Tips For Negotiating Your Next Management Contract

Our friends at CDBaby ran this really great feature on negotiating management contracts that we are now sharing with you. We’ve probably shared the information below with dozens of artists in recent weeks, and we encourage you to do the same. We believe education is the key to success in music today.

A masterclass on music contracts

Attorney Steve Gordon is running a fantastic series on Digital Music News about music contracts — 11 different kinds of music contracts, to be exact.

Each article in the series dives into one of those types of contract (record deals, synch licensing, band agreements, management deals, etc.), and starts with the premise that there is no such thing as a “standard” agreement, but that negotiations tend to begin with a form set of terms.

Gordon says:

Often, there are two versions of a form agreement: one that represents the best interests of creators, including artists, songwriters, and producers, and one that represents the best interests of the companies that do business with them, such as record labels, publishers, and managers.

It’s important to understand whose interests are being protected in every aspect of your contract because, in Gordon’s words, “these parties typically have adverse interests.”

The management contract

In one of these posts, Steve Gordon breaks down two versions of a management contract (you can actually scroll through the contract and view his point-by-point commentary): the pro-MANAGER management contract and the pro-ARTIST management contract.

In “the old days” (the  20th Century), a manager’s primary goal was to get a band signed to a label (hopefully with a big advance), and to then act as a liaison between the label and the artist (advocating for the interests of the band).

Now that labels are way more risk averse and don’t want to sign acts until they’ve proven they can build a fanbase and earn money, the role of the music manager has changed dramatically.

Manager are now taking on many of the responsibilities of a label (securing distribution, working more closely with publicists, promoters, and booking agents, etc.). In some cases, more responsibilities means more items to negotiate in a contract. And, of course, all the old questions still need to be worked out too: who gets to make the decisions, who gets paid what, how do you hold one another accountable, and how long is the term of your agreement?

These are just some of the considerations to make when negotiating a management contract.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.