for a stable and lasting career, selects the record company, booking agent, road manager, and other music professionals, and supervises the singer’s associations with each one. The manager also advises the artist on the appropriate singing engagements, endorsements and employment (eds Strand, Kouchoukas & Rattner
It is the manager who institutes the objectives and strategies for the development of the singer’s career. He controls the album releases and marketing, tour schedules, and advertising promotions. The complete takeover of the manager over the daily administrative and business functions of the singer relieves the artist of any load, thus allowing more time for practice and improvement of the artist’s craft (Butler 2000).
When fame and financial triumph has been reached, the singer will need the expertise of a business manager to handle the finances. The business manager should be proficient in accounting and general business practices and should be knowledgeable and experienced in the music industry. Business management includes providing assistance with decisions on investments, issues on taxes, monitor of profits from contracts and engagements, estate planning, payment of bills, and other financial affairs. However, a lawyer or accountant could adequately provide the majority of a singer’s needs for financial administration (Butler 2000).
The music manager, as compensation, receives 15% to 25% commission from the singer’s gross earnings derived from recording contracts, endorsements, live concert performances, television appearances, touring activities, and movie projects. There is an adjustment on commissions on the basis of the singer’s success. The manager receives commission alongside a refund of the manager’s incurred operational expenses in the artist’s activities (eds Strand, Kouchoukas & Rattner 2005). In concert and touring performances, the manager receives commission calculated upon the net proceeds, that is, income remaining after deducting all expenses (Guide to Music Industry Agreements 2009).
The manager has a written contract with the singer. Basically simple in nature, the contract describes the managerial services and method of payment for the services. The contract however cannot be fully imposed in some specifications. In the event that the singer decides to leave the management contract before it expires, the manager is still entitled to remunerations. However, there is no obligation on the part of the artist to continue business with the manager (Guide to Music Industry Agreements 2009).
For the protection of their positions, several managers who are apprehensive of being fired and left barely with the right to take legal action and charge for damages, may attempt at an alternative — a camouflaged contractual arrangement with the singer. The manager obliges the artist to sign into a recording agreement with a recording company. In effect, the manager becomes the owner of exclusive rights in the singer’s recording services, and gains copyright and all other rights in the songs and recordings. Subsequently, the manager, hidden as a recording company, gets recording deals for the singer who unknowingly enters into another agreement with the manager himself. The signed contract may allow the manager to prevent the singer’s participation in other activities and association with other management services. This protects the financial control of the manager over all of the artist’s profits from all activities aside from recording, such as in movie offers, print and non-print advertisements, and other business activities. In the most unpleasant cases, the manager will keep hold of every recording right, pay the artist, and afterwards earn enormously through a claim of a percentage commission or cut on the royalty proceeds (Guide to Music Industry Agreements 2009).
The manager may typically want to handle all the activities of the singer in the entertainment business; however the singer may limit the appointment of the music manager solely in music activities. In such case, this would perhaps be unjust to the manager because in the first place, it was the manager who placed the artist on the pedestal of success. If the singer obtains a career in another field, such as an acting career, then the management contract has to recognize it (Guide to Music Industry Agreements 2009).
In the unpredictable music business, the success of a singer’s career cannot be assured. The manager’s hard work may not accomplish success for the singer, in which case the manager makes only a modest earning or nothing at all. On the other hand, the manager gets a generous compensation upon achievement of the singer’s success. Clearly, from the artist’s position, the manager simply does not get paid if the singer does not earn and there is no money to pay with. Certainly, the artist may get only one opportunity for success since the artist has only one career. However the manager may have several opportunities for success if he manages other singers as well (Guide to Music Industry Agreements 2009).
The music manager is a major player in the life of a singer; however his duties to the singer are the most complex to plainly describe. The manager is accountable for the artist’s career promotions, career counselling, and assistance in making decisions and career goals. With the growing digital music, more diversified music genres and a bigger competition in the music industry, the artist owes a great deal to the music manager for the permanence of the singer’s position in the ever-changing and fast-paced music industry (ed. LaPolt 2012: p. 415).
Butler, JR 2000, The Musician’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Answers to Frequently
Asked Questions About Music Law. Guide Through the Legal Jungle Audiobook Series. (Audio Cassette). Sashay Communications.
Guide to Music Industry Agreements 2009. Lee & Thompson. Available from:
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LaPolt, D (ed.) 2012, Building Your Artist’s Brand as a Business. International Association
of Entertainment Lawyers, p. 415. Available from: .
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Simpson, S 2006, Music Business: A Musicians Guide to the Australian Music Industry,
3rd edn, Sydney, Omnibus Press, p. 75.
Strand, PJ, Kouchoukas, R, & Rattner, W (eds.) 2005, Legal Issues Involved in the Music
Industry. Lawyers for the Creative Arts. Available from:
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