Part 2 Of 2: Finding And Working With A Manager
by Jeremy Rwakaara,
Please go here for Part 1 of this article.
Finding a manager
Once you’ve decided that you are ready for management, there are several ways you can find a manager. You should first take stock of what you have to offer (besides your talent). It helps to have a good idea about yourself and your style. Don’t expect a manager to be able to perform an assortment of miracles all by themselves. You have to come to the table with some elements in place and be willing to work hard to formulate the rest. The manager can help you to articulate your vision, find others that believe in you, and get you into the hands of interested and successful music industry professionals.
Once you are sure you have something to offer, you can ask club owners, attorneys, publicists, recording studio engineers, record producers, independent record label owners, and other artists that are signed if they have any management company recommendations. You can also find a list of managers from music industry print directories (e.g. the Musicians Atlas, the Indie Contact Bible, the Industry Yellow Pages, Pollstar, the Recording Industry Sourcebook, etc.) or online directories like the one at the Indie Managers Association and others.
Pay close attention to the submission policies of the management company before mailing anything out. Some managers will only accept solicited material (material submitted to them from known sources). Others are willing to accept unsolicited materials, while others prefer you to call or email first. Do not violate these policies. It is almost always a good idea to call or email first before you send anything (unless they tell you not to call or email first). Contacting them before you send materials gives you a chance to talk to somebody and find out what they are looking for and what materials will be most appropriate to send.
Working with a manager
It is important that you speak with artists who are already signed to the management company (if the manager has an artist roster) before approaching a manager. If the artists have stayed with the manager for a long time and have a good relationship, you can take that as a sign of a commitment for the long-term, which is a good thing.
Be wary of managers that don’t ask a lot of questions about you, your goals, and your achievements. Don’t be offended by these questions, since they only serve to identify areas of opportunity or career challenges that the manager should know about.
Even though there is no standard commission that a manager should take, be cautious of a manager who talks about commissioning 25% or more of your earnings. 10% – 15% (or in some instances 20%, depending upon the circumstances), is more in line with what’s fair. Whatever you do, don’t sign a contract on the spot without taking time to have it reviewed by an entertainment attorney. Few things are so urgent that both parties can’t take a few days (or weeks) of their time to negotiate a contract that will bind them together for several years and involve potentially several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The manager-artist relationship is a very important one, and you must be sure that the manager is a right fit for you (and vice-versa). Many times, a manager will approach you before you get a chance to approach them. This is not necessarily a bad thing since it makes sense that you came to their attention by creating a buzz in your area, selling a lot of CDs, receiving radio airplay or great reviews or putting on a great live show. If this is the case, you should expect them to know a lot about you and ask a lot of questions.
A sign of a good manager is that plenty of dialogue will take place before the contract is offered and signed. You should spend a lot of time discussing your short and long-term career goals and seeing how they can help you achieve what you want. You should ask them what ideas they have to get you where you are trying to go. You should also check to make sure that the potential manager doesn’t have too many artists on their roster, and that they will have enough time to devote to your career.
A potential manager should like your type of music and be familiar with how an artist like you should be promoted and marketed. It is extremely important to find a manager that is the right fit and if you can’t find one, you are much better off managing yourself until the right one comes along.
If you find a manager that sounds interesting, try and set up a six-month trial period to see if you are compatible with each other before signing a long-term management agreement t. Only accept friends, friends-of-friends, family members, etc., as potential managers if they have some experience in managing artists in your genre, have some industry contacts, and know how the music business works. These people are often well intentioned but can cause more harm than good with what they don’t know.
The management contract
Discussing the details of an artist-manager contract is beyond the scope of this article, so when it comes to signing, it is important that you have the contract drafted and/or negotiated by an experienced entertainment attorney who is well-versed in similar entertainment / management contracts.
The important thing about a contract is that it should define in no uncertain terms the nature of the relationship between the parties. It should also spell out how, if at all, you can get out of the deal if the manager is not performing as promised, and what the penalties for non-performance should be. You should also understand how and for what duration commissions are to be paid after the management contract has been terminated.
As long as everybody understands their roles, works hard, and follows through with their commitments, everything should be fine even if you don’t sell a million records or sell out Madison Square Garden.
Hopefully this article has helped shed some light on the question of finding managers. Obviously, these are mainly my opinions and others are free to disagree in whole or in part with what I have said here. Get legal advice, consult your gut feeling, do plenty of reading, use some common sense, and ask a lot of questions before signing with a management contract with a manager.